There comes a time when a 10 has to decide what kind of player they are. Jonny Wilkinson. Dan Carter. Michael Owen. They have all looked into their souls in the moments their teams needed them the most, and asked themselves this question: am I good enough?

 

There was a spot of mud. A splash of rain. And, it was a bit cold. The hands are numb. The ball is a bar of soap. Or, is a bar of soap the ball? There are no lights in the changing rooms, and some, even on our own team, have taken nefarious advantage. Molested, shaped by the dark but not beaten, and it’s only warm-up. We emerged expecting sunlight but that quickly gave over to conditions so grey that an afternoon match was played under flood-lights. No human should spend more than an extra minute out in these conditions. However, traffic involving a round ball at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club detained our match referee by almost an hour. We spent this time ‘warming up’ but what we were really avoiding was hypothermia and frostbite.

 

Haringey Rhinos played good, conventional rugby: using their size and skill advantages, and an axis composed of a hard-charging prop, a small mountain at 12, and a nimble 15. At home, with the opposition’s legendary fitness sapped looking for the changing rooms and waiting for the referee, they played more than well enough to eke out a win. They were genuinely enjoying themselves, appreciating each other’s play. One push over the line, in a game of margins, was defeated by an unusually hard opponent in the form of the uprights. But there was another one denied by an even harder substance, our captain and full-back Kieron Murray, who executed a miraculous last-man, turn-over tackle in the try area.

 

The game had been set up by the vintage passes and boot of Matt Hanton (visiting us on a short interlude from injury). The Manton converted a near impossible angle, a try that had been scored, if the suspense is killing anyone, by Rich Shorey (#ShoreyIn). A simple penalty in front of the posts meant that approaching the half, Gogs were ahead 10-0. But, a large gentleman Rhino fell on Hanton’s ankle, and Chris Reay was called upon to substitute.

 

There was a brief collapse after the break and characteristic indiscipline, which led to the concession of far too many penalties. The Rhinos, er, charged back into the game (if a metaphor has to be used) and scored two tries to wipe out the authoritah Hanton had provided. Yet, what Hackney lacks in diet-conscious, Gregg’s avoiding forwards, and discipline, it made up in the deep, mysterious wells of talent in its catchment area— which, apparently, includes Lesotho.

 

Litsitso Motsoremeli emerged as another international star to wear the Gogs jersey—the Florian of the forwards. The kind of man who smiles sunnily and assures you warmly, “it will be a good game” as the heavens heave, roil and spit above. He then proceeds to smash the opposition, performing tackle after tackle, carry after carry. He was introduced to rugby by Dan Aylward, who was playing at 12. It was a bit like watching a Jedi Master and his now-accomplished protege use the force. In the first half, when Hackney was getting the better of the exchanges, it was the two who added the most momentum. 

 

Scores level, the situation called for grit. For the definition of grit look in the eyes of Matt Cole in full flight. Cole marshalled the forwards and line-outs, and this was not a pack that was going to roll over, no matter heavy, exotic beast the opposition produced from Noah’s Ark. Ben Graham tackled and rolled, stealing balls and yards— attending regular practice does have real rewards in matchplay. John Chung managed to be, in characteristic fashion, in several places on the pitch at the same time. Adam Faulkner’s field-general services at 8 were boosted by the discovery of the joys of boot studs.

 

Finally, Hackney managed to recover some momentum, and earn a penalty in the Rhinos’ half. Ten minutes to go. The scores level at 10-10.

 

The distance and angle of the kick on which the game rested were far from simple. It was raining rhinos, elephants, and hippopotami. If the penalty was missed, not too many would blame the 10. Under the pressure of less than ideal conditions, the expectations of fourteen teammates, 66.4 million passionate substitutes on the bench, the greatest win streak in the history of the Gogs on the line, it was possible to say: “I tried my best but it wasn’t good enough.”

 

Chris Reay wipes the rain from his eyes. He squares up the ball. Eyes the posts. Looks at the ball again, and begins his run over treacherous mud. He plants a foot, swings his boot, and there is suddenly no doubt. It’s a homing missile. Three points on the board, and three would be the winning margin.

 

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport. Soon the science will not only be able to slow down the ageing of the cells, soon the science will fix the cells to the state and so we will become eternal. Only accidents, crimes, wars, will still kill us but unfortunately, crimes, wars, will multiply. I love rugby. Thank you.

 

Author’s notes:



  1. With apologies to Eric Cantona.
  2. With this win, the Hackney III’s go to a nose-bleeding second in the table.
  3. This did not last long. The points table was updated after a day, and the Gogs returned to their familiar mid-table place.

