It was on a drab Saturday afternoon that Hackney made the trip north to Hendon to do battle against the now familiar foe under the shadow of Saracen’s new stadium.

The match started strongly for Hackney with a scrum leading to Bowers running from 8, offloading to Rooke at 9 who deftly put Watmore, who caught the ball to everyone’s surprise, into space for a canter deep into Hendon territory. But for a small communication mix up on the wing, the move could quite easily have ended with a score but the consequences were minimal. Hackney soon regained possession and the back line executed a simple move to put Arif Saad over the whitewash to open their account in the first ten minutes.

Hendon, however, counter attacked with vigour and kept the ball for the next twenty minutes. Hackney’s defence remained firm, but in attack the Griffins gave the ball away too easily. Hendon’s attacks weren’t without impact; Hackney did well to deter the home side and sweated out the remainder of the Christmas turkey in doing so.

For the remaining ten minutes of the opening half, Hackney regained and kept possession, and scored two further tries whilst doing so. The first came after a thunderous pass from Ben Jones put Weller through a gap. The pass was so accurate in its direction and well timed its delivery that all 29 other players stopped, gaping mouthed, at the sight of a man offloading with such audacious aplomb whilst wearing a shirt lower than 6 on his back. The second came after consistent Hackney pressure at the scrum. Although the initial plan was to rumble over the line, Hackney’s in form fly half spotted a gap on the blind side, sprinted through a gap, drew the final man before an athletic dive pass to Rowbottom allowed the winger to cross unchallenged.

The Griffins weren’t finished yet. Another backs move allowed Riched Yong to plant his large Kiwi handoff into the face of an oncoming defender and wriggle through in an excellent solo effort to keep the score board ticking over in Hackney’s favour. Bonus point secured.

Hackney had had consistent possession for no more than 15 accumulative minutes, and had gone over the line four times. Clear targets were set for the second half: get another score and see the game out in a controlled fashion.

The targets were partially met. The first try came from a strong catch and drive from the line out. The Hackney pack had been dominant in the set piece all game and a rolling maul, superbly marshalled by a vocal Charlie Davies, trundled the ball twenty yards down field and over the try line.

The second try came again from territory won by the forwards in a similar fashion. This time, however, the ball was span to the backs who were again remorseless in their implementation and crossed the line again.

Then Hackney forgot how to defend.

Hendon’s big runners cut through the Hackney’s tired line with decent offloading in the tight. Hackney allowed three scores in quick succession before a huge double hit by O’Hara and Yong finally allowed the Griffins to regain possession and put an end to the Hendon insurgence. The lead slipped from 31-0 to 31-22 and suddenly Hackney were facing a rather self-imposed fraught final ten minutes.

Yet the Griffins regrouped and marched back upfield, again gaining territory through the now characteristic combination of the brawn of the forwards and the skill of the back line. Hendon, now camped on their line with the clock ticking away, were again being constantly pressured at the scrum. Bowers picked again from the base, and tied in the back row, which released the back line to drawn the centres leaving a gap open for the final score.

Hackney got 2013 off to a slightly stuttering, but winning start in a good natured match against Hendon who have consistently provided decent and hard opposition against which to play excellent rugby. Promotion battle is on.