While England were getting ready to grace Twickenham’s hallowed turf against Argentina, players, coaches, and fans of Hackney RFC desperately came together to reclaim Spring Hill from the dreaded flood plain. It came as no surprise, then, when Ollie Hart announced that the playing conditions were “perfect” for a game of rugby. An hour later and just in time for kick off, both pitches were just about playable. The Griffins, always keen to play their rugby on the expansive 1stXV pitch, knew it was to be a war of attrition and a long slog for the forwards on what was a dire day.

After impressive starts versus Barnet and Bank of England in previous weeks, Hackney were keen to start the game with intensity and purpose. Receiving the ball off the kick off, the Griffins’ intentions were clear – to play structured, disciplined territorial rugby. Early scrums and lineouts proved solid, allowing the Hackney backline to run strong direct lines. After some good early pressure from the Griffins, Hackney’s captain, Al O’Hara had the chance to add another three points to his impressive total for the season. In metronomic like fashion, O’Hara stroked the ball over the uprights to give the Griffins a 3-0 lead within the first five minutes.

Hackney’s defence has been an area of strength in recent weeks and this was to continue as big hits from Ben Chamberlain and Ollie Hart soon made Cheshunt regretful that they had made the forty-five minute journey down the A10. Within a few minutes, and with a turnover forced, Hackney were right back in opposition territory. Chamberlain, a pterodactyl in the lineout, stole Cheshunt’s ball at the front of the line all day. This proved to be an excellent attacking platform for the Griffins. Where Hackney struggled throughout the day was at the breakdown. More often than not, Hackney allowed the men from Hertfordshire to turnover isolated Griffins. This was no matter to a Hackney defence who were determined not to let Cheshunt break the gain line. Al O’Hara, defensive man of the match, fixed the opposition’s twelve all day leaving Cheshunt running out of ideas.

It was from this ferocious Hackney defence that the first try of the afternoon was scored. With derring-do out the window, Cheshunt opted for the box kick from the half way line. The scrum-half’s face turned from one of anticipation to one of despair as the towering figure of Matt Strong charged down the hopeful kick. On even the driest of occasions, a rugby ball can be a cruel mistress when it comes to gathering a bobbling pill. Not so for Strong. Gathering the ball successfully, Strong passed to Hackney’s Italion Stallion, Dallarmi, who showed good awareness to pass the ball to the ever-marauding Alex Bobin. As Jason Robinson had finished ten years previous against Bobin’s home nation, the tight-head dove for the line early dragging trailing defenders over the line with him. That was to be Bobin’s last play of the first half having suffered a cardiac arrest on the way to the line. Al O’Hara just failed to make the conversion before Hackney continued to keep Cheshunt at bay for the next ten minutes.

The Griffins went into half time 8-0 up and with the wind well and truly in their sails, knowing that an early score was a must if Hackney were to go on and win this fixture. From the kick off, Hackney again found themselves attacking in the Cheshunt half with help from strong carries from Dallarmi and Jones. Sam Wilkinson, Hackney’s man of the match, dealt with horrible conditions expertly, marshalling the troops and providing excellent ball to Hackney runners. With another penalty eventually coming Hackney’s way, O’Hara punted the ball deep into Cheshunt’s red zone to give Hackney an attacking lineout, 10 metres from the line. Bowers, a keen reader and aficionado of mediocre blogs, hit his man before the Hackney pack trundled towards the line. With a final shove from Hart’s sizeable frame, Charles Bailey rose from the heap of bodies for his second try in two games.

With two forward tries already in the bag, the Hackney backs were not to be outshone. With twenty minutes of the game to go, James Rowbottom showed lightening quick feet down the right hand wing to break through the battered Cheshunt defence. Showing good awareness, Rowbottom popped the ball inside to O’Hara who finished to the right of the posts. With the third try of the game came an added impetus for Hackney to turn the screw on their rival from the Home Counties and seek a third bonus point win in a row.

Ben Chamberlain, a man who enjoys the freedom of open play, was to come up again his biggest defender yet, the Spring Hill playing surface. On a characteristically elusive run, Chamberlain hit the quick sand – warrior turned Bambi in one fleeting moment. Guy Watmore was not to have the same problem as moments later he almost seemed to glide across the muddy surface allowing Hackney to break away into the Cheshunt half once again. Used to the moderate Florentine weather this time of year, one might be excused for assuming that Isacco Dallarmi would not flourish in sand, mud, and clay. That was not to be the case, as Ed Clarke took a quick penalty to send the man from Tuscany through to score Hackney’s crucial fourth try.

Hackney had left Cheshunt stuck in the mud. A third win in a row and 15 points from a possible 15 have turned the Griffins’ season around considerably. Next up comes an arguably tougher task again Old Millhillians at home.