This report begins, as they often do, with a cliché. Most sports are, the saying goes, a game of two halves (apart from American Football, which is a game of four quarters, many ad breaks and that one inch right in front of you face). So it proved to be when the Gogs hosted Belsize Park, under a leaden sky at Spring Hill.
The first half needs only a few brief lines. Hackney defended well, playing physically and with passion, but often struggled to contain the Belsize back line, which appeared to have taken a lot of offloading lessons at some point since November.  Apart from some early pressure that saw Michael Waithe almost go over in the corner, Hackney had little time in the opposition 22 and spent much of the half in midfield. At the break the score was 17-0 to the visitors.
In the second half however, things were somewhat different. With a little more possession Hackney began to grind their way up field. The line out was slick (obviously due to some superb generalship…) and brought results. On the side lines a gaggle of Hackney old boys, come to bid farewell to New Zealand bound Roy Irwin, saw something that in their many decades of combined club experience they had never seen before. From a line out ten meters from the Belsize line the ball went to the front, a maul was formed and began to inch forward. All eight Hackney forwards, quickly joined by a number of backs, heaved and strained and drove onwards. When this newfangled invention, the Hackney ‘maul’ crossed the whitewash it was Simon Ferguson who flopped over the try line. So in fact the elders on the touchline got to see two new things, a driving maul and a try from Mr Ferguson. What a day of wonder it was for them all. They would have smiled but for their cracked teeth.
On the front foot, Hackney pushed on. A second driving maul was brought down short of the line and after some big carries the ball was pushed wide by Ally Davidson at scum half. Sadly he found a prop in the way, who proceeded to drop the ball rather than pass it. The ball sat motionless in the mire but Davidson, a player whose dedication to flare seems to know no bounds, stayed cool. Fashioning a delicate chip with his (incredibly bright) right boot, he lofted the pill into the waiting arms of Reay at ten and then, ignoring the onrushing defense, looped round to take a pop and send the ball wide himself. Gareth Morgan went over in the corner to the deafening silence of incredulity. Incredible scenes Jeff, incredible scenes.
So the fightback was on, with less than ten minutes left Hackney were 17-10 down. From another line out, this time on half way, the centers took the ball into contact. Yet, somehow, contact refused to take them. Like hydraulic leakage round the fringes of the Mosul Dam (niche reference there, readers, look it up and be terrified), Hackney broke through the previously cast iron Belsize line. Tackles were missed and broken and James Davis, like all good full backs, was on hand to fall over the line to score a brilliant first phase try. Conversion over. Game on at 17-17.
Would going for the draw have been wiser? Perhaps. But would it have been a fitting way to send Roy off to the other size of the world? Absolutely not. So it was that, looking to attack deep from the restart, Hackney lost the ball. A tackle was then missed (don’t ask who missed it, I’ve strangely forgotten that) and somehow, almost from nothing, Belsize were over in the corner. 22-17.
There was time for the restart though. In the confusion Morgan got to the kick before anyone from the away side , claiming the high ball he cantered onwards. Hackney rushed into the breach, a score anywhere near the posts would surely win the game. Up to the five meter line thundered the Gogs. One more carry, one more phase, that would do it…
The ball went forwards. The clock was dead. The final whistle went.
Hackney 17 – Belsize Park 22
Full credit must go to Belsize, who as ever were sporting on and off the pitch and have, in a long history of rivalry, never yet failed to give a good game. To lose at the death is obviously gutting. But such an exciting, passionate game of rugby (in pretty appalling conditions if the state of my lovely white shorts is anything to go by) is a reminder as to why we all haul out increasingly unfit, generally hungover bodies onto a rugby pitch every week.