Table topping Hinckley overcome a brave challenge from hosts to gain maximum points!
By Richard Stanley
A clinical performance from the visitors show why they are top of the table in a real nail biting match that saw eight tries and two Yellow Cards
A clinical performance from the visitors show why they are top of the table in a real nail biting match that saw eight tries and two Yellow Cards and two Llyr’s on the same pitch! The visitors’ squad selection had been disrupted by injury and last week’s Red Card meant veteran All Black Scott Hamilton making a rare appearance on the wing. Questions were asked about any similarities between Scott and our own Adam Sturdy and Rod Petty. Suffice it to say, the Sturdy/Petty combo are outright winners in terms of number of years!
This was, arguably, Stour’s best performance of the season, so far. However, they failed to secure a single point in a match that could have gone either way with just 10 minutes left on the clock and a 3 point lead!
Conditions were perfect of open running rugby and the 395 strong crowd were not to be disappointed but needed to wait more than 20 minutes for the first score. The home side had dominated territory and possession and were unable to take advantage of a 2nd minute penalty which Rickie Aley sent left and short from 40 metres out. Hinckley also had a golden opportunity when they broke out shortly after but were foiled when a two-man overlap ended with a forward pass.
Luke Veebel, Hal Riley Niall Gibbons and Joe Heatley were all testing the visitors’ defence including a Heatley chip and chase that saw him (aided by Dan Rundle) drag a hapless defender into touch. However, it was their turn to lose the impetus following a knock on and a relieved Hinckley side were able to clear their lines. A few minutes later, Stourbridge probed the opposition 22 m area but an adventurous counter was well rewarded through an Alex Salt try. In some frenetic play over some 80 metres Hinckley No 6 Gareth Turner was involved three times in battling forward to within striking distance and TRP Man of the Match Salt was on hand to complete the foray. The simple conversion was stroked over by league leading points machine Joe Wilson.
The tide made its first turn just 6 minutes later when No 7 Jamie Skerritt was binned for a technical foul following his line being battered by a rampant Stour pack. Two penalty scrums later gave loose ball to the hosts and, from a few feet out, Jack Lea was never going to miss a chance to crash over the line. Rickie Aley converted and Stour had scored their first points in over 190 minutes of rugby against Hinckley!
Stourbridge squandered another good opportunity following a Dan Rundle chip and chase, Hinckley foul play and a penalty lineout just 5 metres from the whitewash. However, lineout possession was knocked on and the ball was cleared 30 metres. A darting break by Adam Shaw was also unrewarded when support failed to arrive when he was tackled 5 m out but another counter through Heatley and Mark Harrison regained the upper hand and a penalty for foul play. Rickie Aley drilled the ball into the right corner for a lineout just second from the 40-minute whistle. Good work by the lineout led to a series of ‘pick and go’ moves and the ball was seized by “Bowling Ball” Jack Lea who burst through from short range and his second score of the day. Rickie Aley’s conversion ended the first half and, at 14-7, the consensus of opinion was that this was a fair reflection between the two sides.
Ten minutes later, Hinckley kicked off and seemed to have been galvanised by their rest and half time team talk. It took just 8 minutes for them to press home the advantage after Stour were accused over pulling the scrum round. Later possession found its way to the powerful running wingman Sam Driver who scored out left and Joe Wilson completed a difficult conversion.
Straight from the kick off it was Wilson who scored a Try of his own and his conversion now edged Hinckley ahead by 14-21. Play was halted by a nasty incident that saw Luke Veebel leave the pitch and Hal Riley take a knock on the back of his neck! Play resumed and Stour won the ball following a sublime ‘steal’ by Nick Murphy. However, a latter Stour penalty failed to make touch and Hinckley returned a kick back to where the move had started.
Enter Niall Gibbons who made his best break of the day gaining 20 metres and leading to a Stourbridge penalty. The visitors saw their 2nd Yellow Card of the afternoon when replacement Jack Dickinson was ordered off for foul play. Stour opted for a scrum penalty where Nigel Mukarati who leapt over a melee of bodies, grabbed recycled ball and scored another well-deserved 5 points. Rickie Aley converted to tie the scores then put the hosts ahead with a 70th minute penalty and 24-21 lead.
However, it didn’t take long for the whole dynamics of the game to change when Hinckley scored two Tries in five minutes separated by a missed penalty kick opportunity by Stour brought about by the return of Mark George and a scrum penalty. The first Try came after the visitors onslaught through pick and go moves, finding replacement Ryan Hough. Wilson missed his only kick of the day but his side were now 2 points ahead.
Even though Stourbridge had their chances they spilled the ball and failed to regain it leaving sole predator Jack Dickinson to gather. His 40-metre sprint outpaced the Stour defence to score between the posts. Wilson capped off a fine performance with his final attempt and a 24-33 lead.
Stourbridge did have one final flurry to gain some league points in the dying seconds when play was sent out right. However, a chip and chase went too far and a grateful Hinckley defender caught, ‘marked’ and cleared to touch in a final act of defiance!
Next week, we make the long journey to Hull Ionians in another tough encounter against a side that have won 4/5 games and lie in 3rd position. Having beaten Sheffield Tiger, Tynedale and Peterborough, they lost last week in a very similar score to ours at 35-24 so this is a key game in our campaign this season. We look forward to seeing as many Stourton Park faithful as possible given the journey is only 130 miles and 2.5 hours travelling time!
Pics by Andy Cook