With neither team threatened with either promotion or relegation there was little to play for in this match other than local pride. Local pride, however, can be a great motivator and it was clear from the kick-off that neither side was ready to roll over. Hornets were looking to assert their dominance after beating Lions earlier on the season; Lions wanted to avenge that defeat and give themselves a fighting chance of finishing above Hinckley in the League.
In the end, Lions came out on top and you couldn’t help the feeling that it was Lions who wanted it just that little bit more. The way that the Lions team and officials celebrated as the whistle went showed just how much it meant to them. Hornets meanwhile have now only managed to record 2 wins in their last 9 outings. With just 2 games to go, a season which started so promisingly is now doomed to end in frustration.
Hornets DOR, Scott Hamilton, couldn’t hide his disappointment after the game. ‘It was a close game from the outset and could have gone either way but we worked ourselves into a position to win the game at the end with Lions down to 14 but couldn’t finish the job. I was happy with the effort and once more our defence was sound but we left a few tries out there, something of a theme for us in recent weeks. I thought we played well but things aren’t quite going for us at the moment.’
The scoreline would suggest something of a dour struggle. Lions scored 2 tries to Hinckley’s one, with a Joe Wilson penalty making up the Hornets points tally but the game was surprisingly open on a good surface with conditions suiting a running game. Both sides came to play rugby and there were no shortage of chances for both sides.
Hinckley took an early lead when, with Lions under pressure but in possession on their own 22m line, Aaron Philip managed to charge down a poor defensive kick, collect the ball and run in under the posts for the first try. Joe Wilson’s conversion was a formality and Hinckley were 0-7 up.
Lions were soon level though. They secured a line-out deep in the Hinckley 22m when a kick to the corner fortuitously touched a Hinckley hand in flight and bounced neatly into touch. There was nothing fortuitous with the resultant catch and drive, however, and Lions lock Ed Sumpter carried the ball over the line for the score. Harry Key added the extras.
That concluded the first half scoring. Key missed a relatively simple penalty opportunity but Hinckley had the better chances and there was a feeling that perhaps the Hornets would rue those missed opportunities at the death.
That said, Hornets grabbed the lead again early in the second half when Lions were penalised for handling on the floor 30m out in front of their posts. Wilson gratefully accepted chance.
Lions though began to assert some authority. Former Hinckley favourite Devon Constant went close for the Lions before being forced out in the corner and it was no surprise when Lions retook the lead as the game entered the final quarter.
An attempted interception by Ben Marshall went to ground to give Lions a scrum on the Hinckley 22m. The Lions scrum started back-pedalling at a rate of knots but scrum half Tom Aviss picked up and set off on an arcing run towards the Hinckley line. An outrageous dummy saw a gap open in the Hinckley defence and Aviss made it to the line out wide. An excellent strike from Key secured the additional 2 points.
With 5 minutes remaining, Philip almost grabbed a second try when a superb break out of defence was only stopped by a desperate tap tackle 30m out. Jamie Skerritt took the ball on and it was only when Constant killed the ball 5m from his line in front of the posts, an offence that earned him a yellow card, that the attack fizzled out.
Time was running out and with Hornets needing a try to win the game, Hinckley opted to scrum the penalty. It seemed a sensible decision given that the Hinckley pack had utterly dominated their opposite numbers in the scrum all afternoon. The Lions pack unsurprisingly infringed again and Hornets again opted for the scrum. A penalty try seemed on the cards, but Gaz Turner inexplicably opted to pick up from the back and couldn’t find a way through.
Hornets did secure another scrum 5m out but this time the ball squirted out, Dacey picked up but the ball was lost and Lions breathed again. A couple of minutes later, Lions ‘dinked’ the ball into touch, the referee blew for time, and the home celebrations began.
Next week sees Hornets entertain Sheffield Tigers in the last home game of the season. ‘We’re expecting a good turnout and we’d like to put on a good show for the crowd,’ commented Hamilton. With Tigers now safe after flirting with relegation for much of the season, and the weather forecast looking promising, it could be a spectacular send off to what for Hornets has proved a disappointing season.
Updated 19:47 - 7 Apr 2019 by Nick Robinson