After the mudbath in the rain at Lincoln last week, conditions for Paviors’ visit to Hinckley could hardly have been more different, Spring sunshine and a pitch with grass on it. The common factor was a Paviors squad of only 16, for the most part the same as at Lincoln. It has been some time since we’d met Hinckley, so we weren’t sure what to expect. Certainly, they looked big and strong.
Early signs were not promising; a good catch and ruck set-up from the kick-off somehow saw the ball turned over and Hinckley quickly on the front foot. The big forwards looked to take the game to Paviors with direct running and mauling but their momentum was interrupted by frequent transgressions as the ruck, penalised by the referee and punished by prodigious line-kicking from Tom W.
Unfortunately, Paviors were again second-best at the line-out which meant that they were unable to capitalise on the Hinckley mistakes, and the majority of the first half was to be played in the Paviors half. Paviors seemed to have the upper-hand in the scrums, but wheeling scrums meant several re-sets and scrappy ball.
With the majority of possession, Hinckley tested the Paviors defence, making some half-breaks and pouring forward in support. Paviors were stretched and it was no surprise when eventually the hosts managed to brush off a couple of tackles to score on the left. The conversion was missed.
The Paviors re-start was caught by Toby but fractionally short of the 10 metres, gifting Hinckley the scrum on halfway. The pattern continued, Hinckley with the majority of possession and territory and crashing big runners into the Paviors defence. The tackling was largely solid but the pressure was beginning to tell. The second home try came from a Paviors scrum lost against the head, a break up the left and good support play from Hinckley. The conversion was again wide.
At 0-10 down and not having secured any possession in the Hinckley half, the portents were grim.
What Paviors desperately needed was a spark and it came from Jack, breaking from halfway and darting through the Hinckley defence. With the back-row quickly in support, Paviors recycled the ball to launch Jonno on the charge and they finally had a bridgehead in the opposition half and a platform to attack. Under pressure, the home defence conceded a succession of penalties for infringements at the breakdown, allowing Paviors to grind towards the line. A careless pass from a penalty was rescued by Tom W, zigzagging back left to fizz a pass to Lewis B who dipped his shoulder into the last defender and squeezed the ball down in the left corner, his long-awaited first try. Toby’s conversion was wide, but as the half-time whistle blew, Paviors were back in the game.
As the second half started, you could sense a swing in the momentum. Possession was almost equal but Hinckley looked less threatening in attack, making less progress in the forwards, and when they tried to move the ball wider, Tom W and Max had the measure of the opposing centres.
The Paviors forwards started to make their presence felt as an attacking force with strong runs from Tom P, Jake and Jonno and the others supporting them with aggressive rucking , to maintain good possession. Wider out, both Tom W and Max showed that they could break the line.
Paviors were next to score, sustained driving in the forwards setting up a ruck five metres from the Hinckley line and an overlap on the right which Jack exploited with a double miss-pass to find Max who crashed over. Toby’s mishit conversion attempt left the scores level.
At 10 points all it was very much in the balance, but Hinckley struck back quickly when an aimless Paviors kick went straight to the Hinckley winger who was allowed to pick up speed and run past several green and red statues to score between the posts. Astonishingly, the conversion scraped the underside of the bar to leave a 5 point gap.
Paviors attacked again breaking the gain-line and starting to find some continuity in their game, with off-loads out of the tackle and some pop-passes off the ground. Working their way into the Hinckley 22, Paviors were awarded a 5 metre penalty for hands in the ruck. Eager to atone for his poor kick earlier, Toby took the responsibility, powering his way to the line and stretching to score. Tom W’s conversion attempt was wide and the scores were level again.
With time running out, it seemed very much a case of “next try wins” and Paviors had seized the initiative. The forwards were punching holes in the home defence and the support players were there in numbers to maintain possession and pile the pressure on Hinckley.
The try, when it came, was a peach. Tom R rescued a loose ball at the ruck, popping it up to Toby who broke right, fending off a tackler with the left hand and off-loading out of the back of the hand. Alex G plucked the ball from the air and shipped it quickly to Tom W who zipped through the gap and, crucially, round behind the posts. Toby knocked over the conversion. 15-22 and very little time on the clock.
Even less than we thought! Paviors knocked on at the re-start and the referee blew the final whistle.
Having lost in the last minute last week, to win at the death was a fitting reward for the Paviors side. Poor Hinckley were left to ponder how they had lost a game which they had dominated for the first 20 minutes. Paviors had the better of the second half and full credit to the boys for the spirit and skill they showed in turning the match around.
A few special mentions; Lewis for that first try, Toby for an all-action performance and Tom W, who worked so hard in attack and defence that sometimes it seemed like there were two of him. Having said that, this was about all 16 players working for each other to come away with a brilliant result.
Thank you to Hinckley for the match – it has been too long since the two sides last met and we should do it again soon. Thanks also to the referee for an even-handed and consistent performance which made for a pulsating game, with the result in doubt to the very end.