With the temporary condemnation of Spring Hill’s second pitch causing the league game with Enfield to be postponed, a fixture was pulled out of the bag against Haringey Rhinos. This had its caveats as the home team were themselves short – resulting in the 3 Hackney subs (Falco, Loic and Nick) making up the numbers (thanks to them for doing so!).

The short trip to North London caused a surprising amount of problems with the issues as varied as childcare needs and the crapness of Apple Maps leading to a warm-up that could generously be described as ‘patchy’. Coach Whitlock rallied the troops and reminded the team that off the back of two successive league defeats, momentum was something that needed to be earned.

The by now obligatory prop selection crisis led to a new look pack as former colt Sam Joyce and relative newcomer (and former winger) Shane McHugh combined in the front row with Damien Bouvier. With a significantly larger pack in opposition Hackney could have been forgiven for thinking it was going to be a long day in the scrum but the Hackney 8 held their own throughout with Joyce in particular punishing his opposite number.

Hackney flew out of the traps and the team was unlucky not to score at least one try in the first ten minutes, settling instead for two penalties. Then complacency seemed to set in and Haringey were gifted three tries in a 20 minute spell that seemed to come from nowhere. Penalties were conceded at the breakdown with increasing regularity, kicks were charged down or misdirected and tackles were frequently missed. After the third spell behind the posts, frustration was evident. Harsh words were shared. Improvements had to be made.

The Gargoyles began to drag themselves back in the game, playing a more sensible game based on strong carries and reducing basic errors. They were rewarded with the last play of the first half as Luke Hearn put in an intelligent box kick that wrong footed the Haringey full back and bounced up nicely for Bouvier to touch down in the right hand corner. Despite having much the worse of the first half, going in 11-15 down, but with momentum, resulted in high hopes.

The Hackney of the second half was almost unrecognisable from that of the first half. Better pressure from the back row and half backs forced errors from Haringey, whose kicks were now finding the Hackney back 3 rather than the touchlines, and were returned with interest time and again. However it was the forwards that took first blood as Chris McMahon linked with Hearn to gallop into the corner for a converted try. This was quickly followed by a try in the opposite corner for Chris Whitnall after a quick tap penalty in front of the posts was shipped wide. 2 further tries followed from Pete Walsham, revelling in his return to the back row and Eldon Takitimu, driving over from a few yards out.

The final play of the game resulted in a Haringey consolation try, albeit one made in Hackney as Falco Carmo, playing back row for Haringey popped up at fly half, took a quick penalty and sent the Haringey centre across the line for a deserved consolation.

A mixed day but a good result for Hackney, with some good individual performances. The two ‘new’ props (Joyce and McHuhg) stepped up to the Gargoyles and by the end of the game were dominating their opposite numbers. Kazeem Olayimka was a constant threat and dragged would-be tacklers with him whenever he got his hands on the ball, only being denied a deserved try by a marginal call on grounding. Jonny O’Connor kicked well and was solid in defence on his return to full back, whilst Blake Armstrong brushed off the effects of man flu to put in another energetic performance in his new position on the blind side.

Man of the Match: Damien Bouvier. A new convert to hooker this season, Damien hit his men in the lineouts and contributed to a sterling effort from the Hackney 8. He still found the time to pick up a try and get round the park like a back row, putting in tackle after tackle to take down the powerful Haringey ball carriers.