All good things, Pericles said, must come to the city. On this particular day the good things went from the city all the way to Barnet, when a strong Gogs squad, alas missing good souls, make the trek to the ‘stadium’ at the end of the Northern Line (your reporter may have over-sold it to the Empress of Hackney). This would have been the third place decider but for an unfortunate result for Barnet in their previous game and, with a last-minute start-of-season defeat to avenge, the Gogs knew their hosts would be in no mood to mess around.

 

This was, as a result, a game with all good things. It was the Gogs’ ultimate game in every sense - the last league game of the season and the pinnacle of the Paul Baker project (thusfar). There are games when your reporter has to mine memories to find ways to mention every Gog but this was not such a game. All made a contribution and without each and every one the match would not have been won. On a day when everyone made mistakes no-one made the same mistake twice, except John Chung, but he made no other mistakes at all and also made at least one try so he is forgiven.

 

The Gogs didn’t mistake a strong start for dominance and, with a penalty five metres out, Daddy No 1 had Matt Hanton, 12 for the day, slot the three points. Any thoughts that this would be a walkover went the way of the Dodo minutes later when the Gogs had to gather under their own posts after Barnet ran strong through the Hackney defence to score a converted try. The lead did not last.

 

The first Hackney try was John Chung’s walk down redemption road. After good play in midfield, Chung took a flat pass from Hanton, and despite the attention of two defenders was spry enough to free his hands in the tackle and offload to Sprague. The sometimes No. 10 did what any anytime No. 10 would do and make the kicker’s job easy with a run around the back to touch down next to the posts. The extras were easy.

 

After a somewhat helter-skelter start the Gogs built their way into the half on a strong set-piece platform. Patch Thompson and Nima Akbari, both of whom had lively games in the loose, were thrown into the air by Waithe, Murphy, and Baker like pancakes in a Walthamstow diner. Quick ball was the result. But it was not all plain sailing. Scrums were hard work (queue obligatory reference to Rolfin Nyhus’ Jack-Sparrow-esque acrobatics in the front row). The ball on the ground was difficult to secure - Barnet do a good line in disruption - and Richard Shorey had to feed his runners off scraps.

 

The attritional nature of the game same liberal use of Hackney’s rolling squad - known to its parents as ‘Ev Rafferty’. From early in the first half he was carrying in the loose, rucking in the tight, and cleaning up line-outs that young Patch stole. Not even a head-first dive to the turf could force him from the field. And Rolfin did what Rolfin does. There is no-one who can Rolfin as well as Rolfin. Indeed, were anyone to try, they would likely find themselves on the floor under a scrum with dislocated shoulders. On this day Rolfin also won his team a one-man advantage for ten minutes when an Elizabethan went to the bin for an attempted Rolfin decapitation as Rolfin did buccaneer towards the line. It was a tough call for the referee (and the rather decent Elizabethan) but, as Rolfin himself put it, he would ‘undoubtedly’ have scored if he had not been hit. Some things are a matter of faith. Hanton took the three points.

 

More scores came (how many remains a matter of some disputation). Indeed, a trinity of Gogs would score their first competitive try on this day. Each of these three tries would represent a different aspect of Gogliness. Arman Akbari, Gog the Son, was the first to cross the whitewash. He might, in some books, be known as Gog the Brother, as Arman Akbari was playing alongside sibling Nima, but there are no heretics here. After a good platform was set, carries from Murphy and a rather unselfish Baker left the ball in the hands of Gog the Son. The younger Akbari made the final yards and put it down in the corner under the watchful eye of his Mum who would add ‘Gogs photographer’ to her resume after the game.

 

Sprague’s second was a team effort but in particular a Hanton-Sprague team effort. Hanton sent a kick over the top with the accuracy of a micrometer screw to bounce on the try line. Andy Sprague did not so much run onto it as gambol with the enthusiastic abandon of a cocker spaniel on a sugar rush. The score came complete with an ear-to-ear grin from Sprague and an easy conversion for Hanton. The halftime message was clear: do the basics right and win the day. And so, as is our wont, we took the restart and let Barnet run right through us and make it a one score game.

 

The Gogs came again. The pack put itself about. Despite a last-minute promotion to loose-head Ed Langlier was here, there, and everywhere. A Man of the Match, he had plenty of carries to pummel the Barnet defence, and ensure an easy week ahead in the office alongside the Skipper. Adam Faulkner made light of several roiling scrums to pick and go. Indeed the Gogs’ Ulsterman always says ‘GO!’ and he broke the gain-line with several runs. Cian Murphy threw himself into tackles in a manner suggestive of the Landsdowne Road he thought he was in. And Patch Thompson had an excellent all-round game - not least when he mistook a Barnet runner for his father and executed an unorthodox but effective piggy-back tackle to prevent a sure try.

 

Then came the second in the trinity of new try-scorers. How one remembers Waithe’s try depends on which Gospel one reads. In gnostic Gospels it is said that he drove over from five metres out. In the true Gospel Gog the Father’s score went as follows. Waithe found himself on ball-retrieval duties at his own corner flag. Despite the attention of on-rushing Elizabethans, Gog the Father spun the ball infield only to pluck it from the air himself, then hand-off the first defender, chip over the heads of the second line of defence, gather, and carry the full-back over the line to complete the score. It was a try for all Gogs. Waithe is one of the most committed and professional members of a team who would likely be committed if they were not so unprofessional. It also gave Gog the Father something other than Pampers’ online dating to talk about with Thompson Snr after the game.

 

Barnet kept coming. Their many forays into the Hackney 22 were fended off thanks to good tackles and even better clearance kicks from Jimmy Huskins and the Reay-Hanton partnership. But the Gogs could not quite put the game to bed. An opportunity to stretch to a two-score lead went awry when Hanton, imperious in midfield all game, felt a hamstring twang like the strings of a busker’s double-bass outside Eat 17. His withdrawal did facilitate a Baker re-entry exactly where the Skipper always wants to be: in the backs. Daddy No 1 took flight. But Barnet did as well and another fine wide move gave them the lead with time running out. If this were a movie then the camera would pan to each face in the team huddle. But there was no slow-mo montage in deepest Barnet, no whiteboards and tactics talks, just the careful ministrations of Kath Kallend and Mick Ryan. And for that the Gogs were grateful.

 

And so to the final chapter. Chris Reay, confident all day at No 10, sent the ball deep. Within the Barnet 22 and with time against them, the Gogs ran harder and harder at a defence that kept giving up advantage after advantage but which did not give up the game. There being a four-point deficit, the Gogs ran an attack play with Rich Shorey set to feed either Waithe or Rolphin on the charge. But no. The trinity had to be complete. And so as Gog the Shorey Spirit took the tap, and all eyes were on the guns rush, Shorey himself spun on a six-pence to drive over. The Unholy Trinity was complete and the game was over.

 

The try had won the game with the clock in the red but Reay but the polish on a fine performance as conductor-in-chief and added the extras. 39-36 to Hackney. A jar of suds from the generous hosts, and a bath for Daddy No 1 and his boys, were waiting in the clubhouse. A league campaign that had battles lost and won came to a conclusion with the complete realisation of the Baker game plan: simple rugby with discipline and commitment and, when the time is right, unleash the flair! The Gogs finish a creditable third place, with a surplus of wins, and the third highest points score in the league. There is a cup run to finish but Merit Table Five is done. All good things must come to an end… for now.