Croxley. A location that brings almost nothing to the mind when you say it out loud. If it sounds like a nondescript suburb of London, somewhere in zone 12 or so, where the golf courses start to outnumber rugby pitches, then that’s because it is. If it evokes the vague memory of a stop on that bit of the Met line which affords the opportunity for a two-bottle-of-port journey, but does not permit such (thanks Boris), then that’s because it is. And if, most relevantly, it stirs somewhere in the mind a vague memory of glorious Gogs’ performances of yesteryear, then I can assure you dear reader, that you are thinking of somewhere else because THINGS DID NOT GO TO PLAN LAST TIME WE WENT THERE.

 

But, there was one key difference on this surprisingly sunny Saturday in April. This was a cup match. Well, a knockout match at least. And if there’s one thing people say about the Gogs, it’s that they love a cup match. And we really do. Finals day on a neutral pitch somewhere in Hertfordshire, supporters getting merry on mystery-strength cider, mystery-strength cider finding its way into the water bottles, supporters randomly claiming league winners trophies, never to be seen again…yes, we love a cup run.

 

So, with an unnecessarily-lengthy preamble (Met line to zone 12) over, the Gogs made it to Chess Valley’s ground in a disconcertingly efficient manner. The team then proceeded to effect that rarest of things – a decent warm-up. I’d like to say it was down to the quality of the coaching from your author, 2ndteam skipper Jack Lidyard and Telegraph crossword aficionado Dave Lewis, but in reality it may have had more to do with the juiciest of prizes on offer after the climax of the league season – an extra game of rugby in the sun. The Gogs looked in the mood. Skipper Matt Fielden pointed and shouted at the backs before giving up and going to point and shout at the forwards. Vice-vice-captain Adam Faulkner advised the team he would be judging them on their actions, and not their words. Joe Mitchell and Arran Ferguson went to the nearest shop for extra suncream.

 

And the Gogs were in the mood. Habitually slow starters, the boot of John Christopher Reay and the fleet feet of top scorer (and the man who arrived too late to win player of the year) Florian Racaud powered the Gogs into a 13-0 lead before you could say “can someone do live updates on the whatsapp group”. When Hackney benefited from the biggest knock forward since Gareth Anscombe against England at Twickenham for John Chung to run in their second try with 15 minutes gone, they were looking at a comfortable saunter to the final. However, as anyone who has seen the Gogs play recently knows - and you’d have to had to witness it in person as all of our match reports are mysteriously unwritten – this team does not do comfortable victories. Chess Valley woke up, thanks in part to some light barracking from their own supporters, and thanks partly to a bit of Hackney complacency as the team abandoned the effective gameplan and decided to take the fight to the enormous Chess Valley forwards. Despite some heroic defence around the fringes and first up tackles against a seemingly endless supply of enormous strike runners Hackney were indebted to the Chess Valley kicker, despite encouragement from Dan Worth, having a shocker from the tee to retain their lead.

 

After a frenetic start the game settled into a pattern as Chess Valley began to dominate, leaving Hackney on the back foot as their efforts began to take a toll. Fielden left the field groggily - possibly from concussion, possibly in shock at getting too close to the breakdown, Former Emperor Griffin departed the field with his weekly broken finger. Half man, half machine KL Chung, after yet another obsolescence-defying performance took one hit too many and went back to the factory for a tune-up. The team was by now patched up, players agreeing to play out of position for the good of the team with Leo Glass moving to the second row, Adam Faulkner moving to scrum half and Chris Reay staying at fly half. However, whilst Chess Valley were good at scoring tries, they weren’t very good at converting them, and with Reay keeping the scoreboard ticking over, Hackney remained in touching distance.

 

And eventually, the try of the match came. Florian Racaud, already scorer of one long-range individual try, scythed through the defence after returning a Chess Valley kick, found himself with only the full back to beat. Instead of beating him (again) he executed a perfect 2-on-1, leaving Worth with a simple run-in, the only thing between him and the line the nagging doubt of running 40m in one stint for the first time since his days playing under-13s in deepest Devon. Now, nobody loves a chaser (c.f. Jepps, Thomas), but especially not Mr Worth whilst undertaking an odyssey through treacle. However, motivated by the heckling from the crowd and the potential of a chance to draw level with Jepps in the season’s try scoring charts, he arced under the posts to leave Reay with a simple conversion and to help Hackney take an ultimately unassailable lead which they held on to, despite two late Chess Valley tries (both unconverted).

