I think it’s fair to say that we are living in very strange times. 


The recent outbreak of Covid-19 has left no aspect of our lives unaffected. Industry struggles to stay afloat as the workforce retreats to their own sofas, transport and travel is becoming ever more precarious and even sport is has been told to pack up its toy box, and go its room for the foreseeable future. 


Such was the swathe of postponements and cancellations in the sporting calendar this weekend (which would soon come to include our own activities after the RFUs announcement on Monday), rumours abounded of Rupert Murdough sending his camera crews down to Stoke Newington to catch the gargoyle’s match against the Honourable Artillery Company. However, despite the efforts of one particularly well connected Glady, Alex Payne and Will Greenwood did not grace our club on Saturday. Never the less, the horn of Gondor sounded, and the players took their positions. 


Seeking to avenge an infuriating defeat at the hands of HAC earlier ths season, the two teams met at Fortress de Spring Hill; bathed in sunshine, and amply supplied with toilet paper. If one was looking for an indication of the recent gentrification of the borough, one need only have looked at the healthy stock of Cushelle Loo Roll in the changing rooms (other brands are available)


The teams made their way onto the pitch and Ed Waters snaffled the kick off, much like a white blood cell engulfs an uninvited pathogen, and we were off. 


In the reverse fixture, a cagey and error ridden first half ended 0-0, but there was no danger of a repeat here as Hackney took an early lead. James Thistlewaite, having pleaded with the powers that be to put him into the back row, celebrated his transition by breaking the clutches of two would be tacklers on halfway. Mr Thistlewaite is well versed in the benefits of social distancing given the current climate, and was sure to keep a distance of at least 2 metres between him and the defending full back at all times as he sauntered to the warm embrace of the try line. 


This lead was not to last, however, as HAC put Hackney under extreme pressure, utilising their powerful forward carrying and clever running lines in the backs. Despite resolute Hackney defence, “The Company” pinned their hosts back with the boot and earned themselves a game levelling try.


Hackney countered, and with fullback Laurence Jones and wing Laurie Benson to the fore, made ground at regular intervals. One such sojourn saw some muscular forward carrying lay the platform for the backs to be released, the little whippet Jones taking an inside ball off one of the Alex’s. He shot through the gap in the HAC defences and fizzed a pass out to Ed Wander on the left wing, who passed back inside to the support. Just as the Gargoyles were about to score an exquisite team try, HAC intercepted and ran 80 metres to score. Hackney suddenly in a world of pain. 


However, this rag tag bunch of tenacious young whipper snappers don’t know the spelling of the word surrender, let alone its meaning. Captain Ricky atoned for two penalties (which he would later attribute to someone else) with some muscular carrying off the base, and having had one try cruelly denied him, went for the line (via two HAC defenders) and pulled back some points. Charlie King, despite his brilliance in open play, had apparently been watching George Ford’s place kicking instruction videos pre game and proceeded to miss the conversion attempt (more to come on that later). 


However, Hackney were now purring like a classic car cruising in 3rd gear, and found themselves once again with the opponents line at their mercy. Xavier Brune, having arrived for the game in his fluorescent cycling gear, swapped this out for his invisibility cloak as he dived over after sniping around the base. His homeland may be locked down in the current climate of Covid-19, but there is no keeping this little general indoors and his try put Hackney in front. 


From there, Charlie “Perfect 10” King set aside all talk of his uncharacteristically wayward kicking and took the ball to the line on half way. Quicker than a particularly desperate dentist, he spotted a minuscule gap and broke into the 22. covering defenders swarmed around him, but no matter. He shimmied, shook and danced his way to the line, a cheeky grin curling its way across his face. Hackney, then, going into the second half in good spirits. 


Hackney were not to be complacent in the second 40, and made early pressure tell as the scrum began to get on top. In the HAC 22, Hackney pushed our noble foes off the ball, and Ricky picked up, carried and offloaded to Edward Penn to stretch the lead. Shortly after, Hackney’s impressive counter attacking play yielded a second for our Capitan, who expertly ignored support on his outside as he flared his nostrils and grunted his way to the line. King, though having a wonderful day with ball in hand, contrived to miss both kicks, thumping one of the left post, and then in order to keep his world in perfect balance, the other off the right. Wry smiles aplenty in the Hackney corner. 


