photo5A spare Saturday afternoon and I find myself in a place I spend a lot of time at during the Summer; the home of London Skolars and I now know Haringey Rhinos! This a club nestled in the middle of White Hart Lane an area that conjures up Wendyball visions rather than rugby union; a tough area in the midst of significant pressures and difficulties. Yet this club celebrates it’s 50th anniversary in 2014, an impressive history.

I had to find my way to the pitch which is set back from the Skolars ‘stadium’. Both teams were clearly serious about the game as they were practising drills virtually up to kick off.  Inspirational group hugs took place for both sides with lots of ‘man shouts’ and sweary stuff! A stark reminder that I was at a wholly different venue was the vision of the poor referee picking up dog poo before the game could start! (Eeeeeew).

photo4Both teams were going into their second game of the season on the back of a loss in week one, so a win was important for both sides. Seeing both sides for the first time I’d say Rhinos had size as an advantage but Hackney looked the fitter team. This difference in physique proved to be a factor as the game went on.

Hackney kicked off then there was a set of penalties with what was to be a fairly high number starting with one a piece, the first giving Haringey a chance to clear their lines. The first scrum proved to be a bit of a struggle; it had to be set 3 times it’s clearly going to be hard to get used to the new laws at all levels. One comment by one of the hookers was that you couldn’t hear the ref from within the scrum. It was interesting to watch a scrum from a spot where I could hear as well as see what was occurring.  I find myself a little confused at this point, I thought Haringey won the scrum against the head, but my notes say Hackney! Oops! The net result was in any case the first of a brace of tries for Guy Watmore Centre for Hackney, today was a good kicking day for number 10 and captain Alex O’Hara as one of his colleagues kindly shared one from 8 last week needed improvement. The kick off went straight into touch resulting in a scrum on the halfway line, Haringey definitely won this one against the Head, this was a part of the game dominated by Rhinos, whoever was putting in the ball. A penalty saw Haringey kick for touch, but the ball got turned over in play  and a great pass by Watmore followed by a run down the line by Hackney Full Back James Rowbottom saw a decent try scored, the conversion took the score to Rhinos 0 Hackney 14.

photo3Rowbottom and Watmore combined for the next score with the favour being returned as the Full Back made a great break putting Watmore in to score. The tries were on the whole kind to the kicker and O’Hara kicked his 3rd conversion. The momentum was with Hackney and after a great pass by captain Alex O’Hara and a great running line by Alex Berwick yet more points for the Griffins. O’Hara was in the mood for kicking and converted to take the score to Rhinos 0 Hackney 28. In spite of domination in the scrum and at set pieces Haringey just couldn’t keep hold of the ball; a brilliant side step by Full Back Rowbottom saw a further 7 points with yet another successful conversion.

The ref had a decent game but was a good shield for Hackney Vice Captain Ben Chamberlain who ran in for Hackney’s sixth try. The score moved to Rhinos 3 Haringey 42 a penalty had been scored before the try by Tom Armer for Haringey. Matt Peterson also ran in a fine try for Haringey after they won a scrum against the head yet again; Armer ‘snatched’ at the kick and missed. The half time whistle saw the score stand at Rhinos 8 Hackney 42.

photo2Haringey turned up in the second half and saw a lot more of the ball in the early part of the half, being successful in gaining a penalty, a reasonably simple kick being missed by Armer.  Rhinos carried on dominating the scrum, with one being awarded on the half way line after Hackney’s kick to touch went over the dead ball line, thanks to much yelling by Mick Finnegan the Haringey coach to leave the ball. In spite of more possession Hackney were next to score with Guy Watmore going in to claim his hat trick! With the conversion the score stood at Rhinos 8 Hackney 49. The next try was all about two very mobile forwards as the 2 very tall blokes stormed down the pitch to send Ben Chamberlain in for his 2nd.  This was followed by a very different forwards try for Haringey as Rob Handley drove the ball over the line, this time Armer was successful with his kick taking the score to Rhinos 15 Hackney 56.

Hackney won a scrum close to the Haringey line giving Ben Chamberlain the opportunity to become the 2nd Hackney player to score a hat trick, for some reason known only to him he ran straight into the post! Never seen that before and probably never will again! With 9 successful conversions to his name Alex O’Hara felt the need to get his name on the list of try scorers and with a successful kick took his personal tally to 35! So, a final score of Haringey 15 Hackney 70; a good day at the office for the visitors, but positives to take from the game for Haringey. The close saw one of the biggest lumps I’ve ever seen on a man’s head. It was, hmmm, to say the least, horrible! I didn’t feel the need to take a photo to share!

photo1Mick Finnegan, Haringey coach had a few words to say; ‘disappointing after being so strong in the set piece, we were let down by the lack of consistency during the game; leaving few options for attacking. But, this is a new squad who can take many positives from the game’

Gareth Hatherley-Hurford, Hackney coach praised the leadership of his captain Alex O’Hara and Vice Captain Ben Chamberlain, saying strong leaders make others want to perform and do their best.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon crowned by a decent cup of tea made for me by the 2nd team captain. I like grassroots rugby, gives you the chance to see the game from a different viewpoint. Back to Saracens in the morning, the same scoreline with the home side victorious would be perfect!