Two games into a profoundly odd start to the season and Hackney 3s, by virtue of having played less matches than everyone else, found themselves in the unusual position of being bottom of HMMT 5. The visit of (relatively) local rivals Old Grammarians gave the Gogs a chance to climb off the bottom.
In truth, a game that saw 11 tries scored is quite hard to describe when you spent half of it with your face in the bottom of a ruck (no Will Bowersesque ruck inspector am I, oh no) and the other half going backwards in the scrum. However, I do know that the home side started brightly and dominated the first half.
After some cagey opening exchanges in midfield, the Grammarians 10 was embarrassingly stripped of possession by one of Hackney's waif like flankers and two quick phases later, Mark Nunn was over for his first Gogs try of the season. This was a pattern that repeated itself for much of the first half, with Hackney running riot on turnover ball. Some delicious ball handling from the forwards put Nunn in for his second before debutant Matia Navunisinu scored a screamer from the halfway line. Yours truly would like to take credit for the assist, but frankly throwing the ball at the poor centre's laces and then watching him go fifty meters all on his own to score under the posts hardly counts. Grammarians scored a late try, but at half time Hackney were in possession of the lead.
The second half was a very different affair. Pinned down in their own 22 early on, the Gogs were unable to release the pressure on their line and Grammarians fought their way back into the game. Tries from prolonged phases of carrying in the forwards, five meter scrums and line out drives, as well as two from turnovers as Hackney tried to attack from their own 22, gave the visitors a two try lead going into the final phases.
Hackney were not to be undone and struck back. Matia scored a second, shortly before hobbling off with horrendous cramp complaining that two weeks before he had been on a beach in Fiji and it has far warmer playing rugby there, and then Mark Nunn jinked through the Grammarian defense to seal his hattrick after another turnover. With minutes to go The Gogs were one point behind and camped in the Grammarians half.
Now, picture the scene, Hackney straining like greyhounds in the slip. A cry goes up, a shrill whistle and an arm raised. Penalty at the ruck! Like the cold, calculating leader he is, Chris Reay points to the posts. Spring Hill is silent as a crypt. The ball flies towards the twin pillars of the uprights from far to the right and…scrapes the outside of the post.
A cruel way for a game to end, especially one that the Gogs had hoped to win at the death, but full credit to Old Grammarians for their spirited comeback from a half time deficit. Also, congratulations to Matia, Rupert, Gareth, Rob and James who all made their club debuts and performed excellently to a man. Obviously though, for the hattrick and plenty of guile in attack and defense, Mark Nunn had to be Man of the Match.