Every good match report writer knows that it is absolutely key to get going while events are fresh in your mind. You are, after all, a chronicler of history, with the opportunity, nay, the duty, to pass on an accurate account of events. Not only to remind those who were present of their greatness or otherwise but also to ensure that the records remain intact for years to come. Therefore, dear reader(s?), it is with a sense of disregard for convention and propriety that I sit down to write this report a mere…*checks calendar*…*scrolls to previous month*…18 days after events. Regardless, the below all definitely happened, and some of it even in the correct order.

 

At 2pm, a full hour before kick off, all 18 Gogs were present, accounted for, and ready to warm up. This was like Christmas come early for Coach-for-the-day Champagne Bouvier and the team’s new-but-been-around-for ages captain Matt Hanton. The warm up was sharp, well-drilled and for the most part effective, and with Spring Hill unseasonably warm and facing a whole match of uncontested scrums, Hackney were looking forward to delivering a feast of rugby for the capacity crowd.

 

Despite a host of new players, being in a new league and a shiny and perfectly-fitted (for your correspondent and the front row at least) new kit, the Gogs are nothing if not creatures of habit. And so it was that within 10 minutes the team was under their own posts having conceded a try that could charitably be described as ‘soft’. A Paul Baker-esque scolding ensued, and seemed to have an effect on at least Jimmy Huskins, whose charge and jump successfully put off the Old Grams’ kicker but at the cost of an awkward landing rendering his ankle twice its original size.

 

Having woken up, Hackney began to come back into the match with some Rolfin-esque carries from Matt Hanton Dan Worth, debutant Tom Parkin and, well, Rolfin. Forwards pressure led to a kickable penalty and points on the board. With front foot ball, Arnold got the backs moving and 7th choice fly half Chris Reay orchestrated the back line effectively to play to its strengths, primarily involving missing out Worth Hanton and getting the ball out wide where the back 3 were having plenty of joy. Good hands in the backs led to a great break down the right wing from Luke Leyland, who managed to thread an inside pass between three defenders to Pat Beal, marking his second ‘final game for Hackney before going to uni’ with an excellent finish. A second try followed shortly before half time with Rich Shorey dotting down a cross kick from Hanton that has since been variously described as ‘perfectly weighted’ or ‘hacked through after butchering an opportunity in the midfield’. Your correspondent has no further comment on the matter. Other than it was probably the latter.

 

The Hackney backs did find time to butcher a couple more chances before half time, which may well have put the match beyond doubt, or at least made the half-time oranges a little more enjoyable. Coach Bouvier reminded the team that playing with a bit more calmness and structure may well help them to finish some of the chances they were creating. Nods were seen throughout the squad, indicating understanding and acceptance of this advice. Mutterings from the team seemed to confirm this was going to happen.

 

With a comforting predictability, Hackney kicked off the second half and instantly put the half-time chat to the back of their minds, returning to a mildly frantic brand of rugby, running from everywhere, and trying to score from every half chance. Old Grams, by contrast, remembered that the lack of competitive scrums meant that their large pack had no excuse not to do some hard yards elsewhere and began to pummel Hackney round the fringes. After about five minutes of battering against the Hackney defence they came away with three points to narrow the deficit. Hackney restarted, and Old Grams rinsed and repeated. Except this time after 5 minutes of battering the came away with 7 points, despite some thundering hits around the fringes from pretty much every Hackney forward.

 

The match was level going into the final quarter. The previous season Hackney had inflicted a heavy defeat on a very different looking Old Grams side, and it looked like the missed opportunities were going to come back to haunt the Gogs. Fortunately, there was still time to miss a few more opportunities, with decision-making hit and miss at crucial times. Culprits shall remain nameless. However, as everyone who has watched international football knows, you always get one last chance. And fortunately it fell to Hackney, as Old Grams managed to concede about 4 penalties in the same passage of play, giving Hanton the chance to knock over a penalty from a distinctly unimpressive angle in the penultimate play of the game. The restart was secured, the ball was kicked into touch, the job was done.

 

Luke Arnold was awarded man of the match for an impressive debut off the bench at 9, with his reward an instant promotion to the 2s.

