Monday, 26 March 2012

Banana Skin Avoided.

East Hull 20 Hornets 48

You can't really win in these Carnegie Challenge Cup games against amateur opposition. If you win by 80 people say, "What did you expect, they're just amateurs?". And if you win by half a dozen people assume you were crap. 

Thankfully, this game came somewhere twixt the two, Hornets having enough in the tank to deliver the requisite win, but East Hull providing sufficient frisson of an upset to make it an entertaining contest.

And the shock was on after just two minutes; Partis with the neat chip, Noble gathering in traffic and Easts 6-nil to the good. Hornets fans raised eybrows and shook heads. But Hornets were swift to respond.

With Easts going backwards on the end of consecutive penalties, Hornets worked the ball to Gary Middlehurst who found space by the post. Chris Baines added the two.

But Easts had brought their bag of kicking tricks with them and produced a beauty from the back of a scrum on the Hornets 30m line. Partis lofting the ball into space for Edwards to sweep in and score. Two attacks, two superbly executed tries, Hornets shellshocked.

Hence, the finger was extracted. With Roper, McDermott and Hough taking the Hornets pack forwards, Chris Baines capitalised on some sustained pressure bursting in off a short ball from Roper on 15 minutes; then Middlehurst showing good strength to burrow in on 20; and John Cookson alert to a neat offload by Middlehurst to score under the black dot on half an hour. Hornets now with some breathing space, with a 24-10 lead. 

The last action of the half saw referee Merrick lose patience with Easts loose forward Precious, dispatching him for 10 minutes for repeated infringements in the tackle.

The second half had an eerie feel of deja-vu about it; Easts wasting no time to ship the ball right for Edwards to score.

An injury to Steve Roper saw Hornets compelled to improvise at half back: Danny Pyke in at stand-off, Houghy going to scrum half, with Jonny Leather going to fullback as Paul O'Connor moved up to fill the centre berth.

It was a major shuffle that required Hornets to play their way back into some sort of shape and there was an air of stalemate until the 60th minute when some neat interchanges saw Phil Wood scooting through a tiring Easts defence to score.

On the next carry downfield, Hornets repeated the move; this time it was Paul O'Connor the beneficiary. 

Easts continued to work hard, forcing repeat sets on more than one occasion, but it was Hornets who created the chances. Firstly Phil Wood's neatly-timed short ball sending Jonny Leather in on 67 minutes. And it was Wood again - using John Cookson as the fulcrum - who provided the pass for Gary Middlehurst's hat-trick try.
Baines added the extras to give him eight from eight with the boot and grab the man-of-the-match award.

But, it was Easts who had the final word, scoring the 'send 'em home pissed off' try in the 80th minute - Moody with the four, Puckering with the two for a final score of 48-20.

So, more perfunctory than spectacular - but take nothing away from East Hull. They came with a clear game plan and executed it superbly well. The quality of their in-play kicking only serving to emphasise the size of the hole that Paul Crook's absence creates.

As for Hornets, they did enough. In his post match interview John Stankevich likeded the game to 'pulling teeth' and it's a fair summary. With five players missing, Hornets were a bit out of shape and the loss of Steve Roper after an hour did cause a major restructure.

But, ultimately, you only need to do enough to win in knockout football. And in situations like this where - whatever you do - you can't really win, that's all we can ask.