The bottom line is that Hinckley recorded their eleventh victory of the season, secured a further bonus point and moved into fourth place in the table. Given the shockwave that hit the team after last week’s visit to Dings Crusaders, it was a very satisfactory outcome.
It was not, however, an entirely convincing victory, and whereas it would be overly critical to suggest that this was a game that Hornets were fortunate to win, it would be fair to say that Newport were unlucky to leave with nothing. It was a stuttering performance from Hinckley, sublime in parts but littered with mistakes at other times. There were several occasions where it looked like Hornets would let loose an avalanche of points to bury the opposition, only to be pulled back by a combination of their own shortcomings and the sheer tenacity of their opponents.
The home support greeted the final whistle with a collective sense of, if not relief, then one of thankfulness that their men had come through unscathed. At the end of the day, it was a bonus-point win that will instil a renewed sense of confidence for next week’s encounter with Camborne but it was far from a high point in the season.
DOR Chris Campbell was happy with the win but recognised that this wasn’t a victory that will linger long in the memory. ‘The most important thing after a loss is to get a win the week after,’ stated Campbell, ‘and that’s what we did. It was a bit messy, and we kept Newport in the game longer than we should have done but I was always confident we would come through and take the win.’
‘The 'messiness' I think was at times due to a bit of over-eagerness and desire to right the wrongs of last week but in many respects that could be viewed as a positive and demonstrates how much this squad wants to work together to achieve their very best.’
‘I was delighted that Dom Ames made a positive first start at hooker after doing a great job all season with the Staghounds, and I am really impressed with how hard Reuben Logan is working to take in what he is picking up in with the England U20s when he returns to HRFC.’
‘I've said all season though that our job is to keep trying to win the next game. We did that this afternoon. Now we need to look to do the same next week against Camborne.’
Campbell will have been delighted with the start that his men achieved. A break from Logan on the ‘Port 22m, an offload to Rory Vowles, a long pass out to Mitch Lamb on the wing wide and Hinckley were 5-0 up inside two minutes. Vowles couldn’t make the conversion but it seemed like Hornets had left behind last week’s trauma and were set for a comfortable win.
That sense of well-being though didn’t last. The scrum began to show signs of dominance but the line-out, a principal area of concern against Dings, continued to malfunction. Logan almost went over from short-range when the Hinckley eight pushed their opposite numbers back 5m in the ‘Port 22m, but knocked on crossing the line, and it was ‘Port who seized the next score.
Hinckley were penalised twice in succession giving ‘Port a 5m line-out opportunity. The ball wasn’t taken cleanly but the knock back allowed ‘Port to set up a series of drives from which ‘Port scrum-half Connor Dever was able to wriggle through under the posts. Connor Adams easily converted to give ‘Port the lead going into the second quarter.
It was short-lived though. A Hinckley penalty line-out just inside the ‘Port 22m saw Logan drive to within 10m and then Ben Pointon picked up to dart through a gap for a try. This time Vowles added the extras to leave the score 12-7.
That was followed shortly afterwards by perhaps the try of the day. Callum Dacey broke out from inside the Hinckley 22m to carry the ball into ‘Port territory. The ball found its way to Vowles who ran through a ‘Port defence in disarray to score from 35m. When Vowles slotted the extras, it seemed like Hornets were again on their way.
But once more, it turned out differently. Half-time came and went with the score still at 19-7 and just two minutes into the second period some ragged defending found ‘Port lock Dan Green out on the wing with no defender in front of him. The result was predictable. Adams converted and ‘Port were within three. Green took the try well but it has to be said he was lucky to complete the eighty minutes after a blatant head butt later in the game that was somehow missed by all of the officials.
Hornets did then rouse themselves. With the scrum increasingly dominant, Hinckley opted to scrum a penalty on the ‘Port 22m and it was only a deliberate knock-on 5m out by ‘Port flanker Finley Barnes, an offence which earned him ten minutes in the bin, that prevented what would surely have been a score. Hornets opted to take the three points. Vowles duly delivered to extend the lead.
The bonus point try came as the game entered the final quarter. Another superb break from Dacey forced ‘Port to concede a line-out deep inside their own 22m. A ‘Port knock-on at the line-out gave Hinckley a short-range scrum and there was a sense of inevitability, given their previous dominance, when the referee went under the posts for the penalty try and ‘Port prop James Tideswell was ordered to take a ten-minute break.
That should perhaps have been the end of the game but, as the game opened up, it was ‘Port who seemed to grasp the ascendancy. It didn’t come as a great surprise when they grabbed the next score. Hornets found themselves under severe pressure in their own 22m, pressure which eventually told when ‘Port lock Jack Neal eventually forced his way over and Adams converted to pull the score back to 29-21.
With six minutes left on the clock, ‘Port went after the bonus point and Hornets again under pressure. It was though a little too late. Logan did earn a last-minute yellow card for a deliberate knock-on to hand Adams a long-range penalty opportunity but the kick fell agonisingly short. As the referee blew for time, you could not help but feel a modicum of sympathy for the ‘Port men who left pointless.