Late drop-goal denies Hornets victory
- Credit: Archant
Hornets lost to second-placed Exmouth by a drop-goal with just two minutes to go.
Hornets 19 pts
Exmouth 20 pts
AFTER a difficult period of eight weeks, when they have only played two games, both of which had ended in defeat, Hornets had another tough challenge with second-placed Exmouth visiting the The Nest.
A much better performance saw Hornets push Exmouth all the way, but in the end they lost out to a drop-goal in the dying minutes.
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On a cold wintery day, Hornets started the livelier of the two sides. Good early pressure saw the home side win a penalty at the scrum. James Letherby kicked to the corner and the resulting line-out saw the Hornets pack drive over for Alec Chase to score. Jermaine Jones added the conversion for an early 7-0 lead.
A second Hornets scrum saw the ball moved to the backs and Adam Francis broke the line and made good ground before moving the ball wide for Charlie Carter to dive over in the corner. A great conversion kick from the touchline saw Jones add the extras for a 14-0 lead after 10 minutes.
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Exmouth responded well and a brawl between the forwards saw a yellow card for the Exmouth second row Hornets struggled to defend the resulting line-out and in attempting to do so, Chase also found himself seeing yellow. The next penalty was again kicked to touch and this time the line-out led to an Exmouth try.
With Exmouth now having more of the play Hornets needed to get themselves back in the game. They did this through Phil Hogarth, who broke the defence and rampaged for 40 metres before a tap tackle stopped what looked like a certain try.
However, Hogarth managed to offload and Carter made good ground to add his second try. This time the conversion was missed, but the lead had been extended to 19-5.
With half-time approaching, it was Exmouth who finished the half on a high with their dangerous outside centre beating the first line of defence and cruising over for a converted try to give a half-time score of 19-12.
After what had been an exciting first half with good rugby played by both sides the second half never quite reached the same heights.
For large periods the sides battled for territory and despite a period of pressure and clever kicking from Letherby pinning Exmouth back, Hornets could not add any points.
Exmouth wrestled their way back into the game and despite missing two kickable penalties, they eventually added the first points of the second half with a try to pull the score back to 19-17.
Hornets defended admirable towards the end, but a well taken drop-goal with two minutes to play gave Exmouth the lead for the first time in the match.
Despite Hornets having a difficult penalty attempt with the last kick of the game, the distance proved just too much for Jones and Exmouth we able to celebrate a hard-fought victory which will keep their own promotion ambitions alive.
The improved performance will give Hornets increased confidence for the coming weeks and with games in hand over their nearest rivals they are still well placed to finish the season in the top four.