It was one of those games - one which the Gogs ought to have won easily, contrived to almost lose, but then won anyway - one of those games. With the opposition coming to Spring Hill with only 13 stalwart servants of the game of rugby, Hackney choose to match their numbers, and start with a pack shaped like a Roman vanguard, but in reverse. And yet, despite the odd shape of said pack, it didn’t so much reverse as advance.


The always-reliable Pete Walsham, ever-present (except at training) almost-Dad Khris Sankar, and new addition, Tim Pitman, saw to it that the set-piece was rock-solid, or at least as solid as a mass of Gogs’ muscle can be. With the bulk of Blagbrough and Murphy in the row it wasn’t surprising that scrums were won and that, in contrast, line-outs were not. Quis Liftus Ipsos Liftores, or who will lift the lifters, was the question of the day, if only from those that spoke faux-Latin.


There was, line-outs aside, plenty of ball available and yet, despite this, the Gogs were unable to deliver. Chances were squandered (by the) left (winger), (by the) right (winger), and (by the) centre(s), as too much flair and too little focus saw us kick when kicks were not on and fling passes that never had any hope of going to hand. But enough about Davis James.


The opposition were not so profligate. They ran hard, in particular from the 10-12 axis, and made better use of the additional space on Spring Hill’s lush landscape. If the Gogs’ first-half highlights reel was akin to a Halloween horror set at Darren Griffin's 40th then the opposition’s was more like Chariots of Fire meets Invictus, except in slower motion, and with more honourable men.


The silver lining of the half came via the glint in Rich Shorey’s greying shock of hair. His try was, as Shorey’s tries tend to be, something to be seen. In your correspondent’s case it was seen up close. With the ball at the base of a ruck about four metres out, this prolixious second row was about to pick and go, when a Shorey-shaped piece of the ruck detached, feinted, dummied, and darted over the line. 


It was respite for Hackney and kept the halftime score to a not-mortifying (and not-unusual) 26-7 in favour of our guests. But, as tends to happen, the Gogs came good in the second half. The introduction of Ben Graham and Ev Sola-Rafferty dropped the Gogs’ second row to its lightest in the post-Patch era, but it also added some necessary mobility (albeit, in Rafferty’s case, by means of a scooter).


Graham’s runs, in particular, despite - or perhaps because of - having the seeming aimlessness of the bio-mechanical offspring of a headless chicken and a clockwork mouse - struck terror into the hearts of the opposition. Yards were made, rucks were hit, things began to turn. Leadership came from, amongst other places, the front, as Tim Pitman drove over from inside the five metre line to give the Gogs momentum. Hanton did what Hanton does (gripe at everyone and slot the conversion).


Even more momentum came in the form of the younger, albeit greater, Akbari brother. Service to the wings was much better in the second half as Gogs’ hands held the ball like the last snifter of port at a drawn-out country wedding. And so the Administrator-in-Chief, and the older, albeit lesser, Reay brother, fed Akbari twice for two gallops down the touchline and two tries. As Arman became the greater of Akbaris, one can only assume that, somewhere in a Zone One students’ union, his doppelbrother felt a disturbance in the Force.


Pitman’s second try, with the game still in the balance, was enough for Man of the Match all by itself. One would not think a tight-head could build momentum when he takes the ball on his heels ten metres out. And yet that’s precisely what Tim did. To watch him carry five or six defenders over the line with him was like watching, well, well it was like watching a big strong thing carry five or six smaller weaker things in a direction which they are trying, with deep determination but in absolute vain, to prevent the big strong thing from going. A brace in the bag and the newest of Gogs was off for a well-deserved bath.*


(*actual post game facilities may or may not include baths, water that is hot or water that is cold, refreshments that are hot or refreshments that are cold, and kit duty.)


A word too for Jimmy Swansong Huskins who, on this day, was about to depart for his native Aus. It’s quite a man who can roll his ankle as he charges down a conversion but Jimmy is quite a man. The feat is all the more extraordinary when you consider that all he had done was convert his usual standing swagger into a slightly speedy saunter. In this, his final game, he would manage to pull both his quads and his right hamstring, all at the same time. Au revoir, dear James, or as the say down there, [redaction].


The game, as the scoreline suggests, hung in the balance for quite some time. Last ditch defence from Joe Mitchell, the afore-maligned Davis James, and others (“others” including a cameo from an absurdly talented young Scotsman), held the opposition to a single score in the second half. But it was still close, or close enough, until Neil Cunningham popped up to ice the cake. 


Cunningham’s try was of the outrageous sort that we have come to expect from him. Any other club would set up a Youtube channel in his honour - we just look askance and query - “could you not have made it a little easier for the kicker…?” (This query, you might appreciate, comes in particular from regular kickers such as Reay, Hanton, and Chung.) In any event, this particular vintage of Cunningham was a loop run around the opposition playmaker to intercept a pass, blind, step the first defender, and canter home. 


It made the game secure and soon enough it was over. A tunnel to cheer the cheerful visitors and a pep-talk from Hanton and the day’s work was done. The see-saw season swings on. Relegation is beginning to recede into the rear-view window and, as Winter bites, we must hope the Gogs remain hungry enough to bite back.