Hornets entertained Preston Grasshoppers at Leicester Road this weekend and emphasised their recent improvement with what was a far more comprehensive victory that the scoreline suggests, writes Nick Robinson. Hoppers were no slouches, and their back three in particular looked dangerous in possession, but Hornets were the better side throughout. The Povoas brothers and Ollie Ashworth were again outstanding in the back row and will present DOR Scott Hamilton with a major selection headache when Captain Alex Salt and Alex Tansley both return from injury.
Hornets were not, however, able to reflect their superiority on the scoreboard. Some pedantic refereeing that severely disrupted the flow of the game did not help, but Hornets were still lacking the killer instinct that would allow them to put sides away and, indeed, they kept Hoppers in the game by twice gifting soft tries.
Both sides scored three tries but Joe Wilson’s kicking proved the difference on the scoreboard. He landed all three conversion attempts plus two penalties; in contrast, Hoppers Ben Dorrington landed just one attempt at goal.
The win allowed Hornets to move into ninth place in the division, eight points clear of the drop zone and next weeks clash with Wharfedale, sitting 2 points behind Hornets in tenth place, will give Hamilton’s men a chance to further improve their league position.
It may seem churlish to say so given recent form, but one could not shake the feeling that this was a bonus point lost rather than four points won. DOR Scott Hamilton’s comments after the game hinted at the same. ‘It was a good performance following on from last week’s game but we were disappointed not to get the bonus point. I felt our game management wasn’t always great, particularly in the second half when we spent too much time in our own half, but I didn’t feel we were going to lose at any point in the game. It was a dominant performance, even if the scoreboard didn’t reflect that and I’m pleased with how far we seem to have come in the last three weeks. I don’t see any reason why we should not be at the right end of the table by Christmas.’
In contrast to earlier performances at home, Hornets started well. A penalty secured on the Hoppers 22m was kicked to the corner by Wilson and although the initial catch and drive from the line-out went down, Hornets were able to work their way to the line with a series of pick and drives and Ben Marshall eventually forced his way over. Wilson’s conversion made it 7-0 after five minutes.
A few minutes later, the home crowd were celebrating what they thought was a second try when Rory Vowles collected and touched down a lovely kick through from Wheatcroft but Vowles was adjudged to have been in front of the kicker and play was called back.
Hornets had to wait until the half hour mark before they could add to the score. A penalty to Hinckley in their own half was drilled deep into the Hoppers 22m by Wilson. The catch was taken in the line-out but, as with the earlier effort, the drive was thwarted. Again though, Hornets worked through the phases and this time Sam Greening came up with the score.
At 14-0, Hornets looked comfortable but almost from the kick-off, a lapse in concentration allowed Hoppers back in. The initial drop-out was taken by Hinckley and cleared to the Hoppers 10m line but from the line-out, Hoppers were able to feed the ball along the line and an excellent break from full-back Jordan Dorrington coming into the line took him to the Hornets 22m. With Hornets defence in disarray, a neat chip ahead was collected and touched down for the score.
Half-time therefore saw Hornets go in 14-5 ahead but with Hoppers still in with a shout.
Hoppers were further buoyed with another try after 48 minutes. A poor pass on the Hornets 22m was snaffled by Hoppers and fed along the line. Another neat break by Dorrington opened the Hinckley defence and centre Alex Hurst took advantage to score.
Hornets though did respond almost immediately, again through the forwards. Another penalty had allowed Wilson to drill the ball to within 10m and a classic catch and drive from the line-out saw Ollie Povoas grab the score.
Wilson converted again and then slotted a penalty on the hour for Hornets to pull away at 24-10.
But again, Hornets gave Hoppers hope when, with less than 10 minutes left on the clock, the ball was lost in contact on the Hinckley 22m and Hoppers were able to hack through and pounce on the ball for the score which Dorrington converted.
Wilson, though, calmed any nerves when he slotted another penalty from in front of the posts. There was just time for a final flurry from Hoppers which saw them with an opportunity to grab a losing bonus point in the final minute when Hornets were penalised 35m from their line. The attempt went wide, however, and the referee blew for time.