Hackney have provided some sterling entertainment this season, with several results in doubt until

the final whistle and attacking bonus points both frequently accrued and liberally conceded.

However, this gruelling away trip to Chiswick on a freezing December afternoon was a different sort of affair altogether. A rare mix of reasonable competence and commendable commitment from

both sides lead to something approaching proper rugby, but at the same time rendered the game

virtually devoid of real excitement.

With Adam Murphy ruled out before kick-off, the run-on side required a late reshuffle. Released by

Saracens, Ed Clark took the reins at fly-half for his first appearance since October 2016. The author was reshuffled from fly-half back to full-back. No offence was taken.

The game soon fell into a pattern. With the Griffins defending well in midfield, Chiswick sought to

outflank them, only to find their path blocked by Ultan Murphy. Resembling the frontman of an 80s

pop band, the right-winger enjoyed a fine game in defence and weighed in with some crucial try-

saving tackles. Time and again, despite the home side’s ingenuity, the play was simply read.

Eventually – and rather fortuitously- Chiswick did get on the scoresheet, the ball bobbling out of a

five metre scrum and catching the Griffins off-guard.

The tedious competence continued in the second forty. Indeed, the game was crying out for

someone to mix up the play, perhaps with a cross-field kick from a defensive penalty, or one of those lucky break-out tries that alters – not always fairly- the entire complexion of a game. The new rule amendments introduced this season were intended to make for greater excitement, but they had little impact here. Neither could the teams blame the referee, who missed nothing and never turned his back on play, reducing the potential for the sort of controversies which, rightly or

wrongly, add much of the colour to rugby at this level.

Chiswick enjoyed two more well-worked tries before Hackney responded through Fraser Tait, who

shrugged off several defenders on his way to the try-line. Fraser’s remarkable ability to sustain such a physical style of play without suffering injury was once again of real value to the team. On such a heavy winter track, one wonders how the Griffins could otherwise generate any front-foot ball. Unfortunately, the second row slightly blotted his copybook when he threw a simple pass into touch, rather than to any of the four men outside him. But in this might lie a valuable lesson for the team in future: in those situations, and particularly for players lacking confidence off their left hand, it is sometimes better simply to forge ahead alone. This misdemeanour was enough to earn Fraser a pint in the bar afterwards (and you’ll certainly see them drunk slower!). Captain PJ Lloyd also

acquitted himself well in his post-match speech, quipping, much to his audience’s amusement, that

Chiswick “had already taken some real scalps this season, and could now add Hackney to that list.”

The Griffins are at home next week against Belsize Park, north London neighbours who also happen to be just one place above them in the league. With so much at stake, you can’t help but feel it will go down to the wire.