Redruth is a long, long way from Hinckley. A 6.00am departure and six hours on a coach is hardly the ideal preparation for a rugby match against a side flying high in the division, and who comprehensively outplayed the Hornets in their 41-7 victory at Leicester Road back in September. Add into the mix the extensive list on injuries that Hornets are facing, and you realise that this game was a massive ask for those men in black and gold still standing.
Hornets were already planning to field just a four-man bench with DOR Scott Hamilton acting as an emergency replacement if essential, so to hear, as the squad boarded the coach for departure, that influential lock Andy Weaver had fallen victim to COVID overnight was the last thing that Hamilton wanted to hear. To pile on the agony, tight-head prop Dave Peck joined the bus straight from a 12-hour night shift and would only be able to join the fray for the second half.
There was still some optimism in the camp though that Hornets could still make a good account of themselves, and even, maybe, spring a surprise on the Reds of Redruth. In the event, on balance, Hornets did come out with credit from the encounter, shedding their recent habit of leaking points sieve-like in the first 20 minutes, and maybe even shading the first period despite the 13-5 half-time score line.
It was a different story in the second half. A yellow card for Sam Greening late in the first half meant the Hornets started the second period with only 14 men, and an injury to fly-half Callum Rowe forced Hornets to re-structure their back division.
Hornets competed but two further tries for the Reds left a 27-5 deficit with just 14 minutes remaining, and Hamilton took the decision to replace captain Alex Salt and flanker Ollie Povoas to ensure they could fight another day. Redruth ran in two more late tries to clinch the bonus point, and Hornets finished the game with the bizarre sight of winger Josh Smith packing down at No. 8. It just about summed up Hinckley’s day.
After the game, Hamilton was in a philosophical mood. ‘It was always going to be a challenging game for us but to lose a forward like Andy Weaver on match day was a critical blow. It’s the third game in a row that we’ve had to change our plans on the day of the game and on this occasion, because of the early departure, we weren’t even able to summon a replacement. I thought we still acquitted ourselves well, particularly in the first half, but the Greening card was a major blow. I didn’t feel the final score reflected our performance, but we still made too many errors. We lost some crucial line-out ball, our kicking to touch wasn’t good enough, and we missed Callum’s control in the second half. It may have been different had we managed to put a few more points on the board in the first half, but in the end, it was a good lesson for us. You can’t keep repeating the same mistakes, especially against a side as good as Redruth. They have a couple of quick quality backs and I thought there 9 was exceptional.’
First blood went to the Reds after just 5 minutes when fly-half Richard Kevern finished off a series of drives in the Hinckley 22m and Will Trewin added the extras.
Hornets hit back quickly on the quarter hour. Ben Pointon slipped a clever reverse pass to Joe Wilson on halfway, releasing the winger to run for the line. Wilson was dragged down 10m out but from the ensuing ruck, Rory Vowles went over. Wilson could not add the extras but a score of 7-5 after almost 20 minutes was a gratifying score-line after recent performances.
It was to prove Hornets only score, however. Reds responded immediately when, after Hinckley lost the ball from the kick-off, Jack Oulton kicked a drop goal.
The next quarter belonged to Hinckley but good defence from the Reds and a series of Hinckley errors at crucial moments meant that they could not add to their score, and it was Reds who scored on the cusp of half-time with a Trewin penalty to take the score to 13-5 following Greening’s card.
The second half belonged to the Reds. Hornets struggled for cohesion and shape throughout, and it was no surprise when winger Dean Bonds got on the end of his own chip through to score.
Hornets did respond but were held up over the Redruth line and a third try, the killing blow, was landed shortly afterwards when winger Kyle Bradley made a break from halfway. Pointon pulled him 10m short but could not prevent replacement Mark Grubb collecting the loose ball to go over. Trewin converted to make it 27-5 and the game was lost.
Salt and Povoas departed, and Reds added two further tries through Alex O’Meara to rub salt into the Hornets’ wounds.
The final score suggested that this was a thrashing on the scale of the earlier hiding Reds had delivered at Leicester Road earlier in the season. It was far from that, particularly given all the tribulations surrounding the game. Hornets play table-topping Clifton at Leicester Road next week and can go into the game with pride intact. Clifton will be ill-advised to read into this result that Hornets are a team that present no threat.