Hackney then went full “sex-rugby”, as the forwards (led by the tenacious Harvey Pym and Waters) sought and destroyed, allowing the backs to show off their flowing moves. Ed Wander, Benson, and your humble correspondent caused havoc down the flanks, Alexes Lee and Mills enticingly drew their men, and young Spencer teased a grubber in the HAC 22, before performing an act of heroism beyond the call of duty: doing his best Tomos Williams impression to leap like a salmon to pat back a penalty kick into the field of play. I am told Spencer is still travelling in an upwards trajectory as we speak, and we all wish him well. Shortly afterwards,the two Alex’s combined for a sumptuous try with Mills taking a quick tap penalty and throwing an utterly scandalous dummy to break free down the middle. He found Lee on his shoulder, who feinted one way, went the other, and left the opposing full back for dead. 


HAC kept in the fight till the end, earning a deserved third try and ending the game in our 22, but our brave boys held them at bay and the whistle blew for full time. 


In what would prove to be the last game Hackney will play for the foreseeable, The Gargoyles gave everyone a timely reminder of what they’ll be missing....


Ratings:


Harvey Pym- a constant thorn in the HAC side, tackling like a man possessed and carrying with equal gusto. 9/10


Ed Waters- Threw accurately, scrummed determinedly, carried and tackled forcefully. A man made of adjectives. 9/10


Damien Bouvier- a Stella bi-lingual performance as he moved from scrummaging and rucking in the tight to delivering French instructions to the rest of the Franco-Hackney contingent on the sidelines. Tres Fort. Dix sur Dix


Frank Cohadon- Belied his advancing years with a boisterous showing on the pitch. Also joined in with the happy birthday/ Bonne Anniversaire/ penblwydd happus singing with little to no fuss 40 ans/10


Jack Burton- if you were to ask 100 people what a second Row looks like, you would get 100 replies reading “Jack Burton”. Invaluable work all round the park. 8/10 


James Thistlewaite- is he a 6? Is he a 12? Is he actually a pinch hitting number 3 who can throw down an over of military medium and field at deep mid wicket all afternoon? Jury is out Blindside/10


Ed Penn- showed off his variety of skill in carrying, hitting rucks, line out jumping and even taking a high ball at one point. Was bitterly disappointed there was no post match crossword puzzling this week. 12 across/10 


Ricky Dubery- His last effort against this opponent is a matter of club folklore. His brace today ensured he ends this season with a HAC “head to head” record of 1 win, 1 loss, 3 tries, 1 red card. Remarkable. 9/10


Xavier Brune- controlled the game with aplomb and scored a key try in the first half. If you ever get a chance, make sure you ask him about his infamous tattoo.... saucisson/10


Charlie King- “HE KICKS TO THE LEFT, HE KICKS TO THE RIIIIIIIIIIGH, THAT CHARLIE KING, his all round game management and passing ability is really exceptional” 1 kick/ 5


Laurie Benson- quickly garnering a reputation as Mr consistent. Solid under high ball, deceptively quick and gives nothing up in the contact area. Spent the evening swooning over Charlie King’s softly spoken Edinburgh accent. 6.666666/10


Alex Lee- The dual playmaker ensured good service to the outside backs, a solid defensive line in the midfield, and scored a supremely taken try. Bailed out Charlie King by taking over kicking duties late on. 8/10


Alex Mills- a classy operator. In a perennial battle with brother Rich as to who is better. Whoever wins, we’re happy to have both of them. 8/10


Ed Wander- Wandered from Wing to centre, and was Wander-ful in both positions. Little Wander he is so highly regarded at Hackney. 7/10


Laurence Jones- made plenty of metres with ball in hand and marshalled the back field masterfully. Busy. 8/10


Subs- 


Shaun Rooke- It is said that when his mother went in for her first ultrasound, the doctor could not find the baby anywhere. Only a Hackney RFC Emblem with a heartbeat. Top lad/10 


Hugh Price- 40 mins: 1 carry, 1 tackle, 0 concussions. Thats a win, in my book. Unrated out of modesty/10 


Chris Reay- one week, you’re starting for the 1s. The next, you’re scraping 20 minutes off the bench for the 2s. Rugby is a cruel game.... CR7/10