Hinckley’s 2019-20 campaign got off to a disappointing start at Leicester Road on Saturday when the Hornets were soundly beaten by a Caldy side that thoroughly deserved their victory. Caldy outscored the home side by four tries to one and simply strangled the life out of the men in black and gold, particularly in the second half when Hornets had much the greater share of possession but simply could not find a way through Caldy’s defence. In truth, until Alex Tansley grabbed a late consolation try in the dying minutes, Hornets had not looked likely to cross the Caldy line.
There wasn’t anything particularly exciting about the way that Caldy went about their task but they took their chances when offered and simply made fewer mistakes. Hornets on the other hand were profligate. Their ball retention was poor, their positional kicking was not great, and their line-out was a horror show. There were some positives for DOR Scott Hamilton to take a away – the pack had the edge on their opponents in the tight – but it was not the start that he was looking for.
Hamilton commented after the game, ‘Caldy showed their experience as a National 1 side today. Man for man, I didn’t feel that they were any better than us but they were very well organised and they did the basics well. I was happy with the effort that I saw from the lads but you can’t make as many mistakes as we did today and hope to beat a side like Caldy. I expect them to be right in the mix for promotion at the end of the season.’
Paradoxically, Hornets looked the livelier side in the first few minutes but found themselves 7-0 down after only four minutes when Caldy centre Gavin Roberts broke through a fragile Hornets defence on halfway and ran to the line virtually unopposed. Roberts then converted his own try.
Joe Wilson pulled three points back shortly afterwards when the Caldy pack was penalised for bringing the scrum down in front of their own posts, but Caldy then extended their lead with a second try on 17 minutes. Hornets lost possession on halfway, Caldy recovered the ball and fed wing-man Nick Royle who ran to the line unopposed in what appeared to be a action replay of the earlier score. This time, though Roberts couldn’t make the conversion.
Joe Glover, taking over the kicking responsibilities from Joe Wilson who had gone off with a hamstring injury, landed a second Hinckley penalty six minutes later but Hornets then butchered a couple of scoring opportunities from attacking line-outs inside the Caldy 22m.
What effectively proved to be the killer blow came shortly afterwards when, with Hornets pressing on the Caldy 22m, a loose pass was picked off by Royle who ran the distance to touch down by the posts. The conversion took the score to 6-19 and Roberts added a penalty just before the break when Hinckley were penalised for holding on in front of their posts.
At 7-22, Hinckley had, if not a mountain, then a pretty stiff incline to climb if they were to get themselves back into the game in the second period. It proved beyond them despite the fact that Hornets dominated possession for much of the half.
Glover kicked a penalty dead from halfway in the first few minutes and then, when he redeemed himself shortly afterwards to set up a penalty line-out in the Caldy 22m, the line-out ball was lost.
Matters did not improve any when tight-head Dave Peck was yellow carded for a bout of handbags after 55 minutes.
As the game entered the final quarter, Glover set up yet another attacking lineout in the Caldy 22m after a high tackle by centre Mike Barlow, an offence which earned him 10 minutes in the bin, but the Hinckley pack once more made a hash of the line-out, allowing Caldy to clear their lines.
With less than ten minutes left on the clock, a Caldy penalty on halfway, when Hinckley were pulled up for handling in the ruck, allowed Roberts to set up a rare visit to the Hinckley 22m for the Wirral men. Caldy claimed the line-out ball but Hornets defended well and eventually bundled player and ball into touch for the line-out.
Hornets though again lost the line-out ball which enabled Caldy to resume the attack. What seemed like an endless series of pick and drives was halted only when Hinckley were deemed to have strayed offside. Scrum half Cameron Davies took the Hinckley defence by surprise with a quick tap and darted over for the try. Roberts converted to make it 6-29.
There was still time though for new boy Alex Tansley to grab a consolation try and give a little more respectability to the score line. After what was arguably Hinckley’s best passage of play in the game, Tansley crashed through the Caldy defence just inside the Caldy half and ran to the line in what was an excellent individual effort. Glover converted to pull the score back to 13-29 but time had run out and the referee blew to end the game shortly afterwards.
Next week, Hinckley visit Loughborough Students who, like Caldy, were relegated from National 1 last season and Hamilton will be anxious for the win to get the new campaign back on track. Students also lost their opening game and they too will not relish losing two from two. A feisty encounter is in prospect.