Hackney maintain promotion push with hard-fought victory
Herts/Middlesex One: Old Actonians 10 Hackney 28
Hackney kept up their chase for promotion on Saturday as they battled to a bonus-point win away to Old Actonians on a windswept and rainy afternoon.
Following the unofficial winter break brought on by the snow and frozen pitches, rugby resumed for the Griffins with a trip to mid-table Old Actonians.
The game started in an even manner, with both sides struggling to take control of the match before the visitors spurned the first real chance of the half.
From a Hackney lineout, fly-half and captain Alex O’Hara spotted a mismatch and passed to James Rowbottom, who danced past an Old Actonians prop, only to inexplicably drop the ball beyond the tryline.
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Hackney went close to opening the scoring shortly after through Charlie Davis, who chipped over the home side’s defence only to be hit late by two covering tacklers.
Old Actonians responded with an attack of their own, and when a defensive clearance was charged down by the hosts, the home side won a penalty, which was converted for the only score of the first half.
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The second half produced far superior rugby to the first for both sides, as Hackney, now playing uphill, were able to get their phase game going.
Centre James Dawson repeatedly punched holes in the Old Actonians’ defence and from quick ball, O’Hara found Ben Chamberlain who ran untouched towards the home side’s tryline.
Chamberlain was well supported by Charlie Williams and the two combined well to execute a two-on-one leaving the wing to score his sixth try in four matches.
Conceding a try sparked Actonians into life and their powerful forwards made hard yards against a Hackney defence that was set too high.
The hosts continued to come forward and soon scored their first try of the afternoon from close range for a score of 10-7.
The Griffins retaliated quickly though, regathering their own restart and putting five phases together before Dawson crashed through the Actonians defence, offloading to Rowbottom to score under the sticks for his retribution try, which was converted by O’Hara.
The home side were hopeful of another quick return and built some momentum from the restart.
However, when the Actonians’ fly-half found himself isolated, the Hackney back row pounced and a quick turnover allowed Charlie Davis to hit Charles Bailey with a miss pass.
Bailey then showed good awareness to flip the ball to Rowbottom on the charge to sprint in his second try of the game from 30 yards out.
With the visitors now fully in the ascendancy, O’Hara started to toy with the Actonians’ back line, finding Williams with a well-judged cross-field kick.
The wing was brought down five yards short, but consistent pressure from Hackney forced the hosts into a risky chip.
The kick was skilfully caught by the home side, only for the ball to be ripped away by Rowbottom.
Hackney again moved the ball away from the hosts and Dawson powered through the centres, dragging one defender for several yards before handing off another for a thoroughly deserved try.
However, the game ended on a sour note for the Griffins when their talismanic fly-half O’Hara went down in a heap injured, but was able to walk off the pitch unaided.
The bonus-point win leaves Hackney in third place in the Herts/Middlesex One table, just two points behind Old Priorians, who Hackney host this Saturday, and some eight points behind league leaders Wasps.
Hackney: Rowbottom, Williams, Agboola, Dawson, J Davis, O’Hara (c), C Davis; N Mills, Bailey, Bobin, Crockett, Parker, L Mills, Chamberlain, Uyanwune. Subs: Yong, Hardwick, Jones.