Hornets lift the Cup in close game
Hornets 22 Bath University 19
The Somerset Cup Final was held on Friday night at Hornets RFC after Bath University agreed, sportingly, to play at Hornets' home ground on the artificial pitch. After a day of heavy rain, the decision was a great one as the conditions were perfect for a fast-running game.
Hornets, for the first time this season were the older team, as the students from Bath came with a reputation for fast flowing attacking rugby.
Hornets started brightly and the experience and bulk in the pack enabled Hornets to get deep into Bath's half.
Bath were struggling to keep the barrage under control and were guilty of giving away plenty of penalties, which on all occasions Hornets kicked to the corner but, to their credit, Bath held their defence together and kept Hornets out.
Surging runs by Harris, Brake and Denton were canceled out but Hornets just kept coming, and eventually after a scrum close to Bath's line, Hornets sensed an opportunity and after the forwards had engaged the defence they sprang the ball out wide through 2 pairs of hands and Bailey went over in the corner. The conversion was successful by Humphris and gave Hornets a 7 point lead after 10 minutes.
Bath, from the restart, applied their own pressure and their electric back division needed marshalling by the Hornets "veterans", but they recycled quickly and Bath broke through and converted to level the scores.
Hornets again applied extra pressure in the scrums and the young side were being pushed back, and on a couple of occasions Hornets stole the ball against the head and Bath were reeling. More penalties but the ref wasn't prepared to bin any offenders and Hornets were getting a little frustrated at the constant breaks in play.
One such penalty kick to the 5 metre line and Aplin delivered, collected by Denton who along with his forwards formed the maul; the ball moved to Brake and he looked sure to score before Pape assisted and managed to ground the ball for a well-worked try.
Bath again pressed but Hornets' defence was solid. When Aplin stole the ball deep in Hornets 22 another penalty to Hornets and this time Adam Francis took the initiative and took a quick tap and set off, the scrambling defence did their best but another penalty was awarded. A kick to the corner and an illegal collapse in the line out and this time the ref had seen enough and a Bath player was asked to take 10 minutes to reflect on what he had done.
Sensing the one man advantage, Hornets elected to take the scrum and when Disney spotted a gap the scrum half went in untouched, giving a simple conversion for Humphris and a 12 point lead for Hornets going into the second half.
Bath came out with a different game plan in the second half and it paid dividends as it was the Uni side who had all the ball and pressure and Hornets found themselves fighting for their lives, quite often just a couple of metres out. The defence was outstanding and Bath were being knocked backwards but they maintained the ball and eventually Hornets found themselves on the wrong side of the referee and Disney was carded. Brake was soon to follow and with Hornets were down to 13 men, Bath sensed a score. Their pick-and-drive game worked and they were able to breech the defence to make the scores 19-12 .
From the restart, Alex Francis collected the kick and Hornets were on the attack, Dempsey and Carter were causing all sorts of trouble for Bath and when a penalty was awarded to Hornets, Dempsey asked Humphris to put some much needed daylight between the teams and the fly half duely kicked the goal, 22-12
Again Hornets were on the attack until Adam Francis was adjudged to having committed foul play and so he became the 3rd Hornet sitting on the naughty chair. With Hornets down to 12 men, all things looked bleak.
Bath then set up a series of phases and got close to Hornets' line but perhaps a bit guilty of white line fever instead of using the width against a depleted team kept using the pick and drive game which was eating up valuable time but Hornets' defence was outstanding, and it was only after a long period did Bath get their score, leaving them 3 points behind with just 2 minutes on the clock.
Hornets then stepped up again and the ball was won and recycled in Bath's 22 and Hornets were able to keep hold of it until the referee indicated that time was up and the ball was hoofed into touch and Hornets were crowned Champions.
This was a well deserved victory for Hornets who have had tough season this year and look forward to new adventures next season. Although a step back next season, this team will build and come back stronger as everything is in place for the campaign, both on and off the pitch, with many clubhouse projects in the pipeline and some old faces returning to the Club.