The last game of the season brought a timely reward for all the months of hard work as Hackney triumphed in the final of the 10th Hertfordshire/Middlesex Vase, against Kilburn Cosmos RFC. After so many days of rain, Hackney agreed to give up their river-side Marina for the charms of Gladstone Park, so they were disappointed if not surprised to find upon arrival that they would be sharing the pitch with the various forms of aquatic life that had taken up residency in the pools of water that had now gathered.

Having seen Kilburn relegated from their league last season, andpresenting a full-strength 21-man team, Hackney had every reason to beconfident, but they also knew how difficult an eighty minutes thismight be. Facing downhill and with the driving wind and rain to theirbacks, the hosts started well. Only five minutes in their back rowmade a turnover, and suddenly the flanker found himself in acres ofspace. He casually handed off Crockett, skirted round Hart, and ranthrough to place the ball between the posts (7-0). A half-hourdogfight ensued, as scrum checked scrum, line-out matched line-out andthe back lines clashed repeatedly to no avail. Prowse, Tully andChamberlain charged with all their might, but couldn’t break through.Some ferocious tackling, from Richard Yong among others, neutralisedany further Kilburn attacks. The wet, slippery ball did the rest. Nomuch open rugby then, and no further points scored, but a grippingspectacle none the less. At half-time, despite being a full score down, Hackney knew they’d done most of the hard work.

The restart was far from easy, as cold joints and muscles creaked back into action, but the pressure was all Hackney’s now, and the pack camped out inside the opposition twenty two. Once, twice, three times assaults were launched from scrum and row, but each time the Kilburn line held – just. L. Mills was the first casualty of the game after a flying forearm to the face saw him carted off to A&E. A few more phases however, and soon the ball was shown wide before returning to Glenn Prowse to hit his man and offload to Will Bowers. The hooker charged – and triumphed (7-5). That try felt like deliverance, and a promise of more to come. A few minutes later Alex O’Hara, sensing an opportunity, nudged the ball over the opposition, into the arms of swift-footed Charlie Williams. The wing was caught before the line but showed impeccable timing to pop up the ball to man-of-the-match Bowers, running well in support, who only had to cross the line (7-10).

By this point both sides were finding the going tough. Injury, exhaustion and ever worsening conditions could have brought both sides to their knees, but it was Kilburn who weakened first. For Hackney, the heroic Newton Mills and Ollie Hart showed the hard road to follow, and the whole substitutes bench, bursting with desire, made an outstanding contribution, none less so than Charlie Davis on at scrum-half. He soon brought another forward-driven succession of phases to a happy conclusion, as a dummy and a dart were enough to see the opposition confused and the ball over the line (7-17). A little later, Hackney were back, still hungry for more. A scrum five metres from the line made little progress, but just enough to give new 8 Uzo Uyanwune time to pick up the ball, hand-off his opposite number, and off-load for Charlie D to score between the posts (7-23). Hackney were flying now, and when Alex O’Hara kicked again and the ball skidded along the touch line another score seemed inevitable, if improbable. James Rowbottom somehow found the speed to beat the defender and catch up with the ball just before it bounced out of play (7-28). The game was up. The final whistle was greeted with re-doubled cheers: for the Herts/Middlesex Vase, and for the warm Kilburn showers.