Grasshoppers vs Hinckley

Date: 15 February 2020

Preston Grasshoppers 3 – 33 Hinckley Hornets

With the weather merchants forecasting another bout of gloom and doom the afternoon did not present the prospect of pleasant spectating.

However, the heavy rain over lunchtime gave way to a dry and not too chilly start to the match with little or no wind to trouble the kickers.

The game was one of only three in N2N which took place as the weather elsewhere caused havoc with travelling and playing conditions up and down the country.

Hinckley arrived, comfortable in their position at fourth in the league and looking to gather some more points as the seasons starts to wind down to a close.

Hoppers’ squad continued Arnie’s plan to ‘blood’ young and new players with Will Clapham making his first appearance on the bench alongside Ewan Naylor and Rob Meadows who had both played in earlier games, together with a returning Noah Miller now recovered from his injury.

The senior official had been changed at the last minute as Premiership referee Ian Tempest who was making a return after his own injury, was assigned to the match.

Hoppers kicked off deep into the Hinckley 22 where a short series of swift handling moves brought play back to half way. A forward pass gave Hoppers the scrum but after a re-set it was lost and the visitors had their first penalty of the game.

Their lineout on the Preston 22 enabled a chip forward towards the wing and the start of a period of phases across the Hoppers’ 5m line pressurising the defence until the inevitable try came after five minutes of play when hooker Johnson scored the first of his three for the afternoon. The conversion by winger Wilson was good and Hinckley took the lead.

Hoppers responded and play moved down towards the visitors’ 22 and a penalty. Captain Sam Stott opted to go for goal and Jake Squirrell obliged, finding his mark with his first place kick of the match.

With ten minutes of the match elapsed, play settled into a pattern that entertained throughout the afternoon with both sides attacking the final third and breaks from open play switching the pressure from one end of the pitch to the other.

Then the rain came in and the wet ball started causing handling errors for both sides. With Hinckley moving the ball into the Hoppers’ half, a kick forward was somewhat over-zealous and ran dead but from the scrum Hoppers were again under constant pressure across their 5m line. Another kick-pass towards the wing resulted in a penalty for Hinckley on the Hoppers’ 5m line and this time it was the turn of the other Hinckley winger, Dacey, to cross the whitewash. Wilson converted and at the end of the first quarter the score was 3 – 14.

It remained so for the rest of the half but the spectators were well entertained with more open play and breaks from both sides offering opportunities for points that were only foiled by fumbled passes and knocks-on.

For Hoppers, breaks by Ben Dorrington kept their attacking pressure on the opposition’s forwards whilst Jacob Browne and Tyler Spence made ground on several occasions only to be swamped by the Hinckley defence.

The half had been fairly even. Hoppers had put some good moves together and had shown better structure and some confidence in their play. Hinckley were big and fast but their hosts had defended well. With the rain falling fairly steadily, the second half was going to be a case of who could hold onto the ball the longest.

Hinckley kicked off and straight away Hoppers were under pressure as a pass slipped out of hand and was hacked forward by a Hinckley boot to be shepherded over the Preston line to run out dead.

The drop out went straight into touch putting the pressure back on the home side as Hinckley made a break to the 5m line. The pass was intercepted by Ollie Trippier to start a short series of Hoppers’ phases which took them to their own 10m line and a kick forward into the Hinckley 22.

The clearing kick returned play to the Hoppers’ 10m line and a lineout for the home side.

The throw was deemed not straight and Hinckley were awarded a penalty from the scrum. A break by their scrum half Pointon, who had an outstanding game, took them to the red zone where some swift passing put the ball out to the wing resulting in a second try for Johnson and another successful conversion for Wilson. 3 – 21.

Play then resumed its previous pattern with both sides exchanging possession in the middle third of the pitch. Hoppers’ lineout was not functioning well and balls were lost long and knocks-on continued to deny them progress which was clearly illustrated when a superb break by Stott, linking with Will Davidson and sending him into the Hinckley 22 moved the supporting Browne towards the line where the ball was again lost in the tackle short of the line.

Hinckley pushed on into the Hoppers’ half. The ball was gathered by the home side and they battled across their own 10m line in the face of solid counter-play. The ball came loose and was hacked forward towards the Preston try line where a footrace between Dorrington and the Hinckley full back ended in what appeared to be a successful tackle by the Hoppers’ number eight just short of the line.

The referee however was not convinced and after a short discussion with his assistant, Dorrington was shown a yellow card for what was seen as foul play against the opposition player in the act of scoring and Hinckley were awarded a penalty try which gave them the bonus point.

With play resumed, a break from inside his own half by Browne looked promising as he raced to the Hinckley 22 only to be foiled once again with the ball lost in the tackle.

The rest of the half played out with penalties and scrums for both teams keeping the game balanced. Hinckley centre Smith was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-down which evened the numbers as Dorrington still had three minutes left on his binning.

Then play was stopped for several minutes as the pitch was ‘littered with bodies’ from both sides resulting in replacements for each of the teams with less than five minutes of the match remaining.

The final act was the fifth try, and Johnson’s third, on the stroke of time. Wilson’s conversion had to be steadied in the strengthening wind and missed the target but Hinckley ran out winners at 3 – 33.

Arnie was quite upbeat,

‘I told the team to go out and play with a smile, no negative reactions if things didn’t go right and lots of congratulations when they did. The aim was to enjoy the match and entertain.

Yes, it was frustrating. Their captain said to me as we went off, “We weren’t 30 points better than you today”

This is a young side. He won’t mind me saying this but Adam Howard was the oldest player out there at just 32! We created plenty of good chances, far more than in the last few games. The new lads had a good outing, Meadows put in a lot of effort and Clapham was very disappointed in missing his chance of a try – he thought he’d made it.

Once again Ben Dorrington showed his quality and the whole team played well. Building a squad for next year is our aim and today was another positive step in that direction’.

We all get a rest next week and the campaign resumes on the Leap Year day of the 29th February when we go to Chester. Don’t forget to check the noticeboard to see about transport to that game.

Report by John Le Page, pictures by Mike Craig


Hinckley 15 Feb 2020

Full Match VideoMatch Programme


Back to Rugby Reports Back to Fixtures