There are certainly many good reasons to visit the Osterley, in the London Borough of Hounslow, but as Hackney now know well, one of the better ones is to play the local club, Grasshoppers RFC, on a bright, clear autumn afternoon. Hackney took the long ride along the Picadilly Line and the short stroll along the A4 to take part in a fine contest, against one of the league’s stronger sides. The visitors’ eventual victory at this fine venue, though hard-fought, will be a great boost for the season to come.

After a shortened warm-up, a much-changed Hackney XV started slowly, a nasty habit they will soon have to lose. The local forwards, more substantial than their name might suggest, lost no time in making their intentions clear, carrying the ball into contact with force and determination, while the ‘hoppers back line showed considerable invention and flair out in the wider spaces of the field. Within 20 minutes, two penalties and a try had put the hosts eight points ahead (11-3). Dogged by a spell of poor discipline, and blunt in attack, Hackney worked hard defensively to limit the damage, reaching half-time with the score unchanged.

The fight-back staged in the second period spoke volumes about the spirit and determination at Hackney RFC, not least among those players new to the club or to the first XV. Fitness proved a decisive advantage, as did the set-piece: Hackney dominated the clear blue skies of West London, and the lighter Hackney scrum, led by a heroic and long-suffering Sam Alderson, more than matched the weighty Osterley pack. In the space of ten minutes, Hackney turned the game on its head, O’Hara first capitalising on some determined pack work, Thompson then showing a fine balance of strength and speed on his debut to score the winning try. Neutrals were rewarded with a nail-biting finish, as Grasshoppers clawed back to within a point, and then pressed hard for the win. But Hackney held fast: 14-15 the final score.