MATCH REPORT – HORNETS 31 WESTON 27 Friday 29 April 2016
Anyone who was at this game will remember it for a long time. It was an epic and fully lived up to the expectation that the 3,000 plus spectators would have hoped for in the run up to such a big game for the town.
With Hornets being a league above Weston and being the current holders of the cup they probably went into the game as slight favourites. But with this being such a big game and the massive rivalry that exists between the clubs, there were very few people on either side who were confident to pick a winner. This uncertainty was well founded as both sides raised their games and right up the final minutes of extra time the result could of gone either way. This after the teams finished 24-24 after normal time.
Hornets went into this game off a poor run of form in the league and with a catalogue of injuries which gave the appearance that the squad was down to the bare bones. However, those who played on the day have now written their own chapter of the clubs history and have given the club confidence in the depth of their squad when they return for next season.
On a sunny evening Weston kicked off and immediately forced Hornets deep back into their own half. Hornets struggled to break out and the first of a very high penalty count against both sides was awarded on 2 minutes, which Glen Dickson slotted over for a 0-3 lead to Weston.
The sides then spent the next 10 minutes sizing each other up until Matthew Parker went on the first of several rampaging runs, smashing defenders out of the way and winning a penalty at the breakdown. Hornets kicked to touch, the forwards formed a maul at the lineout and when the ball was moved Adam Francis crashed over to score.
Hornets were now looking lively, with Charlie Carter and Sam Balkham both making good ground and moving the ball quickly - keeping a high pace to the game. The backs moved the ball wide and Craig Nichols made a great break into the Weston half but his final pass was adjudged forward. With Hornets on the ascendency the Weston crowd were dismayed to see Dickson being helped from the field with what looked like the recurrence of a hamstring injury. He was replaced by Dan Lomax, someone who Hornets knew was equally capable of kicking his team to victory.
As Hornets continued to apply pressure, with Sonny Haines, Jack Gadd and Kieran Ward battering holes in the defence, Weston were reduced to 14 men when a yellow card was shown for a high tackle. Hornets again went to the corner and from the resulting maul Connor Baker dived over to extend the lead to 10-3.
However, with Hornets on top and Weston a man short, Hornets were unable to push home their advantage and it was Weston who sprung to life and the new man Lomax who first cut through the defence to score a try and then added two penalties to see Weston in a 10-14 lead at half time.
The second half started with a series of penalties, at one stage it seemed that every breakdown resulted in a penalty, with either the ref or one of his assistants eager to find infringements on a regular basis. It was from a penalty that Hornets scored again. James Letherby finding a good touch near the Weston try line, Ward clinically finding Courtney Harris with clean ball at the lineout and Chris Francis crashing over from the back of the maul to score. Lehterby now found his kicking range and slotted the conversion for a 17-14 lead on 50 minutes.
On 54 minutes Weston missed a penalty kick and with it the opportunity to draw level and then on 60 minutes Haines went on a rampaging run, Sean Disney cleverly kicked to the corner and Weston were forced into touch on their own 5 metre line. This time the maul was stopped, Disney made a break and fed Chris Francis who scored again to register a hat-trick for the Francis brothers. Letherby again added the extras and Hornets led 24-14 less than 20 minutes to play.
However, Weston were not done and then had their best period of the match and so nearly went on to steal a victory. Hornets were working hard in defence with Joe Smith, Dexter Nettleon and Gadd in particular putting in big hits, but Weston kept on coming. They scored through an unstoppable driving maul on 68 minutes and on 75 minutes, with Hornets again leaking regular penalties they scored again. Vitally for Hornets both conversions were missed and the scored was locked at 24-24 when the final whistle blew.
Extra time was therefore required.
Weston immediately attacked and scored from a penalty for 24-27 lead, but then as Hornets dug deep to again quicken the pace of the game Weston were again reduced to 14 men when their number 8 was shown yellow for failing to retreat at a penalty.
Hornets kicked the second penalty to touch and again Ward found his range and the ball was rumbled forward. With Hornets picking and going and sucking in the defence they then moved the ball along the backs and their lurking on the wing was Harris who crashed over for what would prove to be the deciding try. Letherby converted from out wide and Hornets lead 31-27.
Weston then kicked the restart straight-out and the drama was enhanced further with a series of injury breaks as players struggled to keep going and then a yellow card for Hornets captain Chris Francis which meant they were reduced to 14 men with the second half of extra time still to come.
The last period of extra time saw both sides continuing to batter each other with all the reserves of energy they could find, but neither side could find a scoring opportunity and a final scrum to Hornets saw the ball secured, Parker trot into touch and the final whistle blowing to confirm Hornets retention of the Somerset Cup despite Weston’s heroic efforts.
The result saw celebrations from players and supporters alike who recognised the massive effort needed to secure the win which means the Hornets season finishes on a massive high.
After the game the Hornets coaches were rightly proud of their teams efforts, assistant coach Jon Richardson saying “what an amazing group of lads the club has”, “how they do the club proud” and how “they reached into their souls to win that” and Head Coach Jack Gadd taking to social media to say “proudest moment of my rugby life tonight! On the pitch and winning with 14 of my best mates!”
It was also great to see Robert Dempsey at the match following his injury last week and jointly raising the cup with Chris Francis.
Team: Connor Baker, Kieran Ward, Sonny Haines, Courtney Harris, Joe Smith, Chris Francis, Dexter Nettleton. Sean Disney, James Letherby, Charlie Carter, Jack Gadd, Adam Francis, Sam Balkham, Craig Nichols
Replacement: Dave Vivian, Luke Grimes, Lewis Brake, Jackson Bailey, Declan Dorrington, Danny Bailey, Matthew Cates
Updated 22:55 - 16 May 2016 by Rachael Fairhurst