 

In homage to soon-to-depart Hackney legend (and spiritual guru and mentor to Charlie King) Eldon Takitimu, who loves nothing more than a set of player ratings, below are some player ratings from the match.

 

1) Charlie Blagborough

Big propping effort from BlahBlah, ensuring Hackney won every single one of their own scrums. The kind of record that he’ll look to take into a match of contested scrums when Damien convinces him that he should be playing front row (7).


2) Rolfin Nyhus

A textbook Rolfin-esque contribution from Hackney’s favourite pirate, with flashes of brilliance in the loose and scaring the hell out of opposition and team-mates alike with his barrelling runs. Points deducted for overenthusiastic offloads, points added for overenthusiastic warming up. (7) 


3) Ed Langelier

The happiest man in the borough when he heard it was uncontested scrums. Looked exhausted at kick off half time but nothing a few jelly babies and a stern word from Mr Langelier Sr couldn’t fix. Actively sought out the smaller members of the oppo and dished out some outrageous bullying. (7)


4) Lawrence Homewood

Just who the Gogs have been after for years: a second row with an excellent beard who is great in the lineout, makes his tackles, and is an all round decent chap to boot. We await his thoughts on the leftward shift of the Labour Party with interest. (7)

 

5) Tom Parkin

After an impressive pre-season, an impressive debut. Tom answered the call in the week claiming that he could play back row or lock but got about the park as if he was covering both. Here is where I would ordinarily claim he’s not ready for the step up to the 2s…but that ship has sailed. (7) 


6) Ben Graham

In the absence of the Club Captain, Hackney’s legally-mandated representative from across the Irish Sea. Did a lot of textbook back row stuff, like rucks and tackles and things I won’t ever really understand. A very solid debut. (7)

 

7) Mat Cole

Best rugby player in his family. (7)


8) Dan Worth

Memory is hazy but I would imagine Dan unselfishly passed at every opportunity, rarely sought to take contact, and tackled low throughout. (7)


9) Jimmy Huskins

7 minutes of all-action play from our all-action Antipodean ending in what some may describe as a blatant attempt to avoid paying subs. (no rating, but well on course for a 7)


10) Chris Reay

7th name on the team sheet despite wearing 10 on his back. Playing out of position, the wing/fullback perfected the art of missing out Hanton and passing to Kennard, which in the circumstances (respective quality of recipient) was probably a good call. (7)


11) Luke Leyland

Dr Leyland displayed surgical precision throughout, diagnosing areas of weakness in the opposition whilst operating out wide. Did the hard yards for the first try and unlucky not bag one of his own, especially good effort from a man coming off of a night shift. (7)


12) Matt Hanton

A day of high achievement, having finally found a Hackney 10 shirt that fits perfectly. Not that he got to wear it, but still. Fell below the Jepps-esque kicking standards that the Gogs have come to expect. (rating redacted)


13) Will Kennard

Played out of position, apparently, though as Will has played basically everywhere higher than 9 for the club this could just have been a cunning ruse to try and get game time wherever it is going. Failed to meet the level of his previous 3s appearance and for that alone deserves another few matches in the 3s while he returns to form. (7)


14) Rich Shorey

That rarest of beasts, a Hackney scrum-half playing on the wing. Didn’t get a great deal of ball, as is the norm for wingers in the 3s. One chance, one try, can’t say fairer than that. (7)


15) Pat Beal

Another of Hackney’s perennial students named Patrick, back off for a fourth year developing into the future of society. Judging by post game antics (“I’ll come for one but have to be home by 6”) he’s got a bit more learning to do at university. Can rugby though. (7)

 

Finisher - Luke Arnold

MoM performance on the pitch, worst attempt at downing an MoM pint in the history of Hackney RFC off it. Still working his way through his post-game Kronenbourg by the time the Gladies arrived after their match the next day. (8)

 

Finisher - Yassine Salhi

The latest colt from Hackney’s production line, very quickly finding that 45 year old props aren’t as fun to tackle as 16 year old centres. But knocks them down anyway. One for the future, and where better to continue a rugby education than in the Gogs? (7)

 

Finisher - John Chung

Stricken with man flu, JC still managed to get about the park efficiently, whether it was with a flag, kicking tee or water bottles in hand. Does a lot for the club. (7)