In the greatest film of the 1990s, Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts plays Vivian Ward, a person unsure and out of place after a move from small town Georgia to the fast-paced world of Beverley Hills. At times this season the Griffins have been like Vivian Ward: out of sorts in London NW 2, not knowing the difference between an escargot tong and a salad fork.

The opposition, on a day where conditions were more Borehamwood than Hollywood, was Hemel Hempstead — a team that share our more humble roots. Captain J. P. Lloyd wisely chose to play into what many armchair experts called a ‘twenty-point wind’, and the strength of the wind was proven by a kick-off that refused to go the necessary ten metres. Hemel were in the ascendant but, despite making the Griffins’ scrum creak, they had no points to show for their early dominance. A penalty won by the quick work of Laurence Mills, Hackney’s very own Richard Gere, led to a kick to the corner, which would be the prelude to the first try of the match. Incidentally, the studio had wanted Al Pacino to play Richard Gere’s role in Pretty Woman, but, a bit like the Griffins’ own Fraser Tait, Pacino tweaked his hamstring at 11:30pm before the first day of filming. Anyhow, the resulting lineout was a bit of a scramble, but a dynamic duo of Legg and Lewis made something from nothing, Bowers and Chamberlain latched on, and we had a maul that was cornering like it was on rails. Hemel were nowhere to be seen and, although it was unclear who in the pack got the ball down, the first try was scored. Askham added the extras, and the Griffins confidently jogged back to their half amid many slaps on the back.

Much like Vivian on her first night at the Beverley Hills Regent Hotel, Hackney thought they’d made it, but there was still an hour of this feature to go. Hemel kept on testing the Griffins at the set piece and in open play with their gigantic 4, 5, and 13 causing all manner of trouble. It was the more svelte figure of J. Crockett that provided the next flash point; not rolling away at a ruck earned him the first of many yellow cards. With 14 men it wasn’t a case of when Hackney would concede, but how. Hemel’s first try took a strange shape: the largest ballerina ever produced by the Greeks, who had the frame of Ajax and the speed of Achilles, was given the ball some thirty metres from the try line. With incongruous shouts of ‘go on Adonis’ ringing out, the winger proceeded to jink and step around a threadbare defence and cross the try line untouched. For the first and only time in the contest, Hemel’s 10 put the ball through the posts for two more, 7–7. Our card-happy referee thought it wise to decorate the remaining ten minutes of the half with three more yellows: two were given to Sam Wilkinson and the opposition flanker for heavy petting, and another for a high tackle from a Hemel centre. It was from this last infringement that Askham kicked another penalty. Score at the half, 10–7.

Halftime was one of self congratulation for the Griffins—we were singing Prince in the bath and eating all the items from the breakfast menu—we were up and we now had that twenty-point wind . . . so really it was 30–7, right? Our jolt back to reality came in the shape of the mythical Adonis — in a copy of his first, our nemesis moved effortlessly through Hackney’s backs to score. It has been said once before but it bears repeating, the Hemel 10 did not manage to add the extras. No sooner had the Griffins begun their wind-assisted journey to the Hemel try line than they were again back under their own posts; this time it was the more rotund Hemel second row that crashed over. Like the middle of any Hollywood movie, things were now beginning to fall apart for our hapless heroes. Just as Julia Roberts was a touch confused by the rules of polo, so too was Ben Chamberlain confused by the laws of Rugby union: it was his hack through a ruck that gave our referee the irresistible opportunity to dispense his fifth yellow card of the day, and had Hackney down to 13.  Hemel scored again, and their fourth was thought by many on the sideline to be the coup de gras

It would appear that the spectators were not keen cinemagoers: with 25 minutes left, this could not be the end of our story. The Griffins rallied with big carries by Messrs Guassardo, Sudell, and McDonagh, and the fairy tale King–O’Hara axis was beginning to get things going in the back line. It was the island-hopping Sam Wilkinson who began the comeback with a snipe from 9, and a rapid Adam Murphy scored another. Both were duly converted by the reliable Askham. Now we reach the denouement: with the teams almost tied, it was to an old special effects trick well known to fans of the club that the Griffins resorted. With a penalty on the Hemel five metre, the director A. O’Hara assembled his cast, making sure everyone was in the spotlight. The men of Hemel did not pay enough attention to the man in the director’s chair—“Big mistake. Big. HUGE”—and O’Hara crashed over to put the Griffins in the lead. Another huge nudge via a penalty from Askham had Hackney ten points up with ten minutes to go. Time for a final plot twist: Hemel scored again, 32–27, and recaptured from the subsequent kick-off to cause a tense final five minutes. Some epic defence from the Griffins, which featured the slaying of Adonis by an Artemis-inspired Adam Murphy, and some incredible midfield hits from the Griffins pack. A Hemel knock on, followed by a Reece Deene dash for the line, brought the end to this blockbuster. Hackney left with five points, Hemel with two, and I’m left frustrated that I couldn’t fit in a reference to that guy who plays Richard Gere’s lawyer and is much better in Seinfeld