Bonus-point victory keeps Hackney’s promotion hopes alive
Hackney 25 Old Millhillians 8
Hackney bounced back from the disappointment of their defeat at the hands of Wasps a fortnight ago, by beating Old Milhillians to keep their promotion hopes alive.
The Griffins were aiming to get the wind back into their sails with this tricky home fixture, and the hosts had to change their team around to accommodate the growing list of injuries at the club.
The visitors won the toss and looked to use the low winter sun to their advantage, but Hackney had other things on their minds.
The Griffins exerted early pressure and their eagerness to score first led to the home side giving away needless penaltes, which ended up with Old Millhillians taking a 3-0 lead.
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Moments later and the visitors had extended their advantage with the first try of the game after miscommunication in the Hackney defence led to a bouncing ball being collected by Old Millhillians to score and put themselves 8-0 up.
Despite already being two scores behind, the Griffins did not panic, and soon made a breakthrough of their own.
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The Hackney pack started to dominate the opposition’s forwards, and Newton Mills was then allowed to run through a standstill defence, before drawing the Old Millhillians full-back and passing to prop Alexander Bobin, who had a leisurely trot to the line, with captain Alex O’Hara narrowly missing the conversion.
Just before the interval, centre Agboola Silverthorn then showed his talent, collecting a ball deep inside his own 22, before dancing past several Old Millhillians to the delight of the home supporters.
The message at half time for Hackney was to keep digging away, enjoy the game and to play their rugby and the Griffins carried out their orders from the start of the second period.
The home side were using quick ball to make good yardage with Uzo and James Dawson showing the irstrength and as the visitors began to get frustrated, they gave away penalties.
Hackney then kicked their way to within 10 metres of the visitors’ tryline.
A perfect lineout from the hosts was then driven over for Hackney’s second try of the afternoon, with Jonny Crockett taking the plaudits at the bottom of the pile of forwards.
The conversion was again missed, but Hackney were in front for the first time in the game at 10-8.
The second half continued in much the same vein, and the referee was forced to take action, sending the Old Millhillians blindside flanker to the sin bin for persistent offences.
The Griffins then responded with a successful penalty, extending their lead to 13-8.
In their search for a bonus point, Hackney brought on some fresh legs looking to close out the game.
And the home side were rewarded for their efforts five minutes before time, when some great running from the backs along with smooth offloading in the contact area, saw Kim Wing run in under the posts.
The try was converted, but the Griffins still needed one more if they were to secure the bonus point, with time running out.
Hackney pushed on, undeterred by the lack of time, and with Old Millhillians in full retreat, the penalties kept coming, allowing the home side to gain vital yardage.
With the last play of the game, the Griffins trusted their handling and free-flowing rugby to do the damage.
Nearly every Hackney player touched the ball before fly-half O-Hara spotted a tired forward, who he then rounded before offloading to the tireless Crockett, who charged in to score the home side’s fourth try, confirming the bonus point.
The victory means that Hackney’s promotion chase is still very much on, as the Griffins head into their last game before the Christmas break in third place, with both Wasps and Old Priorians remaining within touching distance.
This Saturday, they travel to bottom of the league Old Ashmoleans, who have not won in nine games, since their opening-day victory against Saracens Amateurs.
Hackney: Hardwick, Wing, Silverthorn, Dawson, J Davis, O’Hara (c), C Davis; Mills, Bailey, Pilkington, Bobin, Crockett, Hart, Binns, Uzo. Subs: Huxley, McNally, Chamberlain.