On a bitterly cold and blustery afternoon at Welford Road, South Leicester took advantage of Hinckley’s abysmal away form to register a much needed victory over their local rivals and give themselves a chance of avoiding the drop. At the other end of the table, the defeat may well represent a fatal blow to Hinckley’s promotion ambitions this season.
The Hornets have now lost 7 out of 8 away games played since September last year and now lie in 6th place in the table 10 points adrift of second placed Chester who visit Leicester Road next week. Hinckley are still unbeaten at home but until they learn to win away from home, Hornets will not be able to mount a realistic promotion challenge.
South took their opportunity well visibly growing in confidence as the afternoon progressed and looking the hungrier of the two sides, but paradoxically the game was still Hinckley’s as the match went into time added on in the second half. Having just snatched the lead against the run of play, Hornets simply had to defend the final few minutes to take the spoils.
Frankly, South did not look capable of breaking through but a silly penalty unnecessarily conceded on the 22m line gave South, whose scrum had utterly destroyed the Hinckley eight in the last 30 minutes of the match, the opportunity to drive to the line. The result was four scrum penalties against the Hornets and a yellow card for replacement prop Craig Bresland.
With the scrums going uncontested, South opted to kick to the 5m line and forced their way over from the line-out with a well executed catch and drive. South fly-half Robert Povey rubbed salt in Hinckley wounds by adding the extras from wide out. It summed up Hinckley’s afternoon.
In the early stages, however, Hornets looked much the stronger of the two sides, despite conceding what has become the customary early try after 6 minutes when South took the ball in their own 22m, broke through a ragged Hinckley line to halfway and chipped ahead into space. South wing-man James Neal collected a fortunate bounce to and run in for easy touch down.
Povey missed the extras and from the kick-off, Hinckley bounced back. A penalty against South in their own 22m for not rolling away as Hornets were making ground gave Joe Wilson the chance to set up the line-out 15m from the South Line. Henry Povoas claimed the line-out and the pack rolled over to level the scores. Wilson’s conversion put Hinckley in front.
Hornets went in again from the kick-off when Wilson broke out of the Hinckley 22m and fed Callum Dacey who shrugged off several tackles to dance over in the corner. Wilson couldn’t make the extras but with only 12 minutes on the clock, Hinckley were 12-5 in front and looking likely to be comfortable winners.
South did pull back three points as the match entered the second quarter when Hornets were penalised for driving up in the scrum on their own 22m, but Wilson responded in kind when South were penalised 10m from their line after Dacey had almost wriggled to the line.
Povey notched another penalty before half-time but Hornets were 11-15 ahead at the break and, with the wind behind them in the second half, looked odds-on to take five points. It was not to happen.
An injury to Hornets tight-head Dave Peck on the cusp of half-time was to prove crucial. With Peck absent, the Hinckley scrum found themselves under severe pressure throughout the second period which meant that South were able deny Hornets the possession they needed.
Hornets did extend their lead within a couple of minutes when Wilson converted a penalty from 15m but South were soon on level terms. A South lineout on halfway after Hornets had been punished for a high tackle was claimed by the home side and worked along the line to South winger who sprinted to the line with the Hinckley defence falling off the tackle. Povey converted.
As the game entered the final quarter, South struck again when centre Javiah Pohe, who was exceptional throughout, first juggled a pass 30m out then recovered to burst into the Hinckley 22. He was tackled 10m short but the ball was worked right then back again for Pohe to crash over and finish the move…. 23-18 with 15 to go.
Hornets did force their way back into the game when a penalty for not rolling away gave Wilson the chance to drill the ball into the corner and an excellent catch and drive saw Povoas go over for the score. Wilson’s conversion gave Hinckley the lead and the money was back on Hinckley until that fateful penalty handed the game back to a deserving South.
DOR George Chuter summed up the game well after the match. ‘I was pleased with the start we made and we score 2 cracking tries but in the final hour, we were poor. We gave away the ball too easily and slipped off too many tackles. In the end, South deserved the win.’