It is a truth universally acknowledged that a match report is more pleasurable to write after a victory. Which is why it’s been quite a while since it’s been a pleasure to write one of these. But, after a “best-of-season performance” (Murray, K. ‘Remarks To The Men After Victory’, Hackney: Springhill, 2020), the Gogs were convincing winners of a tough game.

 

Things began well in that a well-stocked squad (*two* front row substitutes) arrived (mostly) on time and executed a (mostly) well-organised warm-up. Even the injured Skipper Murray had a hand in it (one only, the other being in a cast for at least six weeks), with vital words such as “remember our structure”.

 

This contributed to an uncharacteristic good start. Pressure from the kick off led to a penalty in the corner, excellent line out work from Spencer et al, and clean possession for the backs to squander. A further penalty followed, though, and Tranquillity Hanton split the posts for an early lead.

 

Hackney’s first try came soon after - a solid platform from the scrum and the ball made its way out wide. After quick hands and direct running the doctor was in. Leyland decided that it wasn’t to be all plain sailing though and left Hanton with a difficult conversion that sailed just wide. 8-0 and our best start to a game in quite a while.

 

Despite the scoreline, this was an arm-wrestle from start to finish, with Old Streetonians using big midfield runners to cut back into broken play, and Gogs having to tackle and tackle again. Only some bad luck, and the attentions of young Ferguson and your not so young correspondent led to an Old Streetonian knocking the ball forward when in the try zone. This was early evidence of good Gog luck that would grow in the second half.

 

There was time for another try before the break. A switch in the pack saw Faulkner take a breather and Abramashbili enter the fray. After some good phases from both forwards and backs the ball was in Nik’s hands and there was only one outcome on the cards. His bulldozing run made the conversion easy for Hanton and the Gogs went into halftime 15 points to the good.

 

The key for the second half was not to underestimate the Gogs’ collective ability to lose a match from any position. Old Street came at us like only local rivals can and it was a full-squad effort to keep them at bay and begin to build a position from which to press again. It was clear that that first score of the second half would determine the momentum, and perhaps the outcome. Thankfully it was a Gog who got it - in the form of another try.

 

That third Hackney try was, alas, not seen by anyone. If there were Instagram footage, it might show Hanton scoring an intercept. Do not imagine some Stockdale-esque catch and dash. Rather, in the face of the visitors throwing a high and slow pass, Hanton leapt like a drunken panda towards the ball. Having got a paw in the way of its flight path, he then had to catch it, which he duly did, with all the dexterity of a polar bear playing marbles. He then zipped, for a given value of zip, which is not very zippy at all, over the line and under the posts. Hanton, having made things easy for the kicker, who was also Hanton, contrived to convert like a penguin cradling an egg.

 

The fourth and final Hackney try came soon after. Having won a penalty inside the opposition half, Xavier Brune decided to ignore the pleas of his pack, who were fighting respiratory failure, and took it quickly. He thumped a cross-field kick about two metres forward and twenty metres across the park. Cries of “Xav, what the ...” were cut off as Dr Do-a-lot soared into the sky, stole the ball from the Gods, and set off at a gallop for his second try and our fourth. On another day these moves would’ve gang aglay but not, it seems, on this day.

 

There was still time for Old Street to score a much-deserved try of their own. The cut-back-inside running came off at last and not even the attentions of the Hackney back three could prevent the touchdown. Their good humour in a tough fight, along with their willingness to enjoy/endure our Burns night celebrations, confirms our nearest neighbours as good lads.

 

The game came to a somewhat scrappy but, for the Gogs at least, successful end. All that was left was to thank the many supporters - the Empress Griffin of Hackney and Her Other Realms, Duchess Cobb of the States, Lady Kallend of the ‘Stow, Baroness Moffatt of Ilford, Princess Powell and Captain Consort, Lord Cole of Clapton, and all the others. Fellowship, remember, is life.

 

1. Michael Waithe - rotated across the tight five in a roll-back-the-decades performance. 7/10

2. Spencer Eliot: MOTM, threw his darts, carried well, and made some useful tackles. 9/10

3. David Bates: another solid shift from the grizzliest of Gogs. 7/10

4. Joe Fennell: useful in the line-out and some strong tackles. 7/10

5. Cian Murphy: another 80 from the most durable of Duracells. 11/10

6. Arran Ferguson: impressive line out jumping given he’s about 5’0. 7/10

7. Jerry Downey: strong debut - this won’t be his last game in the quarters. 9/10

8. Adam Faulkner: dynamic in the loose and loose-lipped as ever. 8/10

9. Rich Shorey: drove the bus well, as usual. 7/10

10. Matt Hanton: Almost MOTM, despite not knowing the Laws about free kicks. 9/10

11. Luke Leyland: took his two tries like a pro. 8/10

12. Chris Reay: the Farrell to Hanton’s Ford, with less hair. 7/10 (as always)

13. Hugh Price: didn’t make any tackles with his face. 7/10

14. John Chung: workhorse denied a try by a premature run. 8/10

15. James Abbott: dangerous in attack and solid in defence. 8/10

16. Nik Abramashbili: Venit Nikit Vicit Exit 8/10

17. Sam Spendlove: a debut for the former Bull and a bullocking good shift too. 8/10

18. Ben Graham: the most unpredictable of Gogs was in predictably good form. 7/10

19. Rob Holliday: another solid debut Gog, with a neat line in acrobatic touch finder prevention. Apparently doesn't miss tackles. 7/10

20. Xavier Brune: stroke of genius/luck for the bonus point try. 8/10

21. T.homa.s Ow@in Davie$: his calves are the only original parts left. 3.45/5

22. James Simpson: hurt his thumb in the warm-up, couldn’t play, still partook in port. Future Gogs captain. 0/10