 

**Player ratings provided by guest editor Matt Hanton**

 

1) Khris Sankar

Props are kings at Hackney RFC, and especially so on such a filthy day. After a first scrum distance loss of around 6.9m, shored things up against a massive oppo scrum with a solid stint. Tried some pale ale after the game. Didn’t care for it. (7/10)

 

2) Darren Griffin

The former winger/fly half/Emperor put in a typically gutsy shift. See above for scrum related thoughts. (7/10)

 

3) Pete Walsham

First outing of the season for Pete, who is nominally a back row but remembered that props are king at Hackney RFC and who doesn’t want to be the king? Also too nice to protest too much. Great to have him back. (7/10)

 

4) Charlie Blagbrough

First things first, the man wears a duffel coat magnificently. Secondly, very solid in the scrum, carry, tackle and all of that stuff. On a day for forwards grinding it out, Blags ground it out with the best of them. Definitely not good enough for the 2s though. (7/10)

 

5) Mat(t) Cole

In the top 2 Matts on the day, and in the top 2 players in his family. Terrible at downing MoM pints, so probably shouldn’t be awarded any more. (8/10)

 

6) Litsitso Moteremeli

After being named on the wing on the teamsheet, we were all very glad when Litsitso advised he was actually a back row (none more than James Simpson, whose stay of execution from becoming the forward we all know him to be has lasted another week) and what a back row he was. Ran all day, tackled everything, and made more line breaks than the All Blacks against Wales in that third place playoff in the World Cup. Absolutely top bloke too, and the Lesotho stash is simply lovely. (9/10)

 

7) Ben Graham 

A pest, but the good kind, because he’s our pest. Does so much work on a Saturday afternoon that I assume he sits at home all week recuperating. (7/10)

 

8) Adam Faulkner 

Not sure why he’s listed at 8 as he’s definitely a scrum half (according to him) or a front row (according to the rest of us). Ticked all of the Faulkner boxes this week: Tap and go? Check. Apparently arbitrary decision to kick? Check. Started argument with opposition captain which successfully wasted 2 minutes of a tight game we were looking to close out? CHECK. Does the lot, and we love him for it. (8/10)


9) Rob Corr

Not sure why he’s listed at 9 as he’s definitely a centre (according to me) or a back row (according to the rest of us). One of those games where the 9 has to be an auxiliary forward if he wants any ball, so spent 65 minutes with his head in rucks. Remembered which side of the scrum to put the ball in (that’s why the warm up is useful!) (7/10)

 

10) Matt Hanton

Has a sore ankle, again. One of these days will manage to play 80 minutes, maybe, #ifselected, or with Deadeye Reay around, #ifneeded (rating redacted)

 

11) John Chung

Has been rebuilt, magnificently, enough times that he could be the Six Million Dollar Man, except JC doesn’t pay full price for anything so he probably got them to do it for $4m. Played wing and centre and back row and excelled in all of them. Which is a bit annoying as he’s older than most of the team, there may be something to this not drinking lark… (8/10)

 

12) Dan Aylward

Shadow of his former self, nowhere near good enough for the 2s, barely made a line break or tackle all day. If he sticks at the training, and with regular game time in the Gogs, may progress with his rugby (3/10)

 

13) James Simpson

Future back row/future front row/current very dynamic centre. Not just a crash ball centre, but it was a horrible day, and dragged in 3 tacklers each time, so spent a lot of the day doing a passable impression of Gogs’ centres of days gone by, who shall not be named. Failed to supervise adequately Mr Ferguson Jr at Mascara and therefore loses points. Lots of points. (-7/10)

 

14) Rich Shorey

Scored our only try (of course he did, he usually does). Solid under the high ball in the rain and gave his opposition winger a torrid time (of course he did, he usually does). Willingly chased a lot of very average kicks for his fly half (8/10)

 

15) Kieran Murray

Our fearless leader, who picks the team every week, and cannot be swayed by flattery and overinflated player ratings, was magnificent. One try-saving tackle that may actually have been mostly him intimidating the oppo winger into dropping the ball, would make anyone’s highlight reel. Didn’t get broken. (14/10)

 

Finishers

 

16) Dave Bates

See Sankar, K. and Walsham, P. A king amongst props who are of course all kings, except this one is actually a frustrated fly-half. A perfect day of old school rugby for Mr Bates. (7/10)

 

7) Chris Reay

Match winning kick sent towards the posts by the 7th best right foot in the club, and propelled further by a large pair of cojones. Excellent showing at 10 on a horrible day for a flair player such as himself. (8/10)

 

18) Tomasso O’Davies 

Started on the bench which was good news for his calves. Came off the bench, which was not. Got the turnstile out (cc. Dan Worth) early in the second half and was solid thereafter. Initially foolish decision to drive paid off in spades later in the evening when the photos from Mascara started rolling in. (6.9/10)

 

19) Shu Shome 

Solid match report debut, equal parts obscure and factual. Could do with more mentions of Garden Cities, but that’s just personal preference. Rugby-wise, remains The Wall. (7/10)

 

20) James Austin

An excellent Gogs day-boo for the former Haringey man, possessor of an excellent step off either foot. Outrageously calm demeanour when following a bouncing ball back towards his own try-line, before stepping two onrushing Rhinos and casually clearing to touch. Most unGogsmanlike behaviour, but very welcome nonetheless. (7/10)

 

21) Hugh Price

Definitely fine post-game, but needs to stop tackling with his head. It isn’t big and it isn’t clever. Continue running fast through people though, that is both big and clever. (7/10)