With the cup tie against Tring just a couple of weeks away, the Gargoyles made the short journey to Regent’s Park to take on Belsize Park. With the pre-season encounter going right to the wire – a late try giving Hackney a hard-earned draw – Hackney knew this ‘friendly’ match would be more like a league game.

Hackney’s start had been sluggish the previous week and disappointingly this game was no different, with the team finding themselves 12-0 down in the first 15 minutes. The Belsize backs threw the ball about and used the conditions to their advantage, with their fly-half pulling the strings and making ground at will. After finding themselves behind the posts for the 2nd time the Gargoyles finally seemed to wake up, not wanting to return to East London with a momentum-halting defeat.

Realising that for the second week in a row, sunny weather meant getting it wide was the best course of action, the Hackney backs began to take control of the match, with Guy Halfhead and Rich Yong making yards up the middle at will. Unfortunately one of these runs resulted in Guy twisting an ankle and seemingly ending his day early on. This setback resulted in Rich moving to inside centre and Jack Silverthorn coming on at outside centre. Almost instantly Arif Saad came looking for work off the blind-side wing, creating an overlap and combining with opposite winger Jonny O’Connor, who showed yet again that finishing near the top of the try scoring charts comes second to the team effort, supplying a great offload for Jack to waltz into the corner. Matt Hanton missed the wide conversion, in what was to be a recurring theme of the day.

Confidence restored, Hackney began to turn the screw. The pack, dominant in the set piece throughout, began to gain the upper hand at the breakdown, allowing the half backs to use the quick ball to good effect. The main beneficiary of this was winger Arif Saad who tormented his opposite all day, running in two tries before the interval and turning the game on its head. At half-time Hackney had their noses in front 15-12 and in the half-time huddle the team resolved to push on and press home the advantage.

It didn’t take long for Arif to pick up where he left off with his third try out wide – Hackney’s fourth –leaving the Belsize left-winger wishing he hadn’t bothered getting out of bed that morning. A close-range penalty then put Hackney out of range – or so they thought. In the middle of the second half play and players alike got a bit scrappy, with Uzo taking exception to the Belsize number 8 manhandling his scrum-half and taking matters into his own hands the old-fashioned way. Belsize took advantage and scored their third try as Hackney switched off.

Renewed impetus came with reinforcements. Guy returned to action, the pain in his ankle subsiding at the thought of a spell at flanker. Captain Luke Hearn replaced Owain at scrum half. Ulrik continued his return from injury, replacing Jonny on the wing. The fifth try soon arrived, Arif taking a break from tormenting the Belsize backs and setting up Jack to run in for his second try.

The final try was a real team effort, the ball passing through at least 10 pairs of hands – forwards and backs, before Luke set up Matt to run in under the posts, and a try was finally converted. Credit is due to Belsize, who did not give up, crossing the Hackney line one more time, before Hackney closed the game out, 35-22 the final score. A week’s break now for the Gargoyles before the cup clash with Tring; beaten easily earlier in the season but showing improved form in recent weeks.

Man of the match: Arif Saad

3 tries scored, a hand in the other 3, and spent the day tormenting his opposite number. A return to his early-season form and cementing his lead at the top of the club’s try-scoring chart means there was only one contender.