So far this season we’ve had games of halves and quarters and now we’ve had a game of three quarters - or three quarters of a game. English cup competitions, with their penchant (watching France v. Tonga while writing) for throwing together teams from different leagues, lend themselves to the romance of upsets. FA Cup Saturdays allow commentators show off their vocabulary with words such as “minnows” (from the late Middle English with Anglo-Norman French influences) and …. well …. that’s it.

 

In football, sometimes, a “minnow” (meaning “team from a league so low I don’t know where their stadium is”) gets the win. Rugby is a more exacting sport and so mismatches, or as one Gog inarticulately but entire accurately put it, mish-matches, tend to lead to one result: victory for those doing the mishing. And so it was on Saturday.

 

18 Gogs braved “planned engineering works” (thanks Dave Lewis) to schlep to Hammersmith & Fulham for a Cup outing. It was meant to be 20 Gogs, but Rolfin’s ship can’t go further up the Thames than Tower Bridge and someone else tweaked something (possibly the strain was too much for their Oyster card). Thus, it was 18 Gogs that took on a well-stocked and well-stacked H&F squad on a pitch that resembled a terminal moraine (from the French: moraine) left over from the last Ice Age (which was, incidentally, the last time I was this far West). (Patch Thompson might take issue with that geological metaphor but fortunately he’s too busy scanning wedding Polaroids for Instagram - the combination of two instantaneous photographic mediums will not prevent Patch’s lateness.)

 

H&F play in Middlesex Merit 2 and their experience in such rarified climes was soon on show. They were strong in the breakdown, both on their own ball and on what little ball the Gogs could secure, slick in the 8 - 9 - 10 axis, and fast outside. It is to the Gogs’ credit that most of H&F’s early tries required them to go around, rather than through, the Hackney defence. Alas, around they went, often at speed, and opened up a significant early lead.

 

On another day Hackney might have got back into contention. They did here too, at least in terms of territory and possession, but not on the scoreboard. The effort was not helped by injuries. As it was, the squad was missing the talents of Serenity Hanton (leg injury from wedding dancing) and Skipper Murray (leg injury from maypole dancing), and soon Rainman Shorey was gone as well. Shorey’s departure, with what he diagnosed as a grade 1 medial ligament tear (one trip to West London and suddenly everyone’s a doctor), led the reserve member of the Bee Gees, Dexter, to come on. It’s little known that Dex was excluded from the group by his older brothers because of his hair being insufficiently flowy and the rest of him being insufficiently born at the time of their formation. Chris Reay continued his season of musical positions by moving to 9.

 

The rest of the first half passed without much more incident - except for Hugh paying the Price for one too many big tackles and going off for a HIA. Perhaps in a demonstration of the Gogs’ determination, and their questionable decision-making, he took and failed the test twice. Thankfully the H&F medic, the referee, and Captain Gluckstein were resolute and Hugh stayed off. In addition to the introduction of your ever-reliable correspondent, the second half also saw Dave Bates drag his grizzled self onto the pitch. The average age of the Gogs team was, all of a sudden, a lot more Barry, Robin, and Maurice, and a lot less Dex.

 

Two fresh-as-a-daisy forwards brought even more solidity to the already-solid Gog scrum. Hackney, despite the size and technique of the H&F pack, won all their own ball and even put the SW6-ers under pressure on theirs. The same was true in the line-out, where Ryan Middleton’s darts reliably found their jumpers. This platform, and Alex Lee’s distribution, gave that most dangerous of Gog runners, Dynamo Chung, the chance to make several mazey runs which, alas, support runners were unable to convert into scoring chances. Dex shook off his blisters for a game gander down the touch-line but, unfortunately, no impact on the scoreboard.

 

Meanwhile, the Gogs’ defence was stronger in this half and H&F had to work much harder for the few scores that came their way. This defence was a combination of tightness around the fringes, fronting-up in midfield, and a lot of chasing back cover-tackles. One indication of the all-hands-on-deck approach (notwithstanding Rolfin’s absence) was a loose ball in the Gogs’ 22 that was smothered by Matt Cole before your still-very-reliable reporter had to box-kick clear (were you watching Joe?). Still, if play was not all one-way traffic, the lopsided scoreboard stayed lopsided (figuratively speaking of course - there was no actual scoreboard and if there were it would hardly be lopsided - this was West London).

 

The final straw was an injury to Dynamo as he gathered and touched down a dangerous ball in the Hackney in-goal area to prevent an otherwise certain try. He claimed to have “over-extended” something (perhaps because the Good Lady Chung put his tiger tape on the high shelf again) and had to go off. The prospect of him having to peel off his shirt and squeeze Mikey Futuristic into it was too much for anyone to contemplate and so the referee called it a day (Saturday, in case you were wondering, but that’s hardly surprising).

 

Thanks to H&F for a good-natured and spirited game, and for their hospitality. The Gogs are next in action in a fortnight against Old Streetonians whose roundabout is, of course, West of Hackney but who play at Hackney Marshes which are, of course, East of Hackney and, unlike Spring Hill, barely actually in Hackney. To the narrowboats! Fellowship is travel administration.

 

Player Ratings:

 

1. Darren Griffin: the idea of him on the wing brought the match to an end. 9/10

2. Ryan Middleton: accurate darts & hooks; inaccurate port distribution, co-MOTM. 9/10

3. Michael Waithe: drove the Delorian from Brighton; drove the pack around the park. 9/10

4. Matt Cole: an arial nuisance; one try-stopping track-back. 7/10

5. Charles Blagbrough: some strong rumbles at both lock and flank. 7/10

6. Tom Gluckstein: did a lot for the Club, including playing in the centre. 7/10

7. Ben Graham: Nor’n Irish terrier back and busy as ever, everywhere. 7/10

8. Charlie Killoran: good shift around the fringes. 7/10

9. Rich Shorey: the Gogs, as always, were a lesser team without him. 8/10

10. Alex Lee: kept his head despite being targeted, co-MOTM. 9/10

11. John Chung: early contender for Gog of the Season (if we don’t break him). 9/10

12. Hugh Price: nearly lost his head (literally) - indefatigable. 8/10

13. Dan Aylward: Honorary Hufflepuff Rating in Tom’s absence. 6.9/10

14. Laurie Benson: much ground to cover, much ground covered. 7/10

15. Chris Reay: guess what… he’s *still* the Seventh Best Gog. 7/10

 

Finishers

 

David Bates: so inhospitable to opposition props he’ll never open a motel. 9/10

Cian Murphy: upgrade installed: tackles, carries, passes, and now kicks. 11/10

Dexter Gibbs: night fever, night fever, he knows how to show it. 7/10