HINCKLEY U15s THROUGH TO FINAL
Hard fought victory over main rivals Market Harborough.
Reporter Today: Emma Bassford
In a repeat of last year’s semifinal, Hinckley and Market Harborough were pitched together in a brutalising encounter that didn’t fail to disappoint. The match was played on the Grandstand pitch, which was heavy and muddy - in front of a good crowd.
Harborough kicked-off proceedings and the match was underway. The pitch conditions made it difficult for either side to build momentum and throughout the game there were multiple knock-ons and spills that denied either team meaningful possession. This played into Hinckley’s favour fortunately as the forward pack proved to be the superior.
Market Harborough are penalised at the ruck after Hinckley try and maul the attackers. An excellent touch-finder from flyhalf Lewis Gardner meant that Hinckley had a lineout from the 5m line. A powerful and ruthlessly efficient lineout drive resulted in hooker Ben Deacon crashing over from the back to Seb Smith - 1st blood to Hinckley. Fullback Sam Racklyeft kicked a wonderful conversion out wide for Hinckley to lead 7-0.
The conditions proved again to be difficult, a botched attempt to play wide gave Harborough a chance to strike with a penalty kick to touch. A combination of good pressure in defence and a slippery ball meant that possession went to-and-fro between the sides. Eventually, Harborough are penalised and Gardner nails another touch-finder. Jacob Bassford makes a breathtaking catch and is just about safely brought to ground with Alfie Sansome and Zac Mumford in support, the ball is swiftly transferred back and No 8 Smith crashes over for Hinckley’s 2nd try. The conversion fell short with Hinckley now at 12-0.
Again, Harborough are keen for a score but good defensive work from Hinckley denied two chances and the ball was turned over, Harborough were penalised for an offside. Grewcock kicks the ball just outside of the ’22. Hinckley forwards again show their power and composure, as they drive up-field with remarkable stride. As the forwards maul, Bassford was holding back a Harborough player from being offside and interfering - the blindside flanker saw a bit of red mist and was unlawfully aggressive towards Bassford, and then looking to have attempted a head-butt. He was promptly sent-off with a red card, an uphill climb beginning to form as they would now have to play the rest of the game with 14 men.
Hinckley kick up-field and press for a knockout blow but credit to Harborough they defended with determination and grit. Hinckley missed their opportunity and the opposition looked to strike. Hinckley get penalised again (both sides not demonstrating the best of discipline) and Harborough have a lineout on Hinckley’s 5 metre line in the last play of the half. Unfortunately for the away team, they had put too many players in the lineout and Hinckley get the free kick which Jonno Davis gladly punted into touch - meaning the home side were in the ascendency, 12-0 up at halftime.
At the start of the 2nd half, Hinckley needed to have killed-off the game but the restart was messy. Eventually, Hinckley thought to have turned over but then were turned over themselves by Harborough’s robust and speedy openside flanker who ran around half of Hinckley’s disorganised defence to score under the posts. The fullback missed a relatively simple conversion however Harborough had given themselves a shot to remain in the game 12-5.
The referee had a no tolerance attitude to the breakdown and Hinckley were penalised multiple times in quick succession, trapping them in their own half, and the ref warned Captain Sansome. Jakob Warren replaced Nathan Horton in the 2nd row but it wasn’t long before Grewcock was pinged for holding onto the ball and was yellow-carded for his team’s accumulative offences. Both sides would have 14 men on the field for a period of time.
Despite getting penalised, again Hinckley continued to absorby any pressures that their opposition could offer up. Harborough had to make a forced substitution to replace their injured inside centre. Due to errors aplenty and spirited defensive work, Harborough just couldn’t get a 2nd try (that would’ve made things even more interesting). Grewcock returned to the fray to give Hinckley a full compliment of players. A powerful scrum and a great hook from Deacon gave Hinckley possession. A couple of big carries from Deacon, Sansome and Smith set-up the platform and Harborough are penalised for holding on after the ruck had formed.
Grewcock finds touch well, Hinckley set up their impressive driving maul and there was no stopping Smith for his 3rd try. This was the story of the day, Harborough’s lineout was too predicable and unnecessary considering the conditions, whereas Hinckley simply used intelligent, brute force and coordination to marvellous effect. Racklyeft was just wide with the conversion so Hinckley were now ahead by 17-5.
The home side were now determined Harborough were not provided with another chance and pinned the away side in their own ’22. However, attempts to hold their attackers up and force a turnover are thwarted and subsequent penalties means that Harborough are given a lineout but an excellent momentum-killing tackle by Dan Johnson ends in a scrum to Hinckley. A home side driven on by the crowd piles on the pressure, forcing Harborough to be penalised numerously. Instead of going to the lineout try, Hinckley tap-and-go from the penalties, utilising the forwards - the opposition’s dam won’t break and Hinckley call to kick for the 3. In front of the posts, Gardner nails it, the game is now seemingly put to bed, 20-5 to the hosts.
From the kick-off Hinckley march up-field and try to dink over the top to threaten the tryline once again but on a heavy pitch it was difficult to get a sympathetic bounce of the ball. Harborough get the penalty and tap-and-go but lose possession. Racklyeft pounds the ball downfield but couldn’t find touch. Harborough, chasing the game, march onwards but they lose their last real opportunity. Sam Stayte comes on for Zac Mumford and Josh Babb comes on for Ed Burgess, in the last play. Another lineout and meaningful drive Hinckley get the penalty - Gardner has the honours of tapping and dinking into touch.
A very formidable, wolfpack performance from the Hinckley forwards who adapted better to the conditions then their opponents, with the backs defending well Hinckley were by far the better team today. Consolations to Market Harborough, they proved tough opponents. Hinckley are through to their 3rd successive County Cup final - well done lads terrific workrates from all.
Final Score: Hinckley 20 – Market Harborough 5