The ball is fizzed across the line. Jenner runs onto it at pace. Good cover defence. He manages to get it away to Yinka on the left. He brings it forward. Inside to Legg and over to Fraser to run it in. One of the great tries. The warm up game of touch was less than 5 minutes in and already the gathering crowd could sense it would be a classic…


They say a rolling stone gathers no moss. Well in this case, you can substitute ‘deflated rugby ball’ for ‘rolling stone’ and ‘grease’ for ‘moss’. Even after making these substitutions, it still isn’t a particularly relevant phrase. Back and forth the flat ball went. Catchy passy, passy catchy. Not once was there a droppy.


The rain started falling. And so it begins... Matt Strong had been boasting about his mid-week conference on shoulder rotation exercises. The lads had done a whip round to send him to Rotherham for it, and they were all about to bask in its glow. Start with your necks Stronger called. A lesser team would have crumbled. “But we always start on all fours doing a questionable stretches whilst Mills tells a story that goes on for too long” they might have thought. Not this side. Stronger had tested them, and each and every one had passed.


Fours under the posts. Running this way and that, that way and this. Picking lines that until recently scientists still theorised over whether or not they existed. Skips, heel flicks, high knees. Nothing beyond this mighty team. “Find a partner and wrestle” Strong called. It could have been panic stations. 9 perfectly matched couples formed before his very eyes. “Rotate partners”. Seamless. 9 new partnerships formed. The burgeoning crowd could hardly believe what they were seeing.


“Time for the L shaped handling drill” Amy said. “Not a problem” the collective thought of the Hackney team. Passes went to hand, moves were called triumphantly. 2 defenders in, 2 defenders beaten. “Ok, let’s see how you deal with contact”. “Bring. It. On”…


Teams of 4. Hit the pads, clean out, 2 on 1. Simples. “Is this all you can conjure Saruman” the author thought to himself.


The stakes were raised. 3 v 3 tackling. The titans in attack met the giants in defence, making them both seem normal sized. Collisions could be heard around the Datchworth Sports Ground, and potentially even beyond, if such a place exists.


Amy called us over. Captains run. Over to Mills. What Chinchillian speech would he have for us today? Arm in arm we stood awaiting the words. “I have a broken nose and a broken thumb and I’m playing”. Nothing more was needed. We looked one another in the eyes knowing what he meant.


The captains run commenced. And before you knew it, it was over. 6 tries to nil. The 3 men in defence had been embarrassed by the 15 in attack. Mills called everyone in to stop the massacre. “I’ve seen enough. We’re ready”. Into the changing rooms the team went as one, safe in the knowledge that they had done all they could. As the poem famously goes...


For when the one great scorer comes to mark against your name, he writes not that you won or lost, but of your warm up before the game.


After all a good warm up is a good warm up forever...  


ADDITIONAL MATCH REPORT BY LAURENCE MILLS 


The first half was evenly matched. Datchworth went 6 - 0 up in the first 15 minutes with two high tackles from Hackney, but Hackney scored a well worked try through Fraser Tait.  


Party was achieved at the scrum and lineout, and both sides were putting the respective back threes under pressure with high kicks. A sensible strategy, given the wet conditions. Hackney did well with limited ball and broke the Datchworth line a number of times. On one occasion, Yinka stepped neatly past his opposing winger and turned on the after burners to streak down the side line. On another occasion, Jenner collected a bouncing ball and set off at a rather more sedentary pace.  


"But I was running uphill!" cried Jenner in his defence, nervously adjusting his camel skin coat after the game - forgetting perhaps that the defenders who were running back in the same direction to effect the cover tackle were also running uphill.  


Just before the break, the Hackey 8 was served with a yellow card for a repetitive team high tackle offence. Datchworth made use of their already superior weight advantage in the scrum to push over. 


13-7 at halftime. 


The second half was difficult for Hackney. Datchworth scored another try from the back of the scrum, and a further penalty for an unfortunate incident at the breakdown. Ultan Murphy kept the scoreboard ticking over with a further 6 points, but Datchworth were the eventual winners 21-13.  


The high penalty count and lack of consistent possession hampered the Griffins, but a strong defensive display meant there were several positives to take from the game nonetheless.  


Captain's shout out to James Thistlewaite and James Hawkes on their 1s debuts. Both did well in difficult conditions.  


Hawkes receives extra credit for staying at the pub for at least one, if not possibly two, whole pints after the match instead of returning immediately to his legal textbooks for a thrilling Saturday evening of contract law.