Monday, 9 April 2012

Hornets Win Derby Battle of the Biff

Hornets 18 Oldham 10

No-one likes a bad loser. And in this simmering derby Oldham were bad; they lost; and they didn't like it.

Hornets got off to the best of starts. Danny Davies creating space down the left after six minutes to put Wayne English in at the corner as Oldham's talismanic stand-off Roden limped from the game.

Oldham responded after 13 minutes when Oldham worked the ball to Onyango to score by the flag.

As the half descended into a stop-start, penalty-strewn mess, Hornets regrouped quickest and a 60 metre break from Dale Bloomfield caused disarray in Oldham's defence, where Johnny Leather and and Dayne Donohue exchanged quick passes to send Davies in on 25 minutes.

Hornets' lead could've been extended almost immediately when Donohue was adjudged to have lost control of the ball as he stretched for the goal-line.

Looking comfortable, Hornets switched off late in the tackle count and, with Thompson taking advantage to score by the posts, Oldham - somehow - found themselves 10-8 up at the break having been clear second best for most of the first half. It would be the last time they'd trouble the scoreboard.

Hornets emerged for the second half in determined mood and it took just five minutes for the dominant Hornets pack to provide a platform for their third try. Quick last-tackle hands from Phil Wood and Chris Hough sent Chris Baines on an arcing run, out-flanking a retreating defence to score. 12-10.

With the penalty count continuing to tick-over (it ended 9-10), both teams opted to run the ball in an attempt to gain momentum. Despite the best efforts of the overworked Dallimore, Oldham's flagging pack were visibly out of steam and ideas - ultimately punished when Steve McDermott hit them with an acting-half sucker try off the back of a blockbusting run from Gary Middlehurst. 16-10.

With Cookson and Middlehurst now punching holes in the Oldham line, Hornets trooped back upfield and Chris Hough gratefully accepted a simple penalty to put daylight between the teams at 18-10.

And then the pressure valve blew.

Dallimore's looping kick off was regathered by Oldham, Adam Bowman was penalised for a high tackle on Thompson, and - with Whitmore rushing in swinging punches - the referee was left picking the bones out of a 26-man brawl.

Tony Benson has since said he was 'confused' by the outcome, so I'll type slowly to explain. Referee Hewer gave a penalty to Oldham for the initial high tackle offence; he then showed the yellow card - wrongly - to Thompson for punching in the aftermath (it was clearly a case of mistaken identity). Pretty straightforward from where I was sat.

Hornets parked the bus and, with Dallimore fading, were happy to soak-up what pressure Oldham were able to muster, repeatedly forcing them back-upfield with a series of well-executed kick-chases.

But this game had a particularly nasty sting in the tail. As the hooter blew, Adam Bowman carried the ball to the touchline to end proceedings - pursued by Oldham's Clough. In a fit of pique, Clough pushed Bowman from behind into the perimeter advertising hoarding: and - as the Hornets medical team worked on him at pitch-side - the remaining 25 players scrapped it out as Hornets sought retribution for this act of gross petulance. Referee Hewer placed the incident on report and both teams - and coaching teams - continued their 'forthright exchange of views' as they eventually left the field.

Ultimately, Oldham were out-muscled in pretty much every position and Dallimore was 'old-headed' by Chris Hough who expended every ounce of his experience in the Hornets cause. But the Karl Marriott trophy for the Hornets man of the match went to Gary Middlehurst who was the pick of a determined, hard-running pack.