Another squeaker for the Gogs ends in a tight loss to the giants of Southgate.

 

It was a tale of two halves as the Gogs travelled to another posh bit of Enfield (yes readers, there are posh bits) after the trip to Old Grammarians to take on Southgate.

 

After the traditional confused and somewhat lacklustre warm up, Hackney didn’t take long to revert to type and get on board with the other Gogs tradition of shipping a soft early try. Southgate had showed their intention early on as they used their Montpellier-sized pack to gain territory through the middle and dominate set pieces. This came to fruition when they scored from the back of a 5m scrum after a long kick into the corner of Southgate’s unconventionally narrow pitch (think Spring Hill’s second pitch minus about 15m). Hackney's inability to adjust to the pitch played both to the home team's strengths and negated Hackney’s, with the wingers finding little room to operate and numerous kicks sailing out on the full. As the Southgate forward game forced numerous penalties in the middle of the park, the inevitable rolling maul try followed (did I mention Southgate had a massive pack?).

 

Hackney were down but not out, and got back in the game due to some quick thinking and legwork from scrum-half Sanj Deb, blitzing across the pitch, leaving mismatches in his wake before finally finding support in the shape of James Davis, the ball reaching him after a perfect 2-on-1, the nature of which should be compulsory homework for Hackney’s club captain to squeeze into his busy mock GCSE revision schedule. Though a number of covering tacklers arrived, Davis found, according to the referee, ‘the edge of the line’, and Hackney had some points on the board.



Further pressure eventually told as the Southgate 10 showed, relative to this author at least, Beauden Barrett-esque feet and pace to saunter through the defence and execute a perfect 2-on-1 to the supporting fullback; so good in fact that the real shame is that Hackney’s club captain was not there to watch and learn. This was quickly followed by a fourth Southgate try when the Gogs briefly treated tackling as optional and allowed the opposition centre to bundle through in the corner.


 

With half time approaching Hackney regained (or possibly just gained) some much-needed momentum. The team knew that Southgate were most vulnerable out ‘wide’ as the first try showed and the breakthrough came just before half time with a try comprised of the kind of handling that made the lone Gogs supporter surely wonder why that hadn’t happened all day, as per the gameplan. As the Gogs marched painstakingly up the pitch, carries through the middle by the forwards were matched out wide by the backs, with back rows such as Neil Cunningham and Dan Rawson shifting fluidly between both roles in a manner that other, nameless, back row occupying, club captains can only aspire to. At least 12 phases followed with virtually every player getting their hands on the ball at some point before finally breaking through with a Hanton pass out wide to Huskins being dotted down in the corner. The conversion made it 14-26 and the Gogs in with a sniff at half time.

 

The second half started well for Hackney, when a grubber through from Hanton wasn’t dealt with by the Southgate winger under pressure from Reay and Hubert, with Pierre picking up to score in the corner. The conversion was added and suddenly, for all Southgate’s dominance it was a 5-point game with Hackney in the ascendency. The next 30 minutes or so was largely played out in midfield, Southgate’s game plan to bash it up through the middle only accentuated by the loss of two of their backs to injury, and subsequent replacement by large, suspiciously forward-like subs. Hackney’s defence held firm with outstanding tackling from the entire pack, who yet again put in a monster shift in the face of adversity, and ‘temporary’ replacement forwards including the skipper John ‘Lydiate’ Chung, who with performances like this is surely long overdue for a permanent move to the back row.

 

Though a penalty was added to narrow the gap to two points, and Hackney managed a few forays into the Southgate 22, the match descended into a midfield battle with few further highlights. The Gogs only threatened sporadically and were unable to add further points as Southgate closed out the match in the Hackney half. Thanks should also go here to Southgate for a tough match fought in the right spirit throughout and for inviting/cajoling a few hardy Gogs to their post-match court session.

 

Another tight loss for the Gogs after disappointment against Royston the previous week leaves them firmly in mid-table with Stevenage to visit Spring Hill next week.