On a fine, early Spring day Hackney 3s travelled to the hallowed (astro) turf of Allianz Park to face Enfield Ignations in the quarter-final of the prestigious Herts and Middlesex Merit 6 Cup. Given the game's high stakes (or maybe because of the exciting venue) availability was sky high and the Gogs travelled with a squad of nearly twenty five men, including two players making their competitive debut for the club.

Having got suitably pumped up in the away dressing room and then stood in the tunnel for a bit waiting for some cheerleading to finish, Hackney trampled onto the pitch to the cheers of the traveling fans and the blaring of music. Photographic evidence suggests that yours truly adopted quite an embarrassing 'war face' while running out, although that was nothing to the shocked looks when the team collectively realised that the pitch was both incredibly wide and as hard as the Mabley Green asto used for Wednesday night training. While Allianz's 4G pitch may be fast, durable and practically weather proof it was also to prove particularly painful.

In true Hackney fashion the Gogs went behind early on, conceding two penalties in their own half that the Enfield stand off slotted with a laser guided boot. Things got worse soon after when Enfield, using the steppe-like expanse of the pitch, out flanked the Hackney defense and score in the corner. The huddle under the posts was calm and, after the conversion went wide, Hackney finally got to play some rugby in the opposition half.

Much of the remainder of the first half was a midfield tussle, with the breakdown being a key area for both teams and just as when Hackney had faced Enfield in the league, both sets of forwards were giving it their all. Out wide, with Shaun Rooke and Darren Griffin pulling the strings, Hackney were making good ground. Twenty minutes in, and after some good defensive pressure, the Gogs won a scrum in the Enfield half. With the kind of first phase, set piece precision that only come from weeks of practice (or watching the All Blacks and thinking, 'I can do that') the ball went wide, through the hands and after a series of line breaks and offloads Dhiv Kandiah scored on his club debut. His face fell somewhat when he was informed that, for the arrogance of scoring on his debut, he'd be buying the post game jugs, but the team now had a real spring in its step.

Shortly afterwards Hackney scored again. From a quickly taken tap penalty the backs made thirty yards before Mark Hilsdon was brought down. The pill was recycled quickly and Seb Pary-Jones made a break before putting John Chung in for his umpteenth try of the season. Two quick scores and the crowd were wild with excitement and the Enfield-leaning announcer was forced to admit that Hackney were indeed cut from the same cloth as those classic Welsh teams of the 1970s. Reknown for their good looks and flowing rugby.

Unfortunately we then went and blew it by conceding again just before half time. 16-10 to Enfield was the score as the teams changed ends.

As the Gogs supped on their half time oranges it was apparent that a peculiar look had fallen across the face of John Young. After a monumental game so far, Hackney's Chairman had, in the last ruck of the half, succeeded in head butting the pitch (possibly in rage at how wide it was) and been concussed. He tried to hide his discomfort, whispering, 'Can somewhat tell me where I am? I think I'm concussed but don't tell the coaches' and dramatically shushing anyone who looked concerned. Thankfully he was taken off for a check up (he’s all okay now) and was replaced by Franck Cohadon, back in Hackney colours after an injury lay off.

Enfield emptied them veteran bench at half time and the forty minutes that followed was perhaps a reflection upon the game as a whole. Going forward Hackney looked down right handsome. Luke Hearn bossed the forwards from the nine shirt while Darren, Shaun and Mark played musical chairs in the midfield and made plenty of ground. Ulrik Wetsen-Jensen came on just after half time, while Andy Owen (who apparently only plays in fixtures 'at real stadiums’ now) made a lively cameo late on. However Enfield played the referee better at the breakdown and their fly-half's canon of a right boot kept Hackney pinned down in their own half. Time and again the Gogs would be forced to defend on their own five meter line for extended periods before Enfield went wide (did I mention how big the pitch was?) and scored. However, with the last play of the game Hackney's attacking threat paid off, John Chung going over in the corner (again). The final score line, 40-15 to Ignations, was a little disappointing but it was, all things considered, a great day out.