“Spartans! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty…for tonight, we dine in hell!” King Leonidas, 300 (2006)

The Spartan 300 facing the Persian hordes. 

Henry V’s depleted army meeting the powerful French at Agincourt. 

The Texian army garrisoned at the Alamo lying in wait for the advancing Mexican forces. 

A beleaguered Hackney RFC 1st XV against league leaders Hampstead. 

This author has given some consideration to the risk that to, yet again, use a match report to draw comparisons between great moments of history and a largely inconsequential game of amateur rugby on a hot Saturday afternoon in east London may stretch the reader’s patience to breaking point. Indeed, it has been said that - in weaker moments - writers of these reports have wondered whether placing such an analogy at the very beginning of the piece is too clunky a literary device, and reveals the true motive of the author; not to give an accurate portrayal of the match for useful historical record, but to gain a few cheap laughs and indications of enjoyment (“LOLs”) on the Whatsapp group that this report is inevitably shared.

These concerns and quibbles are, of course, dismissed nearly immediately. The good Griffin knows not to trouble themselves with such matters, and to resolutely resign these thoughts to the dustbin of their brain to settle alongside other commonly neglected areas of personal development by Hackney RFC players such as personal hygiene, dress sense, and the state of their rig.

“I don’t think he’s ever had an original thought…in his life.” Lucy, The Lego Movie (2014)

With usual captain Joe Askham away at a cat convention (his third of the year), the skipper duties fell to Laurence Mills. 

Minutes before kick off, the captains of the opposing teams were invited to the middle of the pitch for the traditional shaking of hands and tossing of coin ceremony. Larry Mills knew his odds going into the coin flip battle would be roughly 50/50, but correctly chose “tails”.

He knelt down and rubbed the dry Indian summer dirt between his hands for grip. Staying in the squat position, intimidating the opposition with ankle mobility, he looked up at the sky as a single bead of sweat made its way down his brow. 

“The range is good” he said gruffly, and indicated that Hackney would receive the kick at the far end of the pitch meaning that the visiting Hampstead side must– in the second half – face the sun as it set lower in the sky.

The Hackney captain jogged confidently back to the home side. “Maybe I should tell everyone about how I just won the toss and decided to start at this end of the pitch?” he mused to himself. “Nah, better save it for an inconvenient point during the half time chat” he concluded.

This was, aside from knocking the ball on at the base of a ruck on the opposition’s try line, perhaps the stand-in Hackney captain’s only real contribution to the outcome of the game. But what a contribution it was! The reader will no doubt agree that it is entirely worthy of a whole section of the match report written about himself in the third person. 

“Try and be patient.” Michael Corleone, The Godfather (1972)

So began the Hackney Griffins’ fourth game of the 2018/2019 season. It commenced in a spritely fashion, with the allegedly aged (“they just are a bunch of 30 somethings!”) home side attacking with the vigour and gumption of players who are – actually, thank you very much – mostly on the right side of the big 3-0.

The Hackney pack turned the Hampstead scrum and stole possession, allowing Jim Miller to canter over the line. Next, man of the match Ludo Bathgate bundled over to increase the home side’s lead.

Then Hampstead scored. *skip to next scene*

“Magic Mirror on the wall, who, now, is the fairest one of all?” Queen, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Buoyed by the actually really quite good rugby they had played in the first 40, Hackney RFC began the second half in the same fashion. Yinka danced his way through from the 10 metre line to score a cracker. 

Then followed some quite remarkable passages of play in which the ball stayed alive for over 6 breathless minutes, but which culminated in Hampstead scoring twice out on the wing.

“Isn’t anybody going to help that poor man?” Harriet Johnson, Blazing Saddles (1974)

Ten minutes to go, and not many points separated the teams. Helpfully, Yinka scored another one. 

Then began the assault on the Hackney try line which, for a long 7 minutes, they repelled but were caught on the outside a final time.

4 points in it. Less than 3 minutes to go.

Hackney kicked to restart the game and – in a typically dominant performance at the lineout – stole the visitor’s ball to regain possession and run down the clock.

The Griffins’ 2018/2019 victory account was opened with a tasty bonus point sized deposit.

Lovely stuff.