The story of David and Goliath is one that is universally recognised, transcending time. A tale spanning millennia that has been passed down through the generations; one that captures imagination, stirs blood and provides the meekest of the meek with the inspiration to dig deep within themselves and find the courage to overcome their supposed superiors.

When weighing up the relative merits of the Hackney Gogs and Hanwell’s respective XVs on Saturday, the Biblical tale that pitted a diminutive Jewish shepherd with a mighty army’s finest and most feared warrior could be an accurate comparison. One side had pluck and spirit, while the other seemed more adeptly armed for such an encounter by boasting grunt and gristle.

If, by establishing this narrative, you now expect to read in awe and wonderment about a team that overcame what was perceived as insurmountable odds - using their guile, skill and craft to bamboozle the flustered Philistines to create a masterpiece on the canvas of Spring Hill with glorious victory…then I’m afraid you’re reading the wrong story.

But do read on anyway.

Continuing this season’s remarkable trend whereby the Gogs have bucked the traditional inclination and actually started games like they’ve met each other before; the hosts flew out of the blocks by securing front-foot ball with a couple of solid set-pieces, allowing a buoyed backline the licence to make in-roads out wide. After a frenetic opening period, a Hanwell hand in the ruck brought a penalty; and captain Matt Hanton, unlike English skippers past, ignored the lure of the touchline to point for the posts and duly slot the kick for a deserved 3-0 lead.

It was at this point that your overenthusiastic correspondent turned to his leader and barked confidently: “We’ve got these on toast, here!”…and while his spirit was to be commended, he was soon to be eating those badly chosen words.

From then on, the whole affair felt something of a Groundhog Day slog with the Gogs left feeding off scraps. The early success enjoyed in the tight was swiftly replaced with the kind of lineout security that even Jamie George would feel sympathy for; while the only thing marching backwards quicker than the Gogs’ pack at scrum time was their 13, in a desperate attempt to locate his brash and foolhardy earlier statement so he could retract it.

Repeat ad nauseum for roughly 50 minutes.

After a few tries shipped from rolling mauls, drive-overs and one-outs to Hanwell’s cave troll at 12 (not meant disparagingly – it took the entire Fellowship of the Ring to bring that one down in Moria, after all), the Gogs finally found parity up front – as head coach/guest prop for the day Steve Wagstaff was forced to take, meaning scrums from then-on would be uncontested.

Almost instantly, the Gogs bounded once more into life. From the first solid scrum of the day, scrumhalf Richard Shorey darted from the base around the short side, before drawing his man and releasing the absolute steam train at fullback, James Abbot, who shot down the tramlines with pace and purpose.

Having struck a frustrated and disconsolate figure for the majority, wing Luke Leyland chose this moment to spring into action and provide a delicious support line, haring after his back-three partner with glee, already picturing and preparing for the swallow dive he would perform once the ball was delivered into his grateful hands with an unopposed canter to the try line in sight. Unfortunately for the luckless Leyland, Shorey had also followed the ball diligently and with a large call of “inside!”, received the pill from Abbot before trotting under the sticks for his third score of an already-prosperous season. #ShoreyIn

Celebrations were cut short however, as the rapier of the hosts was met instantaneously by the bludgeon of their visitors and as soon as the Gogs had secured half a foothold back in the game, it had slipped once more as another Hanwell monster crashed over from short range.

The ferocious physicality was beginning to take its toll and courageous Gogs were starting to fall for the cause - a knock too many in the forwards even forcing the home side’s 12 to pack down in an unfamiliar but subsequently comfortable position as eighth man, where he put in a thoroughly sterling shift.

There was one more punctuation to the visitors’ dominance as the ever elusive Abbot caused havoc once more; taking the ball up from a deft Hanton pop, weaving in and out of would-be tacklers and sensibly ignoring the 13 outside him to dive over for another five-pointer.

However, the final say would be Hanwell’s, with yet another unstoppable drive over the whitewash, followed by a few unsavoury handbags. Yet all was soon forgotten between two sides whose minds swiftly turned to watching a tackling masterclass at Twickenham, drinking inadvisable amounts of white wine and singing all the words to Cher – Believe.

Player ratings (such as they are)

1. Dave Bates: 6.9/10 – A Hackney legend who plays with more zeal and enthusiasm than most half his age. Never takes a backwards step.

2. Darren Griffin: 6.9/10 – On a positive note, he hit more jumpers in the lineout than he attempted cross-field kicks. Still hasn’t added me to the 4s WhatsApp.

3. Steve Wagstaff: 7/10 – I can’t demean the head coach with a cheap gag, for crying out loud! Dug us out of a huge hole in the front-row and gave everything.

4. Matt Rooke: 6.9/10 – Dogged effort. Rating reflective of the number of positions he’s played for the Gogs this season already.

5. Tom Gluckstein: 6.9/10 – Another ‘second row’ playing out of position. His versatility in the pack is matched only by his encyclopedic knowledge of Mascara’s jukebox.

6. Arran Ferguson: 6.9/10 – You can’t keep the guy down. Tackles like Leigh Halfpenny and takes a hit like that bloke that got up after getting cut in half by Brian Lima at the 2003 World Cup.

MotM - 7. Finn Apps: 6.9/7 – May sound like something you’d find on the general manager of an aquarium’s smartphone, but there was nothing fishy about this kid’s performance. Threw himself into everything he faced with gusto, tackling and carrying against men twice (and in some cases three) times his size. Lion-hearted.

8. Joe Fennell: 6.9/10 – Added some much-needed bulk and go-forward ball for the Gogs’ back-row. Has been missed.

9. Richard Shorey: 6.9/10 – Taps better than he boxes. The opposite of Joe Calzaghe, actually. #ShoreyOut

10. Chris Reay: 6.9/10 – Did you hear he got Dick of the Day?

11. Luke Leyland: 6.9/10 – Had very little to work with and when it did come his way, it went somewhere else. Carried on regardless.

12. Matt Hanton: 6.9/10 – For his marvellous stint in the back-row he’s actually worth an 8, but seeing as I’m largely sticking with these scores for his amusement he can dream on.

13. Tom Davies: 0.69/10 – Stayed on the pitch for the majority for once without breaking anything… especially defensive lines.

14. Shu Shome: 6.9/10 – The guy continues to come into his own. Brave runner and abrasive tackler. His sass on the Gogs WhatsApp has been an absolute delight, too.

15. James Abbot: 6.9/10 – Showed his class by setting up one try and scoring another. Hopefully his dangerous running will be seen at Spring Hill for the Gogs at least a few more times before season’s end.


16. Spencer Elliot: 6.9/10 – Solid in the tight and an absolute handful in the loose. Generation Z’s answer to Rolfin.

17. Jim Safford: 6.9/10 – Tested the Hanwell defence with some attritional runs and wore a nice hat. Took the accidental stamp to the hand from Hackney’s oaf of a 13 like a champ.

18. Dexter Gibbs: 6.9/10 – Another courageous teenager who throws everything into the game. Later found out I’ve been playing rugby as long as he’s been alive – good times…

Also a shout-out to the Hanwell captain, marauding fullback and bloke that one of our teenagers dumped on his head, for being the goodest of GCs in the post-match frivolities…but not for the wine game.