It was a queer, sultry first day of October and I didn’t know why we were going to Hatfield. Early morning downpours had made way for a sunny afternoon and a much-changed Griffins side met at Finsbury Park for another sojourn to the dull outer reaches of our fair city. The mood was buoyant, with a hint of nerves, as P J Lloyd’s men faced St Albans at a ground where they had suffered a rare loss last season.

The first half was a scrappy affair hampered by the home side’s one-dimensional play and the Griffins’ lack of support for one another at ruck time. Despite some great forays by the likes of Fraiser Tait, the Bens (Sudell and Chamberlain), and Sam Alderson, we didn’t have quite enough to get over the line. Eleven penalties conceded by Hackney whilst in possession tells the tale of the half, a boring affair exacerbated by a referee with some curious interpretations at the breakdown. But the visitors did not panic, and a new half-back pairing of Clark and King (later King and Frost due to injury) marshalled their troops well, and spread confidence in the pack. Nowhere was this more keenly observed than in a spirited ten-phase defence of their own try line, with attacks by the home side repelled with a dull and almost predictable efficiency.

St Albans, with the wind and the hill, had the stand out moment of the first forty, as their somewhat excitable fullback danced his way through Hackney’s defence to score from eighty metres. But wait: dear reader you will see above that Saints were scoreless, and indeed they were, as, despite the ball being placed over the line, and pressed there for some time, a valiant effort by captain Lloyd fooled the hapless official into denying a certain score. Half time, all square, and, despite dominating possession and territory, the Griffins knew they were lucky.

Page 1 in the great book of clichés features the one about it being a game of two halves. And so it was. A tactical change, with both King and Frost kicking in behind, caused all kind of trouble for Saints’ hapless back three. A show and go from new boy King left Saints flat-footed, and the 10 selfishly played in Frost who finished well, carrying a few opposition players over the line with him. The tries then came thick and fast. He may be shortly turning 31, but the ever-hungry evergreen Sean Conner bagged a score, and Fraser Tait was the willing recipient of an incredible offload from the mercurial (à la Chris Ashton) Hackney Captain. Between these scores was a brace for Alasdair Dunlop—there’s a racing tyre pun somewhere—the first off a lineout, as Hackney got quick ball wide and he beat an unfortunately placed prop. The second was a more spectacular affair: straight from kick-off, after a volleyball paddle from Tait, Dunlop collected a bouncing ball and burnt rubber to leave the oppo’ in his wake.

Like someone finding out the train from Hatfield to London is cancelled, the home side were as sick as pups. They attempted to get back into the game, with some hard-running lines from the hooker and inside centre, but Hackney were resolute as they passed the three-hour mark without conceding a point. Rosh Hashanah was celebrated on Sunday, and it seems altogether appropriate that Hackney’s premier men’s side celebrated it with a bagel intact. As a defensive performance it was vocal, efficient, and it frustrated the opposition. It even seemed to frustrate the official. So incensed was he by the ruthlessness of the defensive unit that, in minute seventy-one, a turnover by Bowers (to be found on page 1 in the great book of turnovers) was rewarded with a yellow card. But this late moment of farce could not tarnish a great performance, and as the fortified wine was supped, and backs were slapped, a Hackney team that has won four from four returned to London looking forward to next week.