Hornets signed off their home season at Leicester Road on Saturday with a hard fought 37-34 victory against Sheffield Tigers. With Tigers having secured another season in National 2 with a convincing win against relegated Peterborough Lions the week before, and Hinckley sitting in the middle of the table, there was nothing for either side to play for except pride. Both sides were able to relax after a gruelling season and the result was a spectacular nine try bonanza in which the lead changed hands seven times.
Hornets only sealed the victory deep into time added on at the end when Callum Dacey ended a spectacular end to end effort started by a clever chip from Rory Vowles that Josh Smith had collected and carried deep in the Tigers 22m.
It was harsh on Tigers who had led for virtually all of the second half but in reality Hornets probably deserved their victory. They created more chances and the pack were convincingly on top in the set pieces but the mistakes that have riddled their game in recent weeks were again in evidence. Hinckley butchered at least two chances where it looked easier to score than not, and could easily have racked up 50 plus points.
It would be harsh though to be too critical on a beautiful Spring Day in a game which felt a little like an end of season festival game and for the neutral spectator must have been a delight to watch. Tigers played their part with some well worked tries of their own and showed that they have a quality set of backs with player-coach Jamie Broadley having an outstanding game.
Hinckley DOR Scott Hamilton commented after the game, ‘There were plenty of positives in that performance and it was important that we finished the season at home with a win. That said, there were still too many mistakes that meant we didn’t put Tigers away when we had the opportunity. The pleasing thing is though that we came back from nine points down to nick the win – a few weeks ago we would have lost that game. Things are definitely going in the right direction.’
Hornets had opened the scoring after just 5 minutes when Ben Pointon took a quick tap and go penalty on his own 22m, taking the ball deep into the Tigers half before chipping the ball ahead. Rory Vowles was on hand to finish the move under the posts and converted his own score.
Four minutes later and Tigers were level. A penalty for Tigers had set up an attacking line-out 10m from Hinckley’s line. The catch and drive was held but the ball was released to the backs and Broadley broke through some indifferent defending to claim the score, converted by Mark Ireland.
Tigers took the lead with an Ireland penalty from just inside the Hinckley half after the referee took exception to comments from the Hinckley front-row, but Hornets were soon back in front. A Hinckley line-out on halfway was passed right to Josh Smith on the wing who made good ground into the Tigers 22m before the ball was returned left for Dacey on the other wing to go over in the corner for his fiftieth try in Hinckley colours.
Back came Tigers. A superb break from Broadley deep in Tigers territory allowed him to draw the last Hinckley defender before offloading to wing man Henri Packard who ran 40m to score under the posts. Ireland’s conversion was a formality.
Vowles pulled back three with a penalty on 35 minutes after Tigers had been penalised for diving into the ruck and with time almost up Vowles had another opportunity to put Hornets in front in the final minute of the half but sent the ball wide.
Bizarrely, though, Tigers then kicked the ball too long from the drop out and it rolled dead at the other end giving Hinckley an attacking scrum on the Tigers 22m. Gaz Turner picked up at the back of the scrum before offloading, and Henry Povoas was on hand to take the final pass to score by the posts. Vowles converted to send Hornets in at the interval 22-17 in front.
Within a minute of the restart, however, Tigers had struck back. An interception by Broadley on halfway allowed him to run the distance to the posts and 5 minutes later, after collecting a loose ball just inside the Hinckley half, Tigers centre Hart was able to run in for the score despite a final pass that had more than a hint of forwardness about it.
At 22-31, it did not look good for Hornets but that heralded a period of sustained dominance for the Hornets although they struggled to convert that dominance into points.
An exchange of penalties saw the score move on to 25-34 before Hinckley pressure drew a penalty allowing Vowles to set up the attacking line-out 5m out. The catch and drive was textbook and James Moreton came up with the ball for Vowles to convert – 32-34.
For most of the remainder of the game, Hornets were in the ascendant but Tigers defensive line-speed, aided significantly by a referee whose judgement on the off-side law was questionable, enabled Tigers to snuff out most scoring opportunites until Dacey’s dramatic score in the dying minutes allowed Hornets to snatch the game.
Hornets make the long trip to the North East next week to conclude their campaign at Tynedale who lie in fifth place in the League. Tynedale, like Hinckley, like to entertain and the early season encounter between the two side saw 12 tries with Hornets running out winners by 45-31. It promises to be a great way to end the season.
Updated 17:11 - 3 Jun 2019 by John Tilley