Hinckley go down fighting
Despite outscoring Sandal two tries to one Hinckley conceded too many penalties.
Four yellow and one red card didn't help either
Hinckley travelled with high hopes to N3N side Sandal to challenge for the play off place and ultimately promotion into level four of English rugby. However it wasn’t to be as Sandal took the game 20 points to 10 although the visitors did score two tries to one.
Josh Smith returned at full back with Mitch Culpin moving to the right wing, in place of Alex Norris who had to work. Sam Masserella, Ben Marshall, Dave Weston and Ewan Bartlett made up the extended bench.
Right from the word go Hinckley were on the wrong side of the referee and three penalties went the way of the home side. Sandal fly half Mark Pease converting the latter to take a 3-0 lead.
Hinckley came back as two well weighted grubber kicks from Mark Lord forced an attacking line out in the Sandal red zone. Normally possession would have been won and a catch and drive initiated, but a crooked throw let Sandal off the hook.
Dave Peck was yellow carded for a perceived scrummage offence and yet Hinckley turned the tables moving the ball out to Sam Greasley who was stopped just short illegally and the aforementioned Pease joined Peck in the bin. This time the catch and drive worked and from the resultant rolling maul Tom Morris touched down. Lord was, however, unable to add the extras.
The penalty count continued to rise against Hinckley and James Ellar (kicking while Pease was still in the bin) converted to move Sandal out to a 6-5 advantage. Yellow cards to Ben Avent and captain Matt Fearn halted any further Hinckley progress as Pease added Sandal’s third penalty to make the score 9-3 at half time.
With a mountain to climb and down to thirteen men Hinckley were under a great deal of pressure as firstly Pease added another penalty, missed another and then Joe Allott added a try bursting through the undermanned defence. Pease failed to add the conversion.
Leading 17-5 Sandal had taken advantage of the numerical mis-match and Hinckley were dealt a further blow on the hour as Luke Coltman was yellow carded. Once back to a full compliment Hinckley put in their best period of the game putting the hosts under considerable pressure with a number of phases in attack. The dynamic rolling maul made Sandal pay and Matt Loveday emerged from under a pile of bodies to claim the try. Lord again couldn’t add the conversion.
Disaster struck shortly afterwards as Joe Glover was red carded and the resultant penalty was added by Pease to move Sandal out to a match winning 20 -10 scoreline.
Hinckley, however, finished the game on top as again the rolling maul made inroads into the home defence as a Sandal forward was yellow carded for dropping the maul. Hinckley were held up just short and probably deserved a try which might have changed the complexion of the game, but it wasn’t to be as Sandal held out to claim the game.
Hinckley never got the rub of the green from the referee who along with his co-officials were under considerable pressure from the partisan home crowd throughout the game. Hinckley, however, could never expect to win the game on the back of playing a total of 35 minutes with at least a man down. They did, however, stick admirably to the task and defended well across the board with some big hits to deny the home side victory by a larger margin.
It wasn’t to be on the day, but that takes nothing away from the vast improvement made by this squad of players from the early season hesitancy. Credit to all the squad, the coaching squad and the faithful supporters many of whom attended the play off finale. Thank you and well done to all.
Next season beckons!