Hinckley Hornets 49 – 5 Preston Grasshoppers
“A bad day at the office” was Coach Arnold’s summary of the match.
Hoppers travelled to Leicester Road knowing they had a hard game in front of them. Their hosts had occupied the upper reaches of the league throughout the season and despite some inconsistent form over the last few weeks they were fourth in the table.
Hinckley kicked off into a chilly breeze and made a quick start with full back Wilson slotting home a penalty after only six minutes. Then the visitors were given a flavour of what the match was to offer as the Hornets’ forwards began exerting their power game right across the field and penned them in their own half for much of the early part of the game.
Hoppers struggled to respond until they finally secured the ball and a series of quick phases moved it to hooker Ollie Trippier who scored mid way between the corner and the posts. Davidson stepped up but to the surprise of those watching, the ball was judged to have missed the post.
Hoppers’ lead was short lived as a second penalty put Hinckley back in the driving seat and then they never looked back. With three tries in the first half and four more in the second, Hinckley dominated the game leaving a frustrated Preston team unable to secure the ball long enough to mount an attack.
There was some light in the Hoppers’ camp as the return of Chris Roddy, coupled with Rouban Birch and some accurate delivery from Trippier restored their lineout success which has been so obviously lacking this season. However, time and again, having won the ball, they were robbed by the Hinckley forwards and found themselves back on the defence.
As if to further compound their woes, two yellow cards, the first shown to Adam Howard for a high tackle on nineteen minutes and the other to James Gough two minutes before the half time whistle meant that for twenty minutes Hoppers faced their opponents with only fourteen players and at half time the score was 25 – 5.
As they went off, the Hoppers players were confident they could play themselves back into the game but any optimism they had at turning things round was soon dashed as three minutes into the second half Hinckley scored the first of four more tries.
The Preston forward play, so often a feature of their game, was overcome by a combination of brute force from the Hinckley pack and an inability to keep the ball in hand on the rare occasions they managed to gain it.
The Hornets’ counter attacking was fast and penetrated the Hoppers’ line almost at will. The visitors found themselves doggedly defending their own try line for phase after phase as the home side kept driving them down the field.
One ray of light came from James Fitzpatrick who collected a high kick on his own 10m line and then made a blistering forty metre break only for his pass to be lost forward. Hinckley won the ball, pressed forward and a hack through to the try line was dropped on by replacement Martin. The conversion missed but by then the score was 37 – 5.
Ten minutes later Hinckley scored their sixth try which was converted.
Once again hopes were lifted as Alex Ward, who had come on early in the second half, made his 40 metre run which must have surprised his teammates as he found himself isolated and the ball was lost short of the Hinckley 22m line.
The game then became a series of Hinckley scrum and drive moves interspersed by penalty kicks to touch. Play was stopped for several minutes when Ollie Trippier was injured by a stud across his forehead. Thankfully he recovered and was able to continue without further treatment.
The clock ran down with another try to Hinckley and although the conversion was missed, they won with the final score 49 – 5.
After the match Coach Arnold said,
”Hinckley fully deserved the win. Everything they tried came off and the two yellow cards killed us. We never stopped trying, Ollie Trippier, coming in late at hooker when PJ’s shoulder injury prevented him playing, was superb in the line out but we didn’t respect the ball enough and when we did have it, we coughed it up.”
Such is the team spirit and positive attitude of the squad that despite being truly beaten for the first time this season, they came into the Hinckley bar resplendent in fancy dress with Oga as a very convincing Marseilles onion seller, Roddy in a very fetching tutu and a variety of Harlem Globetrotters, an Irish priest with accompanying leprechaun, Nero the Roman emperor and some shady sombrero-wearing Mexicans, not to mention a shark and what appeared to be one of Mr Putin’s agents!
We face the table leaders, Hull Ionians, at Lightfoot Green next Saturday. As has been said many times this season, any of the teams can win in this league and with home advantage on the AGP we should be optimistic of a good result.
Report by John Le Page, picture by Harvey Wells