Hinckley opened their New Year campaign with a comprehensive five try bonus point victory in front of a vocal Wharfedale crowd at ‘The Avenue’ and in so doing ended a miserable run of form away from home and earned their first points on the road since September.
Ollie Povoas was again outstanding for Hornets and Callum Dacey too showed a welcome return to form with some excellent running and a brace to tries but it was the all round improvement of the side as whole which was perhaps the most pleasing aspect of a hard fought match.
Wharfedale perhaps had the better of the first quarter as Hinckley showed all the signs of a side lacking in confidence. But as the match progressed, so did Hinckley, and a stuttering, mistake ridden first 15 minutes became a commanding second half performance when Hinckley first ripped the heart out of Dale with 2 tries in quick succession, and then restricted a desperate Dale side to a single score in the last 15 minutes when 3 yellow cards saw the Hornets playing with 14 men for most of the period and at one point finding themselves with only 13 on the field.
Director of Rugby, George Chuter was delighted with the performance. ‘It was good to win away from home again. We scored some cracking trys, and really had to dig deep when we went down to 13 men but we came through against tough opposition – a great way to start the new year.’
It didn’t start well for Hornets though. A poor kick out of defence by Joe Glover after only 2 minutes gave the Dale backs a chance to run the ball back and it was only some over-exuberance from the Dale pack to concede a penalty 10m out which allowed Hinckley to escape.
Five minutes later though Hornets were behind. A lineout charge from Povoas saw Hornets making good progress out of defence but when the ball was fed to Tom Wheatcroft his relieving kick was charged down by full-back Harry Bullough who then won the footrace to the loose ball and touched down under the posts. The conversion by Jack Blakeney-Edwards was a formality and Hornets were 7-0 down.
There were signs though that Hinckley were beginning to settle, aided it has to be said by some inept tactical kicking from Dale.
On 18 minutes, Joe Wilson fielded yet another poor kick in his own half, fed to Dacey who took it to the 22m line before handing on to Josh Smith. Smith went for the corner but was tackled illegally as he went to touch down and the referee went under the posts for a penalty try to level the scores.
Dale retook the lead shortly afterwards with a Blakeney–Edwards penalty for a high tackle in front of the Hinckley posts but Hornets snatched the lead on the half-hour when another poor kick out from Dale was again fielded by Wilson who this time fed Jamie Skerritt to scamper 40m to score unchallenged. Wilson added the extras.
Hornets extended the lead as half-time approached when Povoas picked up at the back of a scrum 10m out and put Dacey in at the corner from short-range.
Dale were not finished though and pulled a try back just before the break when, from a series of pick and drives following an attacking line-out in the Hinckley 22m, the Dale pack eventually managed to rumble over. The conversion was missed but a half-time score of 15-19 was perhaps a fair reflection of the game to that point.
Hornets, though, began to assert themselves on the return and it was no surprise when they extended their lead 14 minutes in when a Hinckley scrum on the Dale 5m line following a knock-on presented Joe Glover an opportunity to score a trademark sniping try. The score not only extended the Hinckley lead but secured Hinckley’s first point away from home since September. Wilson made it 15-26.
It seemed almost by way of celebration when, 3 minutes later, Dacey seized on a loose Dale pass on halfway to sprint for the line and touch down under the posts despite the attention of 2 would-be Dale tacklers.
At 15-33 with 20 minutes to go and Hinckley in the ascendant, the match seemed over as a contest. Two yellow cards in quick succession though, first for Ryan Hough and then for James Moreton, put the Hornets under some pressure.
The Hinckley defence, however, held firm, sometimes majestically sometimes with a hint of desperation, but hold it did until a third yellow for Mitch Lamb just as Hinckley returned to full strength, this time for not rolling away in the tackle as Dale threatened the line, gave Dale the opportunity to rumble over from a 5m lineout to take the score to 20-33.
But it was too little too late. Dacey almost snatched a hat-trick in time added on when a loose ball on halfway gave him the opportunity to run for the line but he was bundled into touch just short and Ben Pointon booted the ball into the stand a couple of minutes later to seal the victory and take Hornets back up to third place in the division.
Hornets are on the road again next week with a visit to league leaders Hull Ionians. Ionians, who were well beaten by Hinckley earlier in the season, have wobbled a little in the last few weeks and there is a possibility that a resurgent Hinckley, bolstered hopefully by the return of captain Alex Salt, may spring a surprise and put themselves back in the promotion hunt.
Updated 16:14 - 8 Jan 2019 by Nick Robinson