Old Haberdashers travelled to Ruislip for their last fixture of a remarkable decade. 10 years ago Habs were battling away in Herts/Middlesex 1 against the likes of Hendon, Wasps FC and Saracens Amateurs. Some 6476 points and (net) 3 promotions later, and with thanks to the monumental efforts of all captains and players since then, we no longer get off at Hendon - as we all now know, it was for London 1 we were headed.
If the decade has brought no end of change for the Magentamen, one thing that remains reliably consistent is a punctual Briff. With kit delivered at the opportune moment, Habs’ warm-up was efficient, if not long.
Habs started the contest well, eager to reconcile a narrow loss to Ruislip in the sides’ last meeting in February. The going was heavy, which suited the OH forwards, who were happy to trundle into Ruislip’s 22 with a series of tightly worked phases. Habs’ momentum was rewarded when the ball was released wide(ish) to Briffitt at 12 who bundled over for the first score. Ian McGhee added two more to what has become a massive points tally for the fly half in his years at the club.
Despite a shaky restart, Habs continued to pressurise and carried well into Ruislip’s half. Sam Fisher was rewarded with his first try for the club after Ruislip stopped Habs just short of the try line. Fisher collected from the base and with a leap belying his stature touched down over a sea of bodies.
Momentum and commanding field position continued in Habs’ favour as Jonny Whittle and Conor Michaels both made good use of the boot. Poor discipline from Ruislip then gifted Habs a penalty in the home side’s 22. OH opted for the scrum, which was collapsed illegally, giving Habs a second penalty and the chance for Briff to pick up his second try, taking a short ball from Whittle from a fortuitous tap-and-go.
Habs ended the half with another unanswered score - James Clarke steering a powerful Habs scrum between Ruislip’s posts and falling on the ball (befitting of his stature) to secure a fourth try and bonus point for Habs.
Ruislip gathered themselves and started strongly in the second half, frustrating Habs at the breakdown and making use of some well-placed touch kicking. A string of impressive offloads from the home side and noncommittal defending from Old Habs allowed Ruislip to threaten in a period of broken play - a scrambling Habs backline the only thing between Ruislip and their first score.
OH settled again and after some ping-ponging between the respective half-backs, sustained pressure upfront from Habs once again earned them commanding position in Ruislip’s 22. Rigorous goal line defending from Ruislip, emblematic of their spirited performance, wasn’t enough to keep Habs from a fifth score - OH were stopped short on the right-hand touchline after a series of pick-and-gos before working the ball through the backline to Briff, who picked up his hat-trick.
Ruislip earned a well-deserved consolation try before the final whistle but Habs will be content to go into 2020 with a bonus point win and very promising league standing.