In weather more suited to cricket than rugby, Hinckley bounced back from the disappointment of a first home defeat last week to record a comprehensive 35-7 victory at Leicester Road against title contenders Chester. Callum Dacey grabbed four tries (and would have had a fifth but for a generous attempt to put Dylan Weddle over for a try on his 50th appearance for the Club), wing partner Josh Smith added one of his own and Joe Wilson bagged a full house of conversions. Chester’s only response was a single converted try from No. 8 Shay Owen.
Chester were never really in the game as Hinckley took revenge for being ‘nilled’ for the first time since 2014 in the reverse fixture at Hare Lane. That game saw Hinckley lose their unbeaten start to the season and was the beginning of Hinckley’s woeful run away from home.
It was also the game when Hornets lost captain Alex Salt to injury and it was no coincidence that Hinckley’s return to form on Saturday was also Salt’s first full game for the Club since. The team has badly missed his inspirational leadership.
In contrast to his mood last week, DOR George Chuter was buoyant after the game. ‘Apart from the second quarter when we went to sleep for a while, that was the best we have played all year. We made a great start and our defence was top drawer throughout. You’ve got to give credit to Callum Dacey for four excellent tries but there were some good performances all over the park. We were badly beaten at Chester so it was nice to put the record straight.’
Hornets have made a habit recently of starting badly. On Saturday, they could not have had a better start. With less than 60 seconds on the clock, Callum Rowe, starting at 10 in the absence of Tom Wheatcroft, collected a chip over the top, fed the ball right along the line and Dacey ran in from halfway for his first.
It was Dacey again just 3 minutes later. Salt collected the ball from the kick-off and Hornets worked the ball upfield for Dacey to eventually wriggle through the Chester defence. With Wilson again adding the extras, Hornets were 14-0 up before the latecomers had settled in the stand.
The rest of the half was tame by comparison. Chester twice knocked on in the Hinckley 22m after setting up attacking line-outs allowing Hornets to clear the danger, and Hinckley too failed to convert two similar opportunities.
Hornets almost grabbed a third try on the half hour when an inept kick out of defence by Chester was collected by Wilson on halfway who released Dacey. Dacey looked certain to score until the referee called play back for a forward pass.
Half-time came with no change to the 14-0 scoreline but 10 minutes into the second period Dacey again proved what a deadly finisher he is when offloads first from debutant Rory Vowles and then prop Oscar Harper saw him in space on halfway. It seemed almost a formality when he danced his way to the line with the Chester defence grasping at shadows. Wilson again added the extras.
Chester this time responded with a well taken try of their own. A high tackle by Hinckley 10m from their line saw Chester opt to scrum. The ball was worked left and a massive overlap was wasted when the ball was dropped. Hinckley though had been caught offside and Chester opted to scrum again. This time, No. 8 Owen decided to back himself, picking up from the back of the scrum to drive over for the score. James Robins added the conversion and there was a hint that Chester might just haul themselves back into the game.
It didn’t happen. Chester never looked likely to score again as the Hinckley defence simply choked the life out of them.
Hornets should have scored again on 66 minutes when a series of scrum penalties against Chester in their 22m earned Chester flanker Guy Ford a yellow card. Eventually saw the ball was released, worked first left, then right to open up the Chester defence but then was dropped over the line.
The fourth and bonus point try did come though in the closing minutes. Inevitably, it was Dacey who scored when, with Chester chasing a losing bonus point, an interception on halfway had found it’s way to the wingman in space.
Hornets hadn’t quite done though. A Chester high tackle just inside their half gave Wilson the chance to set up an attacking line-out 10m from the Chester line. The ball was secured, fed along the line and that man Dacey chipped through for Josh Smith to dot down over the line. It proved to be the last play of the game. Wilson converted and the referee blew to end proceedings.
Next week, Hinckley are back on the road this time at Sedgley Park who sit just one point behind Hinckley in the table. The hope is that Hornets can carry on where they left off on Saturday.
Updated 18:56 - 24 Feb 2019 by Nick Robinson