COUNTY CHAMPIONS SECOND YEAR RUNNING - retention of the Cup was no easy climb
Reporter Today: Emma Bassford
In a repeat of last year’s final, defending champions, Hinckley U15s, were up against last year’s runners-up Loughborough. With a murky grey sky and a heavy pitch, it was clear from the off that today’s match was going to be won through the forwards…
Loughborough kick-off the game as Hinckley try to power their way upfield, earning themselves a penalty, however as Freddie Grewcock tried to find touch - in slightly windy conditions - the ball curved back infield and was regathered by Loughborough. A ferocious counterattack ensued that Hinckley simply couldn’t handle. Despite some last-ditch tackling, Loughborough carved their way through the middle to score the first points of the afternoon. Wwiftly converted, resulting in the opposition garnering a 7 point lead.
The defending champions soon responded, winning a penalty, which this time was successful in finding touch. Off the back of the maul, Lewis Gardner attempted a crossfield kick for Aidan Hicks to gather, however the ref blew back up for a penalty as Hicks was judged to be offside. Gardner found touch on the opposition’s 10 metre line and Hinckley set up their lineout catch & drive which has been ruthlessly effective on occasions this season. From the maul, the forwards went through the motions of the pick & go before Seb Smith was held up - scrum to Hinckley. Smith splintered off and carried seeing Ben Deacon drive over beside the ruck. Hinckley had now struck back however Gardner just misses the conversion. Score was now 5-7.
The rest of the first half culminated in silly penalties for both sides as Hinckley desperately wanted to score next but were disrupted by ill-discipline and missing touch. Loughborough had the last say of the half with an attack into the Hinckley ’22 but a knock-on ensured that a tight and pulsating half of rugby had ended with the opposition in the ascendency, 5-7 at halftime.
Second half, Loughborough thought they had scored a second try however the linesman brought play back for a knock-on from their winger when he was tackled by lock-forward Jacob Bassford. After a reset scrum, Hinckley kick the ball onward and eventually win the penalty, this time touch was found. Despite Loughborough’s best defensive attempts, the Hinckley mauling machine bore fruit once again and number No 8, Smith, powered over for Hinckley’s second score in the corner. Inside centre Sam Racklyeft was agonizingly wide with the conversion but Hinckley had taken the lead - 10-7. Substitutions made: Jacob Reid came on for Zac Mumford with Deacon moving from hooker to prop and Jakob Warren replaced Nathan Horton.
The opposition were relentless in their next attack, threatening out-wide which brought them inside Hinckley’s ’22. Loughborough kick the ball into touch and get a lineout on the 5-metre line. From the lineout, a great line from the outside centre, bouncing his way through some poor tackling to dive past the posts to regain the lead. A simple conversion followed and Loughborough had regained the lead - 10-14.
Hinckley win a penalty from the kick-off and begin their onslaught, it seemed that either side weren’t going to give up on this fight. With a large number of lineouts, has Hinckley winning consecutive penalties as the opposition had collapsed the maul. Gardner punted the ball into touch. Nerves were raised as Hinckley had messed up on a couple of crucial lineouts in this match but the defending champions were not to be stopped as captain Alfie Sansome snuck over the whitewash in the left-hand corner to the roar of coaches and supporters. Racklyeft was slightly wide with the conversion but that didn’t matter as Hinckley had regained the lead by 1 point. Score was now 15-14.
Credit to both teams as Loughborough didn’t give in and pressed on for what would be the final conversion whilst on the other hand Hinckley crucially avoided a kickable penalty. From the lineout, the ref lost patience and awarded a free-kick to Hinckley with a minute-left on the clock - Hinckley chose to scrum. The ball went straight back out - reset scrum, meaning that the clock had now gone into the red. Hinckley safely secure the ball and scrumhalf Jonno Davis kicked the ball into touch with glee and relief. Hinckley U15s had reclaimed their crown as County Cup winners for the second year running, something this group of players had never achieved before. Absolutely remarkable.
Commiserations to Loughborough they proved once again that they are formidable opponents.
Final Score: Hinckley 15 – Loughborough 14