Hackney avenge last season’s losses by beating Verulamians
Griffins go one point clear at the top of Herts/Middlesex One with 31-8 victory
Hackney recorded their fourth consecutive win of the season in scorching heat on Saturday when they beat Verulamians – a result that was made all the sweeter following the two narrow defeats the Griffins suffered at the hands of their opponents last season.
Hackney’s team, bereft of backs, featured the outstanding Ant Duttaine at centre, the magnificent Cormac Fanning making his first start for the ones in several years and the sporadic Patrick Walsh on the wing.
The Griffins started brightly, with captain Alex O’Hara once again pulling the strings.
Early pressure resulted in two penalty opportunities that were narrowly missed by O’Hara.
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Hackney then went close to scoring when O’Hara took a quick penalty and fed Ben Chamberlain, who was hauled down metres short of the try-line.
However, with the final play of the first half, the Griffins forced a scrum on the Verulamians five-metre line and won a penalty.
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O’Hara then took the penalty quickly and threw a huge dummy to the charging Chamberlain, before ducking under a Verulamians tackle to open the scoring.
The Hackney captain then picked himself up to convert his try as the Griffins ended the half 7-0 up
After the break, with both sides rehydrated, Verulamians started the second half the better.
However, a succession of huge hits from Duttaine, John Tully and Newton Mills deflated their early enthusiasm.
In addition, Hackney were beginning to dominate the set piece, with Johnny Crockey rising high to spoil the Verulamians lineout and the front rwo trio of Mills, Alex Bobbin and Andy Pilkington turning the screw in the scrum.
The pressure started to tell on the home side, and a well-executed training move saw James Rowbottom slice through the Verulamians centres to score his third try of the season under the posts.
A period of aerial ping-pong followed, until Verulamians foolishly kicked to the speedy Adam West, who set off down the left wing before showing superb acceleration to paststwo defenders.
West was then brought down with a high tackle from the home side’s openside flanker, who was then rightly shown a yellow card by the referee.
However, after picking himself up, moments later West took his revenge by collecting a lobbed pass from the impressive O’Hara to score his debut try for Hackney.
Things then got even better for the visitors when another powerful scrum led to a drive and Fanning found Walsh on the wing to score Hackney’s bonus-point try.
The Griffins then scored their final try when West collected a kick through and found Chamberlain, who ran home from 40 metres.
The result keeps Hackney at the top of the Herts/Middlesex One league, just one point above Belsize Park, who the Griffins entertain this Saturday in what is sure to be a mouth-watering clash.
Hackney: Mills, Pilkington, Bobin, Crockett, Hart, Binns, Chamberlain, Tully, Fanning, O’Hara, Williams, Duttaine, Rowbottom, Walsh, West. Subs: Beno, McMahon, Hardwick.