Monday, 20 February 2012

Hornets get their Fax right

Halifax 38 Hornets 6

Einstein once said: "Spend an hour with a pretty girl and it feels like a minute; spend a minute sat on a hot stove, and it feels like an hour - that's relativity!" And so it is with the Northern Rail Cup.

Depending on which dugout you watched this game from, the result was relative. For Halifax, the Northern Rail cup is a benchmark for their season. One of the few clubs with a realistic chance of winning the competition, it's a chance of silverware and an opportunity to remind Superleague of their credentials for promotion.

For Hornets, it's a four game warm-up for the real business of the Co-operative Championship One season - a chance for Stanky to tune the machine before the games that really matter begin.

The preparation of both coaches going into this game was also relative: Halifax having played four games, Hornets having played two 'half' trial games against Mayfield and Crusaders.

Hence, it was a ring-rusty Hornets on show - but the early signs are positive.

Despite slipping behind to an early try from Fieldhouse, Hornets defence scrapped and scrambled well in the first quarter - aided by some frankly shocking wing-play from Fax's 'strike' players Worrincy and White.

It took until the 19th minute for Fax to stretch their lead when Thackeray was allowed to get an out-stretched hand out of the tackle to plonk the ball down from a metre.

But still Hornets strove to take the game to Halifax, the forwards driving hard and straight; Roper and Crook picking and probing at the Halifax defence.

Then came a wobble. A well-taken try from Gannon gave Halifax some momentum and they capitalised with two more quickfire tries in the last ten minutes of the half, to give the game a bit of a lop-sided feel at 26-nil.

The break came at just the right time for Stanky to pull his charges together and steady the ship. Indeed, Hornets came out champing the bit and, within two minutes of the restart, McDermott had burrowed under a napping Halifax defence to break Hornets' duck and give the travelling fans something to celebrate.

On the next foray into Halifax territory, Hornets could've been on the board again, but Dayne Donahue was considered held-up over the line and the chance was gone.

The remainder of the second half was a close-fought tussle. Hornets camped for long periods in the Fax 10 metre zone, but unable to find the killer pass or kick to unlock a stubborn defence; minor issues that will be resolved as timings and runs get honed.

As it was, Halifax were made to scrap for their two further tries (one for Ashall on 50 mins and one for Tyrer in the 75th), but Hornets emerged with real credibility from this first 'proper' run-out of the year.

Certainly, the Hornets dug-out would've been happy with the level of commitment and desire to move the ball at every opportunity. And with the forwards (particularly Cookson, Newton and Middlehurst) matching their opposite numbers for long periods, It's Stanky who will be relatively pleased with the performance.

Halifax on the other hand have the juggernaut of Featherstone heading their way - and you don't have to be Einstein to see they'll need to improve significantly to get anything out of that one.