Hackney secure third place with victory over Saracens

Griffins pushed hard in entertaining hame at Bramley Road

Hackney rounded off their first campaign in Herts Middlesex 1 with a superbly contested win away at Saracens Amateurs.

The victory cements third place for the Griffins, an impressive return with only the Honourable Artillery Company and London Welsh Amateurs ahead of them in the league.

In the first game of the season, Saracens beat Hackney and the Amateurs had thumped the Griffins at Bramley Road back in 2009. With those defeats still fresh in the mind, Hackney were on a mission for revenge.

The early exchanges were extremely physical, with Griffins’ No 8 John Tully putting in some trademark hits and flanker Ben Chamberlain putting the home side under pressure.

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When the visitors did get the ball in hand they tried to play their expansive, running game, but too often tried to force the play and it was Saracens who drew first blood with a penalty.

Moments later, Hackney replied as a clever kick from Alex O’Hara was chased down well and from a quick lineout the ball was fed to James Dawson to score to give his side the lead.

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Saracens soon responded with a try of their own, after hesitation from Hackney allowed the home side to turnover the ball and use an overlap to cross in the corner, bringing the score to 10-5.

The Griffins roared back to life as Chamberlain and Tully both made hard yards in Saracens’ 22, and the visitors were duly rewarded with a penalty which O’Hara converted, narrowing the gap to two points.

Chamberlain then came close to giving his side the lead but was tackled agonisingly short of the tryline. Going into half time, the game was extremely tense, with Hackney failing to find their rhythm.

The Griffins came out firing in the second half as waves of attack gained ground before O’Hara intelligently switched play to the blind side to find wing James Rowbottom, who finished well to put his side back in the lead at 13-10.

In an entertaining period of play, Saracens once again came back with two well-taken penalties to put the home side back in the lead, at 16-13.

Not to be outdone, Hackney received the ball from the subsequent restart and good work from Johnny Crockett, Alex Bobin and Andy Pilkington stretched the host’s defence.

Scrum half Charlie Davis spotted a gap in the Saracens defence, threw a dummy and broke clean through, for the Hackney captain to score under the posts.

As the home side tried to respond, resolute defending from the Griffins kept them at bay, despite hooker Dom Beno being sent to the sin bin.

Saracens then conceded another penalty, which O’Hara coolly slotted to give his side a narrow 21-16 lead.

From the restart, Tully charged at the Saracens defence. The No 8 found centre Dawson, who fed the ball to wing James Davis, who finished superbly, securing the bonus point for the visitors.

O’Hara’s brilliant touchline conversion brought the final score to 28-16, finally putting to bed the bad memories of 2009.

Hackney: Williams, Rowbottom, Aylward, Dawson, J Davis, O’Hara, C Davis (c); Pilkington, Beno, Bobin, Hart, Crockett, Walsh, Chamberlain, Tully. Replacements: Winchester, Hardwick.

? Hackney 3rd XV suffered a 29-37 defeat at home to Hampstead 5ths.

After a strong start from the hosts, the visitors actually took the lead, showing slick rugby skills and strong running gaining them a 22-0 lead with as many minutes played.

The hosts responded with tries from Will Roberts and a brace from Pete Walsham bringing Hackney back into the game at the break.

The second half started badly for the home side as the visitors extended their lead with more fluid rugby.

With the game effectively out of sight, Hackney rallied once more to score a brilliant team try, giving the team belief going into this weekend’s league cup final.

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