Hornets close to gaining promotion

Hornets v Cleve.

Hornets v Cleve. - Credit: Archant

Hornets’ victory over Cleve all but guarantees National League rugby for the first time.

HORNETS 33 pts

CLEVE 17 pts

HORNETS entertained Cleve, one of their promotion rivals at The Nest, and came away with a win which all but guarantees National League rugby for the first time.

With Cleve beating Hornets convincingly on the opening day of the season and with the visitors still in the mix for a promotion play-off place, Hornets could be assured that the opposition were going to make it a hard afternoon for them.

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Hornets had been forced into a couple of changes with Francis moving into the front row as cover for the missing Haines, 18-year-old Ogden starting in the back row and prop Grimes coming onto the bench.

The early scrums proved a challenge for Hornets, who were repeatedly finding themselves on the back foot. However, the loose play was better and after 10 minutes skipper Kent barged his way over the gain line and won a penalty.

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The kick to touch from Letherby was good and the resulting line-out released Francis to break the gain line and he moved the ball to Jack Gadd, who released Cornish to sprint over the line.

Cleve hit back immediately to take the lead with a converted try and soon after converted a penalty. Hornets made changes to the pack and this resulted in a stronger scrum. Cleve lost their No 8 to a yellow card and Jones pulled back three points with a penalty.

Hornets finished the first-half the stronger and nearly scored when Balkham was denied a scoring chance when the ball was bundled into touch.

Hornets changed their scrum further at half-time with Grimes coming on to bolster the front row. Hornets were now holding their own at the set pieces and the solid foundation proved vital as Hornets hit a purple patch.

Parker was starting to dominate off the back off the scrum, well supported by Cheeseborough and Francis and the second row of Hogarth and Harris battled fiercely against their opposite numbers, who seemed to relish the battle.

It was from a scrum that Hornets struck with their second try. The pack put the Cleve scrum under pressure and a charge down saw the ball break to Letherby. He offloaded to Joe Gadd who found a gap and released Jones who battered his way towards the line.

The defence dragged him down but the ball was quickly recycled and Disney found Cheesborough arriving at pace and his momentum carried him over for a try under the posts. Jones converted for a 15-10 lead.

From the kick-off Hornets again secured good ball and this time good work by Letherby, Joe Gadd and Cornish set up Disney to touch down.

Within minutes the Hornets backs broke again. Jack Gadd surged through a gap and offloaded for Jones to smash through the defence and won a penalty which he slotted himself for a 23-10 lead.

The Hornets pack set up a maul for the next try and when Letherby moved it wide Cornish made the decision to go alone and skipped through the defence for his second of the afternoon.

The remainder of the half saw the forwards battling for territory. First Cleve added a second try of their own from a driving maul and not to be outdone, Hornets’ forwards scored from a driving maul themselves. Chase appeared at the back to add a trademark try and bring the final score to 33-17.

Every member of the side contributed massively and they can be proud of their top of the table position going into the last week of the season.

They now face two games next week, Sidmouth on Saturday and Bideford on Sunday. Winning one of the games will see Hornets crowned champions and give them National League rugby next season.

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