And so, the glorious Hammers arrived in unfamiliar territory. Is this a hockey club? Asked a bemused (and nameless) Hammers 2nd rower.
And indeed it was, but also a rugby club, and football, golf, netball, shooting, sailing, squash, and tennis club as well. A swiss army knife of a place.
Sharing a changing room with another team, the mood was confused. Anticipation watered down by the bucketing rain- the first of the 19/20 season.
After the warmup, with the wise and direct words of coach Mark ‘Jacko’ Jackson ringing in their ears, the boys in red, white, and blue set about the task of a cup run.
Immediately, they came under a barrage of fire from a well drilled, aggressive OC’s pack. Taking a solid few minutes of pressure, eventually the hammers cracked- a penalty given away in front of the sticks. 3-0 to OC’s.
The kick-off went deep, and immediately the privately educated chaps of deepest Surrey were on the offensive again. In all, hammers spent circa 15 minutes under the cosh to begin the game. That the only try conceded amidst all this time defending came out on OC’s left wing was a blessing. Conversion missed, 8-0 to OC’s.
20 minutes in, Hammersmith finally got their hands on the ball. Powerful runs from the likes of Steve ‘first name’ John up the middle, complemented with the whirling feet and pace of SJ ‘blessed’ Mahon out wide, got the SW6 lads into some strong attacking positions. Inaccurate lineout work and some tricky handling conditions delayed the build-up play, but finally Zac ‘not Phul’ Halliday connected with Jordan ‘nameless’ Abbot, and the hammers got a driving maul working over to the right hand side of OC’s tryline.
Mitchell ‘Mitchell’ Mitchell (Lewis) stepped up and nervelessly slotted the conversion, 8-7 the score.
“Come on OC’s” screamed a local fan, for the thousandth, and not the last, time of the day, but the rest of the half remained scoreless- not through lack of application, but as a result of the deteriorating conditions.
The second half got underway, and honestly not much happened for the first 15 minutes. It rained, hammers dropped the ball. It rained some more, OC’s dropped the ball. The ref blew the whistle, both teams blew chances, etc.
Suddenly, Hammers took the lead. Pragmatic phase play in OC’s half led to a penalty that Joe ‘middlesexy’ Carolan slotted. Nervelessly. as all successful kicks are (without a thesaurus at least). 8-10, the visitors in front for the first time.
This was followed in reasonably quick succession by another penalty, also belted through by Joe ‘JC’ Carolan. 8-13, and the Fulham men started to believe.
Both teams continued to go hammer and tongs at each other. Jack ‘pooper’ Hooper make good yards, Cillian ‘Friday drinks’ Waldron put in some shuddering hits, Sam ‘cambridge’ White made strong runs and threw a couple of cute offloads- Alex ‘2nd best Alex’ Hart the beneficiary making excellent yardage. But, with inaccuracy still present, and the OC’s gaining the upper hand in the scrum, the game slowly progressed.
Suddenly, the scores levelled. Alex ‘Jackos best mate’ Gee gave away a tenuous penalty (in the authors opinion), OC’s kicked, and Ed ‘great education’ James mate an absolute hash of fielding it. From the resulting scrum, OC’s used their only area of superiority to get over the line. The kick was missed, 13 all.
The game went to extra time. Both teams dug in, emptied the tank, and scrapped in the muddy conditions.
But no one could do much of anything, and after 100 minutes of back and forth rugby the scores remained tied.
A check with the rules official, OC’s win on countback, 2 tries scored to 1. A heart-breaking loss for Hammersmith, but always gracious in defeat, genuine congratulations for the victors.
Hammers MOTM and debutant Zac ‘pints’ Halliday absolutely smashed the pint race, so there’s a victory in there somewhere.