Saturday December 15th had been marked in every rugby fans calendar for months. The El Classico of London 2 North West. Letchworth Garden City against Welwyn Garden City. The Garden Derby. Unmissable. But it was missed. In times past we would have written a match report about a game between two teams that we weren’t at and didn’t see. But no longer. This is a new Hackney. The days of fantasy are in the past, given way to the gritty realism of the now.


Despite the beautiful weather, initial signs for this one were not good. Several defeats on the bounce were compounded by the loss of Coach Steve (stabbing) and Cappin Joe (Pussy Whip). Fortunately, Coach Chris and Captain Nonsense were at hand and in Ryan Mortimer and Rich Mills, Hackney had two young tyros unburdened by past defeats. The game started well, with Mortimer marshalling the attack and using the wind to repeatedly turn the Enfield back three, pushing them deep into their 22.


Hackney opened the scoring after a Mortimer kick behind the Enfield right winger allowed Ultun Murphy to chase and force a turnover, giving Hackney a platform in the Enfield 22. After 17 consecutive Ben Suddell carries (a new PB), Mortimer released the backs, finding Rich Mills, who produced the game’s moment of magic, flicking the ball out of the back of his right hand in contact to Adam "I didn't even realise I had it" Eagle to open the scoring. Murphy added the extras from the touchline for a 7-0 lead.


The next ten minutes of the game was condensed into the centre field. Hackney lost second row Will Kay to a vicious bought of cramp that had some teammates questioning his decision to cycle to an away game. He was ably replaced by Aussie Tim, who massively improved the scrum, which had absolutely nothing to do with Big Sam coming on at the same time. The brief deadlock was ended by James Noble (prop / centre / all round good lad) who exploited an Enfield dogleg with a textbook show and go opening up space to feed Eagle on the wing. Adam is known for selecting only the most choicest of kicking opportunities and he duly picked out a beauty. Using the shins of the onrushing Enfield winger he found Fraser Tait lurking 15 yards behind with a classic kick-shin-pass. Sixty yards out, Tait’s effect on the Enfield midfield was reminiscent of one of my bowls at Rowens. Defenders scattered, all that was left was to put Jim Miller past the fullback and 30m of open country is no match for the powerful flippers of the Party Walrus. Easy peasy for Murphy and 14-0.


As the half-time whistle blew, word got out that Welwyn were 7-0 up. Class. Maybe we could catch the highlights? Off the pitch we ran, down the path, over the road and up to the Enfield clubhouse door, which was locked. Embarrassing? Perhaps. But the reason I love this game so much is that not one of the Enfield supporters mentioned it.


When we eventually got back to the pitch, conditions had deteriorated. Fine sky had turned foul and a vicious wind had risen from the East. Early in the half, a rare lapse saw Hackney fail to clear their lines, instead attempting a break down the right wing through a frozen Ludo Bathgate. Having lost the feeling below his knees, Ludo was easily driven into touch. From the ensuing lineout, Enfield put together a series of phases eventually engineering an overlap on the blindside - the only lapse in the otherwise excellent Hackney defence. The conversion was added making the score 14-7. This was Enfield’s best period of play and with the wind now firmly at their back, another penalty was forced and duly converted. 14-10, shittums.


Then, largely against the run of play, a speculative Mortimer kick down the middle was not gathered by Enfield and hacked upfield by Tait. Two more solid shins and we had a third. Afterwards, several players swore they saw the ghost of Sean Conner operating the sinews of Tait’s hulking frame. No conversion this time, 19-10.


Nerves steadied, but not for long. Eagle, correctly deciding that routine clearances from the 22 were not in the spirit of rugby, went for the 70 yard solo wonder try. Four yards later he was lying on the floor surrounded by most of the Enfield team. Somehow the ball was retained, but from a Wilkinson pass, Mortimer attempted a dummy, got caught and was forced to touch the ball down behind our line. Not a great result, made much worse by the referee deciding this was somehow an Enfield try. Conversion added, 19-17. Enfield now very much on top and with ten to play they were awarded a penalty 30 yards out. Their kicker hadn’t missed all day, but not this time.


Despite concerted Enfield pressure, the conditions made attacking rugby difficult and Hackney forced a late turnover. Wilkinson drilled a curling kick down the touchline deep into their half. Legg disrupted the lineout, but knocked on in the process. Enfield scrum, which we won. A scrum against the head. A scrum against the head. Do a little dance, we won a scrum against the head. Meanwhile, Captain Wilkinson had scooped up the loose ball, fed it to R Mills on the blindside, who took on the final two defenders before diving into the corner. Conversion again from Murphy’s majestic boot and 26-17. Both sets of supporters erupted in unison. News from Welwyn - a Letchworth equaliser. 7-7. El Classico, you never disappoint.


MOTM Ryan Mortimer - controlled the tempo, lead the attack and kicked intelligently all day

Forward of the match Fraser Tait - Some huge carries - scored on and made one.

Special mentions: Rich Mills - always lively, scored one and made another. Sam Alderson - unbeaten in four years, man can scrum. Ultan Murphy, 3 conversions from 4 on a difficult day for kicking.