Last Saturday Woodford RFC played host to the Griffins in their final pre-season of 2017. With two warm up games under the belt, this would be the last dress rehearsal before the season kicks off against Hammersmith and Fulham at Spring Hill the following week. Severe train delays meant that Hackney’s travelling band were forced to take the scenic route to North East London with a brief (but not brief enough) stop in Ilford, a great place to live if you hate yourself. It was a day for explorers as 3 Woodford players made the trip to Spring Hill before realising it was a home game and Hackney's own Josh Joseph drove to Battersea before realising it was the ladies' game. 

The fine weather presented a perfect opportunity for running rugby although the pitch, a cross between a beach and a meadow, did not. The home side started with a hiss and a roar, dominating territory and possession. Hackney struggled to win the ball or contact or get out of their half. On the rare occasion that Hackney did get hold of the pill they coughed it up within a handful of phases. Woodford’s scrum marched Hackney back early on, milking penalties and in turn making easy yards up the pitch. From a line out in the visitors 22 they patiently worked through the phases to get within reaching distance of the white wash before their second row crashed over for the opening score. 

It went from bad to worse for Hackney not long after as Fraser Tait took a rib tickler that forced him from the field of play. Glen Prowse made his long awaited return to Hackney colours and made an instant impact by earning a penalty at scrum time. With the scrum gaining parity Hackney managed to stem the tide for the remainder of the half and the changing of momentum was palpable. 

The second half got underway and with it saw the return of Tait. Loaded on neurofen and immune to pain the Northerner made some barnstorming runs to give the Griffins front foot ball. The penalties started to clock up in the visitor’s favour and eventually a Woodford player was sent to the bin for a deliberate knock on. With a one-man advantage Hackney made in roads and off the back of a line out Ludo Bathgate looked to feed the ball to a rampaging Tait. The defence were drawn towards his line, leaving a gap for Bathgate to exploit. The scrum half darted through the traffic like an iguana escaping a nest of cobras en route to scoring his first try for the club.

It was more of the same for Hackney for the rest of the half. With Woodford starting to tire in the high heat and long grass the gaps were opening up in defence. Hackney’s line-out worked like a well oiled machine both on their own throw and against the head with James Legg, Matt Strong and Ricky Duberry making hay. 

The East Londoners went on to score two more tries in similar fashion but on either side of the pitch. Strong carrying from the pack made space with wingers PJ Lloyd and Adam Murphy the beneficiaries. 

The game finished 19-7, Hackney having shored up their mistakes and lifted the tempo. 

MOTM goes to Ludo Bathgate whose decision making and range of passes were central to Hackney’s victory.