On a cold Saturday morning in North London the clock struck 11:30. Except it didn’t because Euston Station, the marshalling area for Hackney’s assault on Hertforshire, doesn’t have a clock, a problem considering that the Gogs had been instructed to assemble ‘below the big clock at Euston station’. The ingrate who had organised the squad meet was duly mocked and Hackney 3s departed wondering if their illustrious leader could organize a piss up in a brewery, let alone a successful away game.

It was a Gogs side with a vintage flavour that took to the field a few hours later. Injury had taken its toll club wide this weekend and the 3s were graced with the presence of Andy Owen, who now lives closer to Berkhampstead than Spring Hill, filling a hole at fullback. Third team legend Ev ‘O’Driscol’ Rafferty made an appearance on the bench where Rob Baker had been due to join him, before falling down the stairs the night before while under the influence, resulting in a broken toe. The absence of a fly-half in the starting team saw Nick Ford move out to ten and Jake Kedge start at nine.

The game began with both sides eager to gain the upper hand, resulting in some loose defense that gave Berkhamstead the first score. The home team’s nine pulled off an outrageous show and go (which, it appeared, was his signature move) to step inside the Hackney defense befor sending the ball wide for an early try. Hackney assembled under the posts, gathered their wits and resolved to move on.

A good chase from the restart saw Hackney secure ball inside the Berkhamstead half and for long periods of play Hackney put pressure on the home team’s defense. In the scrum a front row composed entirely of hookers (no pun intended) and the highly experiences second row pairing of John Young and Ollie Relph put the Berkhampstead pack to the sword. Stong carrying from Rolfin Nyhlus and Dan Worth, the very definition of a crash ball twelve, gave Hackney some good front foot ball and a score looked on the cards. Out wide John Chung received the pill with space to run and looked to have skinned the young Berkhamstead full back before he was chopped down by a two footed tackled that would have been barely legal on the football pitch next door. The Hackney traveling faithful were vociferous in their disapproval from the sidelines. Patch Thompson almost got a yellow card for being too outraged. Mr Chung probably would have been outraged too, had his shoulder not popped out. Much to everyone’s surprise the referee awarded only a penalty, even though John had to be helped off the pitch in some pain, to be replaces by Ev who bravely filled in on the wing. With a kickable penalty three points looked likely but the Hackney pack were in no mood for half measures, Kedge was instructed to put his fancy new kicking tee away and get ready for the crash ball. Some beautifully choreographed dummy runs bamboozled the Berkhamstead defense and when the ball was offered up to the onrushing John Young, with Relph and Nyhlus either side of him like the devil’s horsemen, the try was inevitable. Kedge pushed the conversion wide and the scores were level.

Hackney continued to dominate affairs for the remainder of the second half. While Berkhamstead put pressure on the away team back three with some well judged long balls the Hackney fringe defense was tight and scrum still dominant, allowing for most of the game to be played in the Berkhamstead half. A number of times the away side went close with handling errors at crucial moments interrupting play. Just before half time Berkhamstead lost a member of their back row to the bin for persistent hands in the ruck and although the resulting penalty was pushed (or more accurately, cannoned) wide by Dan Worth Hackney jogged into the huddle in buoyant mood.

From the off Berkhamstead came back at Hackney with a vengeance, clearly keen to preserve their good home record. Hackney’s dominance at the scrum was lessened somewhat by the referee’s ruling that as Berkhamstead only had seven players in the scrum so to should Hackney. While loosing a back row didn’t affect the Gogs ability to push the home side back it did mean that without a number eight controlling the ball at the base of the scrum became a nightmare. Jake Kedge coped very well in difficult conditions but by the time the home side were retuned to full strength Hackney were on their line, facing a penalty for handling the ball in the scrum. Berkhamstead crashed once and were denied, crashed again and were denied and finally turned over and the ball cleared. On the touchline Seth Brookes, Hackney’s backs coach, had turned a fetching shade of mauve due the effects of his constant shouting at us all to tackle lower.

From this point Hackney began to find their rhythm again. Despite the bruising nature of the game, with frequent stops for injuries, the pack decided they should be carrying the ball more and started to work better in pods. Rhys Howell and first time Gog Franck Cohadon, on for Ollie Relph, were a key part of this. With a bit more momentum the backs began to make inroads as well, Dan Worth and Ollie Bawden making impressive runs while Ollie Ball, on his Hackney debut, looked lively despite having spent most of the game fielding high balls from the Berkhamstead ten.

With twenty minutes to go, Matt Hanton, who had come as a spectator/kit boy owing to his broken hand, declared himself fit and started warming up. Hackney’s third sub slotted in at ten and despite having been told not to play contact until after Christmas he was in the thick of things. More good carrying saw Hackney get to within a few meters of the line and Alex Higgs thinking he had grounded the ball. The refreee saw otherwise and Berkhamseatd cleared. Back came the Gogs and this time they had success. Dan Worth crossing the line out wide and then trotting under the posts to give his lookalike Hanton the easiest of conversions.

The final moments of the game were frantic, with Nick Ford sin binned for over zealous use of the boot and Berkhamstead having a string of scrums on the Hackney five meter. Luckily the Gogs pack did their magic again and won a free kick, which was duly booted into touch, ending the game as a hard fought 12-5 victory to the men from Stoke Newington and its surrounding boroughs.

Man of the Match (chosen by the Gogs coaching staff, with citation composed by the ever eloquent Hanton):
"Patch Thompson, hirsute warrior, Movember poster boy and original son of anarchy, led his troops on the field of battle like a modern day General MacArthur. Whether spoiling opposition lineout ball or charging hair-first into the swarms of Berkhamsted defenders, Patch played a captain's innings, helping drag his team across the line in the tensest of finishes. Part of a massive pack effort that never allowed the home side to get going, Patch was the deserved recipient of both the man of the match award and a delicious-looking post-match beverage."