Hinckley maintained their unbeaten home record with a two try to one victory against a limited Stourbridge side in what could only be described as a dour encounter on a dank, dark midwinter afternoon at Leicester Road. Hornets were not at their best but were too good for Stourbridge. In attack, Hornets lacked precision letting slip numerous chances to score but their defence was of the highest order, strangling the life out of Stour. The Stour pack perhaps had the of best the set-pieces and Hinckley’s familiar line-out problems returned, but Stour simply lacked the firepower to threaten a well drilled Hinckley defence.
The match could hardly be described as a spectacle but it was an effective demonstration of disciplined rugby. DOR George Chuter commented afterwards ‘I was pleased with the victory against a side who are better than their League position might suggest. Our defence was outstanding, particularly in the second half. It would have been nice to have scored a few more tries but I’d settle for 4 points any day of the week.’
With all the top three sides losing, the win puts Hinckley right back in the promotion race. Hornets sit in fifth place, 6 points behind second placed Chester but 3 of the top six have still to visit Leicester Road. Hornets may not be favourites but a second place finish and a promotion play-off is by no means out of the question.
The first quarter of the game was less than memorable and it was not until the 23rd minute that Hinckley registered the first score of the game when Callum Dacey was able to launch a counter attack following an aimless kick out of defence by Stour. The ball was carried deep into the Stour 22, recycled and Ryan Hough was eventually able to go over in the corner to give the home side the lead. Joe Wilson added the extras.
Hinckley went further ahead just after the half hour. From a Hinckley scrum on the Stour 10m line, the ball was worked into the Stour 22m and a clever chip over the oncoming defence by Wilson was collected by Aaron Phillip who fell over the line to score, despite the attention of several Stour defenders. This time though, Wilson couldn’t make the conversion.
At 12-0, Hornets looked to be comfortably in charge of the game but it was Stour who registered the next score. From a ruck on the Hinckley 10m the ball was fed to Stour Centre Joe Heatley who appeared surprised to receive the pass. A classic piece of juggling was followed by a searing break to take the ball to the Hinckley 22m and a switch pass inside gave centre partner Hal Riley an easy run to the line. It was perhaps the one blemish on Hinckley’s defensive performance and a disappointing end to half. Chris Scott kicked the conversion to make it 12-7 and the referee blew for half-time.
The second period saw was played exclusively in the Stour half. Wilson missed out on a penalty opportunity awarded for a Stour scrum infringement shortly after the restart but made amends after 66 minutes converting a penalty from the 22m after Stour full-back Mark Harrison was carded for a reckless tackle on Joe Glover who had collected his own chip through.
Stour were penalised for being in front of the kicker from the restart, giving Hinckley a scrum on halfway from which the ball was worked quickly down field and it was only an errant final pass judged to be forward by the referee that stopped Hornets extending their lead.
Hornets were again unlucky not to score with time up on the clock when Stour, chasing a bonus point try, were intercepted inside their own 22m only for the referee to blow too early for a Stour forward pass, denying Hinckley a certain try.
There was still time for a final attempt on the Stour line from a line-out in the corner. The drive was brought down illegally by Stour but, with time up, Hinckley opted to call it a day and simply booted the penalty out of play.
Next week, Hornets visit local rivals South Leicester who are currently struggling in the relegation zone. Past history would however suggest that League position has little relevance in what is always a fierce local derby.