The final game before Christmas saw Haringey Rhinos visit Springhill looking for a better performance than earlier in the season where hackney had put 70 on them. However, much like an inmate on death row who wishes to choose the time of their execution, Haringey asked to move the start time forward to 12.30pm. May as well get these things out the way early and clear the rest of the day for festive fun. Or so Hackney thought...

Preparations for hackney were going well. In fact, Ben Jones was so relaxed and confident, he decided to have his new oven delivered that very morning. A clear thought process - deliver the oven in the morning, turn up the pressure cooker on Haringey in the afternoon. However, and remember Ladies and Gentlemen that hindsight is a wonderful thing, locking yourself out whilst helping to put your old cooker in the back of a van 2 hours before kick off might not have been the smartest move. At the same time at the opposite end of London, 300 litres of Gumbo (and only 6KG of rice!!) required delivery from Chateaux Bowers to the Marina. John Tully, trusting his instinct as any true caveman would, decided his priority was to transport Jones to the ground after he has gotten back into his house. O'Hara stepped up and was forced to take a detour to pick up the aforementioned Gumbo, as well as Watmore and Bowers himself, who this week had successfully managed to work out how to operate his alarm clock.

I appreciate this is a long opening sequence to the match report but the result of this was that several players were late which led to a less than satisfactory warm-up for the game. When combined with a complacency following the 70 point victory earlier in the season, Hackney started the game in particularly sluggish fashion. Despite Hackney gaining some early field position, Haringey's 13, having consumed what looked like about 8 pints of testosterone before the game, made early inroads up the centre. He didn't just give Watmore the traditional Rhino. Instead he introduced him to the entire Big 5. However in spite of this, Hackney began to turn the screw and gained some territory upfield. Following excellent work off the back of the scrum, Matt Strong carried hard up the middle before offloading to Ben Chamberlain who waltzed under the posts to the sound of his team-mates groaning for his 13th try of the season. O'Hara added the extras for a 7-0 lead.

Hackney continued to apply pressure but were undermining themselves for giving away too many penalties by going off their feet at the ruck. In addition, the set piece wasn't quite as solid as usual although the scrum did begin to get a foothold as the game went on. The lineout as well was not quite firing. In the last few weeks Bowers arrows would have been able to pin a fly to a wall by it's dandruff. Unfortunately he had left the quiver at home on this occasion and this, when combined with some questionable lineout jumping, resulted in a lot of turnover ball. To compound matters further Watmore and Sprague were operating an open door policy in the centres and so whenever pressure was being applied, it was subsequently relieved. 2 more penalties from the boot of O'Hara were the sum total of Hackney's efforts for the rest of the half. Both teams had in fact been reduced to 14 men by this stage. The first was a bizarre event when a Haringey player was sinbinned for a high tackle made on him by Pilkington. The referee took offence to some of the local Haringey patois and he was off for 10 minutes. Ben Jones, ever the gentleman, decided that 15 vs 14 was just not cricket and so, 8 seconds after coming on having arrived late, was sinbinned himself for going off his feet at the ruck. In fairness to Jones it was a team offence as he was punished for the crimes of other players who had committed it several times previous, but it ensured that the DotD trophy would be Jonesy's for the night. The only other moment worth mentioning in a fairly tepid half was a brilliant bit of play by Strong who tracked back a Haringey player who had broken the Hackney line, smashed him and then stole the ball in the same moment to set up a Hackney counter-attack. Unfortunately play had to be stopped to allow Bowers to pick his jaw up from off the floor and regain his composure. Halftime: Hackney 13 - Haringey 0.

A strong half time team talk which mixed technical points (O'Hara) with attitudinal ones (GHH) saw a marked improvement in both in the second half. Although Hackney had been poor by their own standards in the first half, credit must be given for the way they analysed their own performance and turned negatives into positives. The set piece was beginning to dominate and Hackney were turning the screw in the contact area as well. A good burst up the middle from Strong found Sprague to crash it up further. Once it was recycled, O'Hara threw a sumptuous pass out wide to Rupeni Wilkinson who had been moved to the wing to accommodate Rooke at Scrum Half. O'Hara kicked a tricky conversion from out wide which resulted in the scoreline moving to 20-0. This allowed Hackney to relax with the game all but safe and they started to play their brand of rugby. Some strong carries by the pack, who were beginning to dominate their opposition, and the new centre pairing of Sprague and Yong, gave Hackney more good field position. The reshuffled back 3 of Watmore, Rowbottom and Jonah Wilkinson were also looking threatening and it was only a matter of time before Hackney scored again. O'Hara duly obliged by scoring a sizzling 2-yard trundle and, after slotting the conversion, Hackney were out for the Bonus Point which had looked barely achievable only 15 minutes before.

Hackney were now fully on top and were exerting all the pressure. Some questionable refereeing decisions kept them in check however and they had to wait until only a few minutes remaining before the killer blow. Some further strong carries and an improving offloading game gave Hackney quick ball in a good field position. O'Hara spotted the space behind the Haringey defence and Sprague and Watmore set of in pursuit. Unfortunately for those 2, Sitiveni Wilkinson breezed past them and beat them to it to touch down under the posts. O'Hara, with 6 from 6 kicks slotted the extras giving Hackney their 6th bonus point win in a row to keep the pressure on the leaders going into Christmas. A hard fought game had been won without Hackney ever truly finding top gear and credit must be given to Haringey for a vastly improved performance. A win in the game in hand against Old Mill Hillians will send Hackney 2nd and, given Hackney's start to the season, that is testament to the hard work everyone has put in.