Grey and dreary Saturday brings early Christmas for the Gogs.

 

Earlier this season, the Gogs arrived at Old Grammarians with a strong squad, even by this season's standards, and full of the joys of a lush Autumn afternoon. Regrettably, they ran into (or didn't as the case may be) an incredibly strong and well-drilled Grams side with a quick-witted ten and hard running 12. In short, it was a battering. Coming off of last week's good 55/60 minute performance against Cuffley, the Gogs knew that they would need to improve once again to stand a chance against the league's form side.

 

With a good warm-up under their belts and Cheery McCheerison demoting himself to coach for the day, from the moment Hanton kicked off, the Gogs were relentless. With Grams taking the ball into contact, hooker Rolphin latched onto the ball like a rotund 2nd team centre latches onto Black Rat the day of the Hackney Xmas party. With Grams flooding men into the maul, Rolphin emerged from the ruck with the 10 and 12 to beat (Disclaimer: the aforementioned previous Grams 10 and 12 were MIA this week for the opposition, together with what seemed to be a large number of regulars). Only a tap tackle stopped the hooker going all the way, but with the excellent newbie Adam Faulkner in close proximity for the offload, the Gogs opened the scoring under the posts within the first play of the game. This woke the opposition up and the next few minutes were spent tussling (quite literally for one Grams veteran taking issue with Patch's Mr. Tickle arms) around the midfield, with the Grams pack seeking to make yards in and around the ruck. The Gogs' defence held firm and a clearance kick found young Chris Conning playing left wing – moving further away from his beloved role in the middle of the front row. With moves like his hero Rolphin, he danced around three defenders before being brought down just short. With good recycled ball, he popped up once again on the left to polish off an excellent Gogs move.

 

The half-way line tussle began again in earnest before gentle persuasion from the likes of the author and a returning Tom Jepps on the sideline encouraged the Gogs to play the territory game and use the boots of Hanton and Reay to pin the opposition in their half. This worked rather well as pressure on the Grams backs led to a turnover and Ricky dancing over for the Gogs' third try. With ten to go in the half, a number of the Gogs, perhaps thinking of the evening's festivities a little too early, came over a little Champagne and attempted offload after offload, a number of which lead invariable to scrums. With the Grams set piece remaining strong, this was not an ideal strategy. Recognising the danger, self-effacing media node and occasional Gogs skipper, Patch, changed things up leading to better phase play and fly-half Hanton scoring his second crash ball try of the season. With a further penalty to end the half, the Gogs went in 24-0 up.

 

Having been in a similar position earlier in the season against Royston, almost all of the half-time chat was about focus (aside from Dan Worth who mostly wanted to let the side know how many water bottles were filled with the west country's finest amnesia juice, pleasing certain players no end). The second half started much the same way as the first, with Hackney getting turn-over ball from Faulkner this time and setting up good field position in mid-field. While the first half owed much to the determination of the Gogs pack, as the more senior members of the Grams side tired, the second half belonged to the backs. The burgeoning centre partnership of Brady and Sprague continued where last week finished with both gliding through gaps while continuing to look #SexyFresh. One such run allowed winger John Chung to hit a filthy line and scurry in for the Gogs' 5th try.

 

Undetterred, Grams came back at the Gogs and only excellent goal line defending by the likes of Higgs and Shorey stopped the opposition registering a score. With Adam "I was a scrumhalf 10 kilos ago" Faulkner showing a cultured boot, the Gogs were able to clear their lines and return to the Grams half. With another turnover being attributed to A. Maul, the ball moved wide for Brady to saunter in on the far corner – leading to a rather irate fly-half shouting something about kicking stats as he demanded his tee.

 

The last 20 minutes saw the long awaited return of Tom Jepps to a Hackney shirt [insert joke re: shirt size reference here]. Showing an expansive game seldom seen by Gibbs-like centre, he sent his long suffering friend (and landlord) off down the right wing in search of Hackney's 7th try. With a 2 on 1 begging as he entered the 22, and perhaps confusing his future best man for a league prop passing on the 5th tackle, he elected for the Garry Owen. This was a confusing decision; not least for the Grams full back who lost the ball in the fast fading light, only for Brady to pop up to notch up a customary brace, his 5th try in two games.

 

With the Grams side tiring, the kick-off was delivered to Ricky who, no doubt impressed with having not conceded a penalty for the entire game, went on a weaving run leaving only the full back to beat. Taking a tackle of questionable legality he off-loaded to the on-coming Sprague for the Gogs' 8th and final try. The Gogs managed to hold out until the final whistle for their first clean-sheet of the season.

 

Overall, this was the most complete Gogs performance of the season, topping the century of points scored in a match earlier in the year. Excellent performances all around from newbies this season such as Akbari jumping at 4 in the line-out, Conning, and Lewis complimented performances from establishment players like Hanton and Chung. Man of the Match (and newbie) Adam Faulker showed that competition for spots in the back-row may well see the author as well as others spending more time on the side-lines (absent increased training attendance!). The side is coming together strongly and with six games of the league season left, a very late run for 2nd place and promotion may not yet be out of reach for this side.       

 

P.s – special mention for Teo Gazeu, who warmed up with the side and ran the far touchline for 60 minutes regardless of the fact that he was the 19th man.