Some might assume from the score that this was a run of the mill bonus point win for Hinckley, securing at the same time local bragging rights against a Lions side that has struggled for form this season.
What the score hides, however, is a near suicidal start for the Hornets which saw them three tries and 19 points down after only 11 minutes and left the local support fearing that they had brought their recent poor form away from Leicester Road back with them from what was reportedly one of their poorest displays for some time at struggling Macclesfield last week.
To the Hornets credit, after that initial flurry of scoring, Lions failed to register another point and in what proved a scrappy, attritional affair littered with errors on both sides, Hinckley managed to haul themselves back from the brink to register the victory with a bonus point try in the last 5 minutes of the game.
A relieved George Chuter commented after the game, ‘The lads fought back well after Lions got away to such a brilliant start but I do feel they got caught up in the local derby mentality early on and forgot to play rugby. We made a few adjustments at half-time and played much better in the second half. It takes a lot of heart to come back from 19 points down’.
Lions registered their first try after just 5 minutes when, after Hinckley conceded a penalty on their own 22m, replacement scrum half Alex Smit took a quick tap and went over by the posts almost unchallenged. Harry Key converted to put Lions 7-0 up.
Three minutes later, Lions lock Ed Sumpter intercepted a loose pass from Tom Wheatcroft on halfway and showed a surprising turn of speed to outpace the cover defence and touch down under the posts. Key made it 0-14.
Play had hardly resumed when ex-Hinckley winger Devon Constant was given too much space on the outside 30m from the line and went over in the corner after a typical bullocking run which left several would be Hinckley tacklers in his wake. Key couldn’t make the extras but the crowd were left stunned at the 0-19 scoreline.
The Hinckley fightback fittingly started from a scrum, the one area of the game where Hornets proved utterly dominant throughout the afternoon. A penalty award saw Joe Wilson kick to 5m for the line-out. Turner took the throw but Lions stopped the drive illegally and Hornets were given another chance. This time, the ball found it’s way out to the backs and a clever interchange of passes saw Joe Glover go under the posts. Wilson made it 7-19.
Lions had several opportunities to extend their lead, including a relatively simple penalty 30m out in front of the posts, but it was Hornets who registered the next and perhaps game changing, score on the cusp of half-time when Joe Glover picked up at the back of a scrum 5m out and went blind to touch down for his second score unopposed in the corner. Wilson couldn’t make the extras but Hornets had pulled themselves back to 12-19 at the break.
After the break, Hornets levelled the score inside the first 10 minutes. A scrum penalty on halfway allowed Wilson to kick to within 10m. The catch and drive failed to make the line but the resultant series of 5m scrum penalties eventually led to the referee losing patience with the Lions scrum. A penalty try was awarded and Lions tight-head Curtis Weaver was binned.
The rest of the half was distinctly forgettable. The heavens had opened as the second half began and effectively destroyed the game as a spectacle with both sides struggling to hold onto a slippery ball.
The decisive score did not come until the 77th minute. Hinckley secured a scrum on Lions 5m line after the forwards had been held up over the line and veteran Scott Hamilton lined up at first receiver in what looked like a planned move. Sure enough quick ball from Glover found Hamilton who picked a superb line to power over under the posts and give Wilson an easy kick for the extras.
Lions threw caution to the wind in an attempt to draw level but time had run out and they had to settle for a losing bonus point.
And so to Sheffield Tigers next week when Hornets will attempt to register their first away win since September. The line-out will need to improve and it was notable against Lions that Hornets struggled to win the ball from the kick-off but there is no reason why Hinckley should not break the travelling hoodoo that seems to be gripping the team as a whole. As George Chuter commented, ‘It’s all in their minds.’
Updated 17:15 - 3 Jun 2019 by John Tilley