For their first game back after the long, glutinous Christmas break, Hackney 3s travelled to Stevenage to continue their assault on the top of Merit 6. Assembled at Kings Cross station the team were in fine form, with the pack looking a good few stone heavier after a long month spent in the gym/eating pies.

The name Stevenage come from the Old English meaning 'place of the strong Oak' (thanks Wikipedia) and in-keeping with their town's name the Stevenage team looked big and strong. It proved to be a physically demanding return to rugby.

In true Gogs fashion after a few strong opening phases Hackney decided to only defend on one side of the scrum and Stevenage exploited an outrageous five on one overlap to run in the game's first try. No worry though, because one of the integral pillars of 'Hackney Rugby' is that defense is boring and can be made irrelevant by outscoring the opposition. This was emphasised in the huddle under the posts as the conversion sailed wide.

From the restart Hackney looked considerably more switched on. Some strong running from Tom 'I've shaken Courtney Laws' hand' Jepps and Ariff 'Side-Step' Saad put the Gogs on the front foot and when Stevenage did have the ball the away team were much more organised in defense (surprisingly). After a prolonged period in attack Ariff broke the line, performed a couple of unnecessary side step to show off and then lobbed the ball out to Chung on the wing who trotted over the line. Hackney were on the score board.

Not satisfied with one score Hackney were soon back for more. With a titanic back taking place at the breakdown the backs occasionally had to wait for good quality ball, but when they got it they took full advantage. A beautifully timed pass from Luke Hearn on the edge of the Stevenage 22 put Mark Hilsdon between two onrushing defenders. Like a Dancing on Ice contestant Hackney's birthday boy glided between both of them and touched down under the posts. 12-5 to the Gogs and a guaranteed pint for Mark, scoring on your birthday must surely be the epitome of sporting arrogance.

Moments later a good defensive push from Hackney forced an error from the Stevenage backs and Chung intercepted an ambitious pass. Despite a chase from the home team's fullback the flying Welshman made it home and Kedge then converted for the second time in the match. With the backs running the show the forwards were clearly feeling left out and from the next scrum, in the exact centre of the pitch, Guy Haflhead decided to have a go from the back of the scrum. Like a leaping gazelle the world's most agile back row ran at the Stevenage defense. Onwards he ran, into the valley of death, only to daintily step and twirl out of tackle after tackling. For the first time in recorded history a number eight scored not only a long distance try, but also without having to run over anyone. Truly a momentous event.

With ten minutes left to go in the half Hackney's tails were up. However at this point Stevenage raised their game and, having been lulled into a false sense of security, the Gogs spent nearly forty minutes on the back foot.

This was a time for heroes. Spending nearly half the game defending on your own try line without giving in requires a level of endurance worthy of T.E. Lawrence. Under the cosh the Gogs showed their worth. Franck Cohadon threw himself bodily into ruck after ruck, Alex Higgs and Rhys Johnson threw themselves at peoples' shins and Dave Huxley, in the process of stopping a try, threw himself into someones face. Some excellent kicking under immense pressure from Hearn and Jepps occasionally relieved the pressure but Hackney just could not clear the line. Chris Reay almost managed it, turning the ball over and storming up the wing, but then he dropped the ball (he later claimed he had been attempting a Sonny-Bill style offload). Under such pressure Hackney inevitably conceded. With fifteen minutes left on the board Stevenage were two points ahead and Hackney were suffering. Dave Huxley was in the blood bin, having his noise literally glued back together by Mick Ryan MD. It later turned out that he'd been told pre game not to 'mess his face up', no luck there then. Guy Halfhead had also been forced off, with young Ted Bolt taking his place and everyone else looked knackered.

The turning point came when Stevenage missed a penalty that would have put them five points ahead. With Huxley back on the pitch, covered in dried blood and bellowing about how we needed to show some hunger (quite rightly!) and a drop out to clear the lines, Hackney stepped up. The forwards, glad to be doing something other than defending around the ruck, finally got the upper hand at the ruck and the backs began to shine again. Predictably it was the flying Welshman who put Hackney ahead, again linking up well with Saad to score out wide. Back on top and with time ticking away Hackney needed another score to secure things. Some beautiful hands from the back row put Rhys Johnson in space and after a good twenty meter run he was pulled down. Quick ball from the ruck was secured and somehow the egg ended up back in Johnson's hands and he crashed over. On the sidelines the Hackney coaching staff breathed a collective sigh of relief as it looked like the Gogs were safe. The remaining few minutes passed uneventfully and when the final whistle blew the score was 27-36. A hard fought and important first win back for Hackney.

Man of the Match: Three tries and beautifully styled hair? Of course it is John Chung who wins the coveted dirty pint this week. A mention also for Nick Ford, who stood in in the second row while Huxley was being glued back together and Luke Hearn, who played excellently despite being under huge pressure at ten for most of the game.