On a day that was remarkably hot given that this fixture had been postponed three weeks before due to the snow, the Hackney RFC 1st XV faced Old Priorians in the long-awaited double header. Unfortunately the emergence of spring weather was not matched with the emergence of Hackney’s dominance over a team to which they had lost in the first half of the season.

The game began somewhat ominously with a well placed short kick by the Old Priorian 10 that was deftly collected by his own forwards. Hackney were on the back foot from the off. The home side’s forwards, keen to make up for their initial mistake, reorganised quickly and followed the shrill orders handed down by Captain O’Hara. Yet having defended well for five minutes Hackney conceded a penalty which was duly slotted by the Old P’s kicker. This was not, it became clear, going to be an easy game.

What followed next laid down the pattern for the remainder of the game. The Hackney forwards, mimicking the Old Priorians approach to restarts, set off in chase of the ball. Good defensive pressure led to a Hackney scrum and a reasonably lengthy period of attack. Forcing their way into the Old Priorian 22, Hackney were pressing forward with good momentum until the ball popped out of the side of a ruck. It was neatly collected by the Old Priorian winger, and who having dodged the last ditch cover tackle with relative ease, had an trouble-free run-in across the rest of the pitch. 10-0.

Following a regroup under the posts, Hackney defended again with equal vigour. With the slight edge over the Old Priorian scrum and line-out, Hackney soon regained possession and hit the gas once more. Marshalled by the omnipresent vocal force of Charlie Davis, the Hackney forwards made good yards. Ollie Hart, like a runaway train steaming up from the rear, carried the ball well. Newton Mills, with his huge webbed feet and clattering runs, struck fear into the heart of the coolest Old Priorian.

Yet Hackney were up against one of the best drilled defences in the league. With the Hackney back row working over time, turnovers were not a problem. Penetrating the seemingly solid wall of Old Priorians defence certainly was. As Hackney launched another offensive on the line, the Old Priorian rush defence paid off as the pass was intercepted. Once again running untouched from inside his own 22, the Old Priorian centre sent Hackney right back to beneath their posts. 17-0.

With the minutes in the first half ticking down, Hackney again defended well from the restart. Yet the Old Priorian centre spotted a gap sprinted through under the posts. 24-0.

The second half saw Hackney enjoy the overwhelming majority of possession again. Sniping runs from Charlie Williams gained the home side excellent yardage and James Davis cut some great lines to shake up the Old P’s defence.

Yet despite pinning them down in the quagmire of their own try line, the Old Priorian impenetrable defence stayed firm. The Hackney team (and Spring Hill crowd) cheered loudly thinking Newton Mills had boshed his way through in the corner, only to be denied by the raised flag of the ever-honest Luke Hearn who was on touch-judge duties for the day. The sustained Hackney attack did eventually yield a penalty, which was neatly kicked to make it 24-3.

The second half perhaps was only brightened by Will Bowers’ conversational exchanges with his opposite number at the scrum. Having evidently been working on his one-liners during his absence from the 1st XV, Bowers’ jokes aptly achieved what Hackney’s rugby failed: to land a couple of well aimed blows on the opposition.

Following yet another sortie into the Old Priorian 22, the away team’s defence again placed the Hackney back line under pressure and the Old P centre intercepted another pass to run the length of the pitch untouched. 31-3.

With 80% of possession, good set piece, a high ball retention rate and spirit to the end, Hackney certainly had some positives to take from the game. But the Old Priorians defence proved impossible to breach and four opportunistic, but well deserved, tries left Hackney on the wrong end of a 28 point deficit.