Monday, 12 March 2012

Hornets Hand Skolars a Lesson in Finishing

If Skolars have progressed from spoiling easybeats into a side able to compete with Co-operative Championship teams for 79 minutes, then it was hard to see exactly where that improvement has happened.  On this showing, they depend almost entirely on being an ugly, awkward, spoiling unit that drags teams into a fragmented shit-fight, whereupon they have the upper hand.

To Hornets' credit, they rose above the tsunami of lying on, play-the-ball encroachment, flopping and niggling to play some high-tempo, slick football that left the visitors on the end of a winning margin that probably flattered them a bit.

The first ten minutes were pretty even: Hornets probing and testing the Skolars defence with little success. But a repeat set on the back of some sustained pressure saw Gary Middlehurst burrow in from close range.

Hornets' next attack saw a move of Harlem Globetrotters proportions as a break from Paul O'Connor left the defence scrambling, his neat pass found Steve Roper in support. With defenders gathering, he flipped the ball round his back for Wayne English to collect and a tidy turn of pace saw him plant the ball by the flag. Great stuff.

Aided by a couple of penalities, London rallied briefly: swift hands down the line saw Price score out wide, but Hornets restored the ten point margin when Stephen Bannister broke and his pass was snaffled by Paul O'Connor for a well-taken try.
Half time 14-4.

Hornets began the second half at a much smarter pace and with a much more direct attitude: Crook and Roper threading snappy short passes to straight runners and looking to move the second phase wide at every opportunity. London, conversely, strove to slow every play-the-ball to a standstill.

On 52 minutes, Bannister and Roper tore through a back-pedalling defense, the ball finding its way to Phil Wood who hit the gas to find himself spoilt for options with only the fullback to beat. Middlehurst was the recipient of the pass that got the points - but Woody was cynically felled after the event and, after some lengthy treatment, left the field. Skolars' fullback Anthony followed - red-carded for use of the elbow.

Having had enough of London's blunt-instrument tactics, Hornets used the man advantage to take the pace of the game beyond London's ability to cling on.
With props Cookson, Hobson and Bowman making big in-roads in the tackle, Crooky and Roper found willing runners out wide and - after some near misses - another block-busting break from Bannister fed Steve McDermott in just after the hour mark.

Skolars were a busted flush, blowing hard and hanging onto every tackle for as long as referee Sharrad would allow. Hornets continued to move the ball, with Roper finding Hobson arriving at pace, the makeshift prop picking his pass to send Bannister in for a deserved try. Then it was Roper again creating space to send in Gary Middlehurst for his hat-trick and give Hornets a victory that reflected their dominance.

Whilst there is plenty of room for improvement, this was a good benchmark. Certainly, given enough latitude to use the ball smartly, Crook and Roper created lots of options for a threequarter line that looks to have pace as well as size.

Notwithstanding the completely pointless game against SW Scorpions on Wednesday night - this should provide a good platform for our trip to Whitehaven (who were brutally dicked at Doncaster).

As for the Skolars, let's hope they've learned their lesson - that going out to spoil a game spoils it for everyone.