Hykeham hold out for a narrow victory in a fantastically competitive encounter
Hykeham RFC, after a long series of away travels, hosted Midlands 5 rivals Meden Vale. This is a game that Hykeham had circled for several reasons. First, and foremost in the players' minds, was the poor performance in the reverse fixture, where Hykeham were bullied out of the points. The opportunity to redeem themselves was eagerly anticipated. Furthermore, Hykeham had the opportunity to surpass Meden Vale in the league standings, which always adds to the intensity of a game.
The team were on a good run of form; conceding only 5 points in their last two league fixtures. There was a guarded confidence surrounding the team, with the side clear that if they met Vale's aggression head on they had the players to score points. As expected the early exchanges were highly charged and competitive with both sides attempting to stamp their authority on the game. Normally, such counter-rucking and aggression transforms the game into a long series of stoppages, but the game flowed fantastically from an assured management of the game by the referee, who wasted no time in showing both sides his decisions were not to be challenged. Having the law laid down early preserved the quality of the game with players focussed on keeping their discipline and reacting to penalties rather than questioning them.
Like many teams in this division, Meden Vale are a side who emphasise the power game, and presented Hykeham's pack with an excellent challenge. Vale had a well-drilled, aggressive scrum, however Hykeham for the majority of the game held their own, retaining most of their own put in's. This resilience laid testament to the large strides that Hykeham have made in scrummaging, after some early season lessons. Retaining possession in the scrum and at the breakdown was the key to opening up this game, with the forwards looking for every opportunity to pass it out to the backs who have collectively been dominant in the last few outings. Indeed, the opening score came from great speed out on the wing with the half back pairing delivering great ball to, eventual man of the match winner, Danny Brown to Michael Flatley his way was through the defence. Rather than take the easy score, Brown had the wherewithal to take on two more defenders to score under the posts setting up what turned out to be a crucial conversion.
As expected Vale took the game right back to Hykeham, and were not long in responded with a try. A feature of their attack, that Hykeham struggled to contain all afternoon, was the rolling maul from the lineout. Essentially, nullifying any attempt to sack by not putting the jumper down until the maul had formed, provided an excellent platform to drive forward. Despite dogged resistance Meden Vale eventually powered their way over the line. However, Hykeham went into the second half with a narrow lead scoring with one of the last plays of the first half. Hykeham's pack were drilling the ball towards the line with pistols, and from a well-secured ruck the half back pairing whipped the ball across the field to an eager back line. And after collecting a great offload in the tackle, Robbie Allen, seemingly experiencing vertigo being so high up the pitch, scored the try.
The first score in the second period was going to be very telling come the final whistle with Hykeham anticipating that adding a third try might dampen Vale's spirits enabling them to secure the win. The third eventually came with some great chasing and support play from, the immaculately groomed and salon-styled Tom Kelly. To their immense credit, rather than lying down Vale showed great spirit and continued to batter the Hykeham defensive line. With a minute remaining, Hykeham conceded but ultimately held strong for the win. The team were elated with the victory, not because a dominant display but because each player on the field knew the momentous effort that went into earning that victory.
With the continuation of surprising results across Midlands 5, and having won three on the bounce, Hykeham have found themselves with much to play for in the remaining fixtures. There is a possible 25 points still on the table, and with continued commitment at training in the remaining Winter months, Hykeham aim to challenge for every one of those points available. Although on a winning streak, the first XV look forward to an opportunity to rest next weekend after two very physical games back to back. However, Hykeham play under the Newark floodlights next Tuesday week, taking on holders Cleethorpes in the perennially rescheduled Lincs Cup fixture, and welcome all fans travelling down the A46 to turn this game into a proper home fixture.