 

A place in the final was secured, and with the leadership recklessly left in the hands of Faulkner (thus assuring he wouldn’t get Dick of the Day AGAIN, if we were the kind of club that does Dick of the Day, which we definitely aren’t), those Gogs who weren’t at Watford General headed to the end of season do with vim and vigour. For the end of their season is yet to come. Roll on finals day.

 

Back, without any kind of demand, and written in a hurry – player ratings!

 

15 Florian Racaud

Scores lots of tries, makes lots of try-saving tackles, is generally bloody good. Deserved man of the match for another stand out performance. Loses a point for passing to Dan for his try, obviously (9)

 

14 Arran Ferguson

Stepped up from the 4s to the 3s this season and has quickly become a fixture on the team sheet. Despite getting high tackled about 5 times a game, never complains – possibly because he comes from tough stock. (7)

 

13 Thomas-Owain Davies

Typically solid game from Hufflepuff, rightly using his afternoon as 80 minutes of limbering up before his main event of the day at Core Clapton/Mascara Bar in the evening. Loses points for reasons of puerile comedy only. (6.9)

 

12 Joe Mitchell

Despite being a man clearly not used to being out in the sun, Joe got through his usual shift, putting in a huge amount of tackles despite the slippery hands that are the natural consequence of re-applying factor 50 every 5 minutes. Extra points for only laughing a little when asked if he wants to be captain next year. (8)


11 Rich Shorey

Tackles like a man twice his size and half the age he looks. Also does a good line in grubber kick nutmegs, which can only be applauded. Another excellent game in an excellent season for the Gogs’ co-player of the season. (8)


10 J. Christopher Reay

Filling in yet again at fly-half, Finsbury Park stalwart didn’t look like a man playing outside of his usual position at 7. Controlled the game, only got pied by the enormous number 8 a couple of times, and metronomic from the tee. #pastandfutureGogscaptain (7, obviously)


9 Matt Fielden 

Led the team with aplomb until he was forced off with what looked to be an awesome pirate scar and later turned out to be a bit of concussion. Bonus points for scraping in under the A&E waiting time threshold, points deducted for abandoning the troops in their hour of need and embarrassing himself in front of a very polite nurse. (7)


1 Dave Bates

The man, the myth, the legend. Awesome to have this king amongst men back in the fold. Bonus points for being a front row, naturally. (8)


2 Former Emperor Griffin

What can be said about Darren that hasn’t already been said on social media in Russian-accented broken English? Having trimmed down and toughened up to play in the front row he deserves all the plaudits and maybe a parade as well. (12/10)


3 Leo Glass

Late callup after Uzo pulled out with a Saturday morning cold. Definitely needs a couple more games, if not seasons, in the Gogs before being considered for honours higher the club. Did a pretty decent job covering the entire front 5, so extra bonus points for that. (9)


4 Mat Cole

Great in the lineout, put in a real shift round the park, and possibly wind the award for most times being pied by a giant forward for the day. Bonus points for being the longest-serving Mat(t) of the day. (8)


5 Gearoid Cashman

The welcome return of Cash has brought some much-needed dog to the Gogs pack. Got pied once, but only once, and then promptly proceeded to have another standout match. (8)


6 John Chung

The man, the part robot, the legend. More comebacks than Alex Cuthbert, the Gargoyles legend (or possibly his brother) is having an outstanding season. Injured after an unfortunate tackling properly incident, will be huge loss for the final. (8.5)


7 Freddy Kelly 

Man of the match from the bench last week says it all, and he wasn't far off this week. An excellent addition to the Gogs. Far too athletic and physically fit for this level, but nothing a summer of post-tag drinking in Ryan’s won’t solve. (8.5)


8 Adam Faulkner

A frustrated in the back row, a leader amongst men who is always the first to go TAPS AFF should the situation (temperature above 12°) arise. Played a full 80, which is always a bonus. Poor decision-making when handing out post-match awards loses significant points. #futureGogsvicecaptain (7)


Finishers


Khris Sankar

Fatherhood hasn’t slowed him down; still prolific at the bar and on the dancefloor. Shored up the scrum as always and even managed a trundle or two. Annoyingly dapper in a tux. (7)


Ben Graham 

Performed the John Chung tackling large players around the legs role in a Chung-esque manner. Pie count - 1, maybe 2. Tackle count off the scale as always, touch judging needs some work though. (7)


Dan Worth

Last Gogs game (probably, barring guest appearances) and signed off in style with the crucial try. As predicted, called upon much earlier than anticipated as yet another Gog got injured. Alternated between 8 and 9 as needed with little difference to the trundle count bonus points awarded for great in-game chat. (7.5)