Oh Stevenage, you do spoil us!
For the third year in a row, Hackney 3s found themselves traveling to Stevenage early in the season. Once the home of the legendary Vincent Motorcycle Company, what sporting delights would this fair town hold for the Gogs this year?
It was, as Coach Seth reminded the team, a glorious day for some rugby. With this in mind, the Gogs looked to play quick, attacking rugby and go wide early. This approach saw them dominate the early exchanges and remain largely in control for the first half an hour. A surprisingly dominant scrum, slick line out and excellent kicking out of hand from Skipper Chris Reay saw the visitors go close a number of times (Joe Artuso heinously refused to pass to yours truly with the try line begging to butcher one such opportunity, not that I'm bitter).
It took until the end of the first quarter for Hackney to get on the scoreboard, a break in the centres saw Stevenage pouring back in defense and the ball went wide to find Manu, in true Dane Coles mode, loitering on the wing to crash over in the corner. The conversion was just wide and Hackney were 0-5 up.
It wasn't long before the visitors troubled the Stevenage line again, but a damp ball saw a knock on conceded on the five meter line. However, in scenes not seen since the mid-90s, Hackney won a scrum against the head (!) and Ev Rafferty simply picked the ball up at the base and flopped over the line. Reay made the conversion and the score was 0-12 with half an hour gone.
From this point onward, Stevenage began to fight back. Having taken their foot off the gas a little, Hackney were caught napping and the hosts managed an unconverted try before half time.
In the second half, playing up the slope, the visitors found themselves pinned back in their own half and doing a great deal more defensive work than before. Crunching tackles around the ruck and a series of turnovers and stolen line outs helped to release the pressure, but there was no doubt that the game was very much in the balance. Stevenage score twice more to take the lead, both times from broken field play.
However the Gogs rallied and returning to the Stevenage 22, Jamie Fenton cross the whitewash after huge pressure from Hackney. The game was on a knife edge going into the final ten minutes.
Yet, woe for the visitors, while attacking from their own half a loose pass was seized upon by the hosts and a try scored under the posts. Three minutes left on the clock and Hackney kept going, attacking from deep in their own half and running hard. However, it was not to be and the final whistle blew after an excellent and incredibly competitive game of rugby. The hosts winners by seven points. However, a Hackney side with a completely new back line and only one sub on the bench still had a lot to take away from the game and will look forward to the rematch in a few months.