Hackney fail to start the motor at Park

Belsize began the opening fixture of the Herts. / Middlesex 1 season in frantic fashion, a top class defensive turnover from Hackney’s Rich Yong was the only thing preventing them from opening the scoring inside 2 minutes. The Griffins found sanctuary in the calmer, more measured and gradual heaving world of the driving maul. And while the clinical organisation of 1 to 8 with no 9 Ed Clark barking the orders is to be admired, progress was slow due to the phase play which following being slightly disjointed and fragmented. Any attempted kicks behind into space generally found their way to a very well positioned Belsize back 3 who returned them with interest.

Park on the other hand enjoyed their minority share of possession with strong running causing delicious clear cut breaks through the colander of holes in the Hackney defence. For starters they sampled a couple of penalty goals from raids into Hackney’s half before the more substantial main course of a unconverted try with the main ingredient being fluid backline play down the left wing. Hackney’s initial response came up just short when O’Hara, Bowers and Jones combining up the blind side. The second foray into the Belsize 22 was more successful and after sucking in defenders with big carries from the likes of John Tully and Chad Burke, a clear overlap was created. Alex O’Hara then executed the miss 4 pass with the wind up and effort of a man trying the throw the ball back into the Hackney borough in one go, this gave Guy Watmore the space to deal with the bouncing ball and scamper into the corner. The teams swapped ends at Belsize 11 – 5 Hackney.

The Griffins instantly looked more dangerous in the second period when Isacco “Italian Stallion” Dallarmi claimed the kick off and charged up field to offload to Ben Chamberlain who just lost control of the ball as he tried to round the fullback. This set the tone for the half as opportunities became more plentiful but the final pass couldn’t be made with the required precision. The endeavour however was rewarded by a series of kickable penalties, the first created by a break by Andy Sprague was converted, the second attempt from directly in front I shall not describe except to say it earned the perpetrator a free pint of beer for dick of the day.

The pace of the game was gradually ramped up by the introduction of substitutes with Alex Berwick joining Ed Clark in making his league debut and Lawrence “versatility” Mills making a rare appearance at prop to aid a strong scrummaging shift from the boys in quarters. Offsetting the new faces and new positions was the familiar introduction of Shaun “27 year old veteran” Rooke for the limping Ed Clark at 9. Progress was limited by the worrying tendency to concede penalties, Hackney got off lightly as ineffectual kicking spread like a virus to the park no.10 with Hack even having the audacity to immediately give him a second go by being offside from the 22 restart. The game ultimately swung the way of the home side in a crazy two try 5 minute period, Griffins failed to deal with Belsize’s centre combination again and after one breakaway try started waving the white flag by immediately letting Belsize score again from the kick-off. The visitors recovered from this incredibly poor period of play to manage a consolation score through Ben Chamberlain. They almost narrowed the gap to single figures when Hackney MOTM Guy Watmore caused chaos in the Park defence from a slick first phase backs move, but the ball was spilled meters short.

The final whistle signalled the league season being only 4.5% complete (one for all you stat geeks), which is one positive. On the other hand vast improvements are required in many areas.