Hinckley started 2018 with a fine win over local rivals Leicester Lions, whilst Mansfield came tremendously close to an FA Cup upset in this weekends action from our sponsored teams.
On a wet pitch and in difficult conditions, a ruthless display of power rugby from Hinckley destroyed a Leicester Lions side who came into the match with high hopes of reclaiming local bragging rights from their near neighbours. First-half tries from Mitch Culpin and Joe Glover, coupled with a second-half brace from James Martin and Rhodri Tanner saw the Hornets collect another 5 point maximum while denying a side who had previously averaged 23 points per game even a consolation score.
In truth, with one exception, Lions never really threatened to score. The Hinckley defence was excellent throughout, containing the Lions pack and denying the dangerous Lions backs the space to run. The one exception came when a wayward Hinckley pass in the Lions 22 ended up in the arms of the Lions centre to give him a clear run for the line. However, a superb cover tackle by James Martin, who had run the length of the field to take his man 3m out from the Hinckley line, resulted in the ball being bundled into touch and the danger was cleared. Arguably, that tackle decided the game.
The early exchanges were relatively even, although there were signs that the Lions pack were in for a difficult afternoon in the scrum.
It was not until the 18th minute that Hinckley opened the scoring. A classic cross-field kick from Wheatcroft found Culpin unchallenged 3m out to cross for what surely must be one of the simplest tries he will score. Joe Wilson missed the conversion but Hinckley were 5-0 ahead. Wilson made amends 5 minutes later when Lions were penalised for handling in the ruck in front of their posts.
As half-time approached, Lions were under pressure and a series of pick and drives on their line eventually saw Joe Glover get over to extend the Hinckley lead. Wilson added the extras to take Hornets into the break 15-0 ahead.
The opening period of the second period saw the Hinckley pack begin to dominate particularly in the scrums but Lions would not lie down and Hornets were still required to demonstrate their defensive prowess.
Then came Martin’s try saving effort on 65 minutes. Following that the Lions seemed to wilt and the Hornets took advantage.
Minutes later a scrum inside the Lions 22 resulted in Wheatcroft launching another cross-field kick to find Martin who twisted out of the tackle to score. Wilson converted to take the score to 22-0 with 10 to play.
Six minutes later, Lions were penalised in the scrum in their own 22, allowing Hornets to set up another catch and drive attempt. This time there was no mistake with Tanner touching down from a well-executed maul to secure the bonus point. Wilson missed the conversion but there was little now to play for and the game meandered towards the final whistle.
Hornets entertain Sedgely Park next week at Leicester Road in what could be a make or break match for both sides. Hinckley are now four points clear at the top of the division with pre-season favourites Sale breathing down their necks. Sedgley are in fourth still entertaining promotion ambitions themselves.
Mansfield Town FC
A hard-working and never-say-die performance from Mansfield Town saw them hold Championship high-flyers Cardiff City to a 0-0 draw in the Emirates FA Cup Third Round at the Cardiff City Stadium this afternoon.
The two sides will now meet again, with a replay to take place at One Call Stadium at a date and time to be confirmed.
Prior to kick-off, there were 51 English Football League places between the two sides and as expected, Cardiff had the better of the openings of the first half with midfielders Callum Paterson and Rhys Healey calling Mansfield ‘keeper Conrad Logan into action but the Stags were not over-awed and winger CJ Hamilton nearly put them into the lead late into the half but the former Sheffield United man headed over the bar.
The second period was just as even with Mansfield applying some strong pressure on the Cardiff goal and having the better chances. Battling midfielder Alex MacDonald curled a shot agonisingly wide from 25 yards before striker Lee Angol and winger Paul Anderson both saw efforts from close range blocked. The Bluebirds almost won it at the end, Logan producing a heroic save low to his right which meant the tie deservedly end as a draw.