Fylde 17 Hinckley 27: more Mr Hyde than Dr Jekyll
After the caviar of the last two matches when Fylde ran up 114 points, it was more modest gruel on offer at the Woodlands against a good Hinckley team. This was Fylde’s second home defeat of the campaign but, despite a very poor 1st half and a deficit of 0-15 at the interval, they fought their way back bravely in the 2nd half and took the lead with 15 minutes left. But the ‘Hornets’ had a sting in their tail and two late tries clinched a bonus points win for the 4th placed club in National Two (North).
February introduced itself with a biting cross field wind and overcast conditions but a good dry Woodlands pitch. The terrestrial broadcasting of 6 Nations games always drives down the size of the home crowds and this was no exception despite the importance of a clash between the 2nd and 4th clubs in the division.
The opening minutes of the game set the pattern of the first 40 minutes. Fylde were hurried and rather careless with the ball in hand. In the 3rd minute they were penalised in front of their posts and Hinckley’s Joe Wilson kicked an easy goal to open the scoring. The big winger has a siege gun kicking talent and was to exploit the conditions well throughout, driving back the home attacks time and again.
Fylde tried to play their usual expansive game but frequent knock-ons frustrated their attacking moves as they pressed inside the visitors half. The tight exchanges were even, with neither pack of forwards dominating in the lineouts or the frequently re-set scrummages.
In the 23rd minute Hinckley worked their way to 30m from the Fylde line and impish scrum-half Ben Pointon raced through a gap in the home defence to score the opening try of the game. Pointon was very nippy all afternoon and was a constant threat to Fylde around the fringes of rucks and mauls. Wilson converted easily and the Hornets had a 0-10 advantage.
If the home supporters hadn’t already realised the size of Fylde’s task, the reality struck them forcibly three minutes later when a clever Hinckley move on halfway opened up the right side of Fylde’s defence. The ball was worked out to winger Callum Dacey who outstripped a laggardly home defence and he scored an excellent try from 40m out. Although the attempted conversion was almost in front of the posts, the otherwise excellent Wilson uncharacteristically sent the ball wide. A 0-15 score line looked ominous for the Lancastrians.
Fylde then set up a sustained period of pressure inside the Hinckley half and forced a series of penalties against the visitors, hammering away at their try line. Fylde spurned chances of an easy three points in an attempt to score a try or two in the closing minutes of the 1st half but each time their efforts were stymied by fierce Hinckley defence or handling errors. The visitors were happy to hear the half-time whistle with a handsome lead promising much.
Fylde started the 2nd half with more aggression, accuracy and intensity. In the 47th minute they attacked down their left and winger Tom Grimes chipped cleverly over the Hornets’ defence before being tackled high and late by visiting fullback Rory Vowles. A period in the sin bin was the inevitable result.
As the pressure on the Hinckley defence intensified, they conceded a string of penalties. Still Fylde couldn’t find a way through the visitors’ defence. In the 54th minute Hinckley lost another player to the sin bin as prop David Peck joined Vowles on the sidelines. Fylde moved the ball right through their backs and Tom Carleton squeezed over in the corner for a good try. Greg Smith’s attempted conversion into the wind wasn’t successful but at least Fylde were on the scoreboard.
Home no 8 David Fairbrother was increasingly visible with charging runs into the heart of the Hinckley defence. Vowles returned to the action but, still a player short, another Fairbrother burst fed centre Chris Briers who dived over for his side’s second try. Once again, from wide out, Smith’s attempted conversion was short but the deficit was shrinking.
Fylde were now on a collective roll and almost immediately, in the 63rd minute, they took the lead. The home pack went through several phases of retaining possession and driving forward 20m out from the Hinckley line. Flanker Phill Mills burst through with excellent pace to score a try under the posts which brought great acclaim from the crowd. Greg Smith’s straightforward conversion gave his side a 17-15 lead and the 1st half seemed just a bad memory.
Life is rarely that straightforward if you are a Fylde supporter. A wild miss pass that went into touch gave Hinckley possession on halfway and a offence at an ensuing ruck allowed the visitors’ Wilson to find touch deep in Fylde’s half in the 69th minute. The subsequent maul rumbled towards the Fylde try line and replacement Matt Lasis was credited with the score. Wilson converted well and his side had the lead once more at 17-22.
Fylde tried to hit back but their huffing and puffing came to nothing. In the 76th minute Hinckley applied the coup de grâce. Flanker Olly Povoas weaved his way through some ineffectual tackling and broke clear from halfway to score the concluding bonus point winning try. Joy was unconfined for the East Midlanders and the final whistle blew a few minutes later.
Fylde could have no complaints after a lacklustre performance not in keeping with their recent displays. All sides have bad days and this will certainly have a been a big disappointment, not least to the players themselves. The coaches and squad now need to re-group ahead of a challenging trip to Chester on Saturday.
Head Coach Warren Spragg said: “In the 1st half we lost the physical battle upfront, not massively, but we didn’t get the dominance that we’ve had in recent weeks. In consequence, we didn’t get the line breaks through the middle that we usually create. We were slow to move the ball, and when we moved it wide their defence covered well and we didn’t break through. We also made a lot of handling errors which was uncharacteristic .
“Our midfield defence was poor and we conceded two tries in three minutes which were straight breaks through the middle. At this level, and with a group of players who’ve played a lot together, our defence shouldn’t have been breached in that fashion.
“So at half-time we were up against it. In the 2nd half we responded in just the right way. We took the attack to Hinckley, played with more pace, scored three good tries and then edged in front.
“And then we stopped! We threw the ball off the pitch when it was calling out to go through the middle of their defence. At the subsequent lineout we gave a penalty away and then they went back in front with a driving maul. We didn’t control possession as we should have done and there were some key moments that we should have capitalised on. We showed plenty of fight and effort but should have done much better to close the game out once in front.
“Overall, a frustrating afternoon – and there’s a frustrated group of players in the changing room now. This defeat makes the trip to Chester next week a very big occasion. Sedgley beat them convincingly today so they will be very keen to respond positively at home. We need to be on the front foot before Caldy visit the Woodlands in two weeks time.”
FYLDE: 15 Wilkinson; 14 Carleton, 13 Briers, 12 Rawlings, 11 Grimes; 10 Smith, 9 Lanigan; 1 Horner, 2 Gregory, 3 Lewis, 4 Ashcroft N, 5 Garrod (Vernon 51), 6 Chapman (Conner 51), 7 Mills, 8 Fairbrother.
Non-playing replacements: Ashcroft M, Stephenson, Botha.
HINCKLEY: 15 Vowles (Povoas H 60); 14 Wilson, 13 Lamb, 12 Smith, 11 Dacey; 10 Wheatcroft, 9 Pointon (Glover 74); 1 Harvey (Peck 67), 2 Johnson, 3 Peck (Lasis 66), 4 Weaver (Harper 63), 5 Salt ©️, 6 Skerritt, 7 Povoas O, 8 Povoas, H (Lasis 48, Moreton 60).
Non-playing replacements: Luke Coltman.