Hinckley suffered their heaviest defeat of the season at Lightfoot Green on Saturday, conceding seven tries against just three of their own. The scoreline would suggest that the Leicester Road men were outclassed by a Hoppers team who have now won six games on the trot and continue to climb the table after a disappointing start to the season. Hinckley had thrashed Hoppers 49-5 at Leicester Road earlier in the season and there was a distinct sense of satisfaction amongst the home support at having taken retribution.
The reality is, however, that there was little to choose between the sides for much of the game. Hoppers undoubtedly deserved the win but it was certainly a much better Hinckley performance than many in recent memory. Both sides were looking to play fast open rugby and any neutrals among the crowd would have thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle.
That was reflected in the comments from DOR George Chuter after the game. ‘Despite the scoreline, we played some good rugby out there today. Hoppers though were much more clinical and capitalised on our mistakes. Five of their tries came directly from our errors. The effort from the lads was good, and we did score three good tries ourselves, but the inaccuracies that have plagued us all season were again evident and cost us the match.’
It was also true to say that Hornets did not get the rub of the green on the day. Two of the Hoppers tries should not have stood.
The first came just after the half hour. Hoppers had just retaken the lead with a try from No. 8 Matt Lamprey who eventually forced his way over the line after a quick tap penalty in the Hinckley 22m. Hinckley had recovered the ball from the kick-off and were attacking out wide on the halfway line. The ball appeared to be knocked on by a Hoppers hand and the loose ball was picked up by Hoppers wing-man Tyler Spence who ran in from 60m unopposed. Tom Davidson missed the conversion but the damage had been done and in a couple of minutes Hornets had seen a 7-3 lead turn into a 15-7 deficit.
The second was the final score of the afternoon when in fairness the match was over as a contest. A penalty against Hinckley had been kicked to within 5 metres by Davidson and from the line-out a series of pick and drives eventually saw prop Dan Madden force his way over but the ball was dropped as he attempted the grounding. The referee seemed oblivious and Davidson converted to take the score to 48-19 in favour of the home side.
It had though been Hornets who had registered the first try of the afternoon. Hinckley had gone behind to an early Davidson penalty but after 23 minutes a delightful cross-field kick from Tom Wheatcroft had found Scott Hamilton who fed Joe Wilson for the touchdown. Wilson converted his own try.
As the half was coming to a close, a second Hornets try that could have seen Hornets pull back to within a point seemed likely when Hinckley earned themselves a line-out 5m from the Hoppers line. But the ball was overthrown. Lamprey seized the loose ball at the rear of the line, carried to halfway and then fed Spence who ran in to claim his second score of the afternoon.
That made the half-time score 20-7 but it could so easily have been 15-14.
The killer blow came on 45 minutes. A promising Hinckley attack ended when a telegraphed pass from Rory Vowles was picked off by Hoppers centre Alex Hurst who gratefully ran in under the posts for the score which Davidson converted.
From the kick-off, with Hornets still reeling, Hoppers recovered the ball and a length of the field effort from winger Matt Crowe resulted in the bonus point try for Hoppers. Davidson again converted and at 34-7, Hinckley were dead and buried barring an England-like collapse by Hoppers.
It didn’t come. Indeed, Hornets were fortunate not to go further behind when a loose ball on halfway was hacked on by Hoppers full-back Scott Jordan but he failed to control the ball and it rolled dead. A minute later, a second chance was missed by Hoppers when the ball went to ground with the line open.
By now it was frenetic stuff with Hinckley chasing the bonus point and Hoppers thoroughly enjoying themselves in the wide open spaces. Hinckley scored next after Hurst had been carded for killing the ball in front of the Hoppers post. A tapped penalty was run and Skerritt got on the end of a delicate chip through the Hoppers defensive line.
Spence bagged his hat-trick a few minutes later with a well taken try from a Hoppers line-out just inside Hinckley territory. At the other end, Ollie Povoas butchered a chance when it seemed easier to score than not, but Tyler Moseley touched down another crossfield kick from Wheatcroft to take the score to 41-19.
Hornets couldn’t quite manage the bonus point try though and it only remained for Madden to claim the final dubious score.
Hornets are back at Leicester Road entertaining relegation threatened Macclesfield who gave themselves an outside chance of survival with a vital win against fellow strugglers Peterborough Lions. A Hornets win could see Macc go down so expect a real scrap.
Updated 21:28 - 24 Mar 2019 by Nick Robinson