Life as a Hinckley RFC supporter could never be said to be boring. Over 80 minutes, this unique species will undergo more or less every emotion known to mankind, from ecstatic joy to disbelieving despair.
So it proved on Saturday as Hinckley soared to the heights of excellence for 30 minutes only to plummet to bumbling ineptitude for much of the second period. At one point, the Leicester Road faithful were happily anticipating a cricket score as Hornets ran in three top class tries in the first 30 minutes against a game, but limited Macclesfield side who had to win to stand any real chance of avoiding relegation. But it then seemed as if the two teams switched shirts as Blues ran in three unanswered tries of their own to come within 2 points of Hornets. Only a first rate defensive effort in the last ten minutes allowed Hinckley to cling on for the victory.
A relieved Scott Hamilton, Hinckley’s newly appointed Director of Rugby, commented after his first game in charge, ‘We started really well to go three tries up but for some reason the errors that have plagued us all season began to creep in and we couldn’t get back into the game. We gave every opportunity for Macclesfield to win but we have to take some positives from the way we defended in the last ten minutes after Aaron Philip was carded. The win was important for us after losing the last three but as a coaching team we have to work out a way to get back into a game when things start to go wrong.’
Earlier, first blood went to Macc when, somewhat against the run of play, Tom Morton slotted a relatively simple penalty from 15m out after 12 minutes.
That seemed to goad Hornets although it was not until the end of the first quarter that they recorded their first points. Hornets got over the line from a catch and drive 5m from the Macc line but the referee adjudged that the ball had been held up. The Blues pack got the nudge on from the resultant scrum, but Ben Pointon picked up behind a retreating pack to dart over for a classic sniping try just to the right of the posts. The kick was a formality for Joe Wilson and Hinckley were in front.
Three minutes later Hornets had doubled their score. Hinckley recovered the kick-off but were forced into touch on the Blues 10m line. The line-out throw however was long, allowing Pointon to collect and run to the line for the score, selling an outrageous dummy on the way. Wilson again added the extras this time from wide out with a superb strike.
Another dazzling blindside break from halfway by Pointon, almost led to a third try but this time the final pass went down.
But the third try wasn’t long in coming. Hinckley were in possession on halfway but not making progress until a great offload in the tackle released Ollie Povoas who ran the ball in from 35m untouched. Wilson converted and Hinckley were coasting.
The bonus try looked on 5 minutes later. A penalty to Hinckley for holding on allowed Wilson to kick to the 22m. Hornets secured the line-out and went through the phases but as the ball was fed out right a telegraphed pass allowed Macc wingman Myles Hall to snatch an interception. A desperate tap tackle attempt by Wilson couldn’t stop him and he cantered over the line.
It signalled the start of the Macc revival. Half-time came with the scores still at 21-8 but only after Hornets had been forced to defend a couple of line-out penalties on their 5m line just before the whistle.
On the return, Hinckley again found themselves on the wrong end of the referee’s whistle and were again defending their own line from 5m. They held the first catch and drive but were conceded another penalty, this time for in at the side. Hinckley held off the line-out looking for the relieving penalty but Blues were able to pick-up and, after a series of drives, scrum half Jonny Mason was able to snatch the score which Morton converted.
At 21-15, alarm bells were ringing for the Hornets. Wilson did kick a penalty shortly after to calm the nerves but it wasn’t too long after that that a massive gap opened up in the Hornets defensive line just inside their own half and Macc flanker, Jordan Simpson, tore through and ran to the line from 40m. Morton’s conversion brought Macc to within two.
It wasn’t that Hornets weren’t creating chances - they were – but they did not have the composure or the precision to take those chances. When Aaron Phillip was asked to take an enforced rest for a silly penalty with 10 minutes to go, Macc seemed the more likely to take the points.
As it happened, Hornets did at last find some composure in defence to hold Macc at bay and could even have snatched the bonus point at the death. Two 5m line-outs in quick succession were held by the Blues and, rather than risk a Blues break-away try, Pointon hoofed the ball into touch to bring proceedings to an end.
Next week, Hornets take the short trip over to Leicester Lions who now stand just 6 points behind Hinckley in the table. Local bragging rights are at stake. The hope is that Hornets will derive some confidence from their win on Saturday that will help them break their dismal run away from home.