Hornets 46 - Scorpions 24
On a wet and horrible night, Stanky handed debuts to 8 players, but the mix of enthusiasm and experience proved too much to handle for a SW Scorpions side that had an equally experimental feel to it. Featuring a mix of regulars, Wigan reservists, union trialists and Welsh U18 players, the Scorpions really only handled the pace of the game once Stanky withdrew four first team regulars in the second half, but by then the damage was done.
Playing high tempo football from the whistle, Hornets leapt into an early lead. A lovely show & go from Phil Wood created enough space for him to scoot in from 40 metres on 2 minutes. And just 2 minutes later a slick interchange of passes between Alex West and Barry Clarke up the right channel carved open the Scorpions and Clarke picked a peach of a pass inside to Paul Crook. With the extras added to both, Hornets were 12-nil to the good after five minutes.
It didn't get much better for the visitors. They carried the ball for the first time in the 8th minute and came up with forward pass. From the resulting possession Hornets set up camp in the Scorpions half and, direct from a 10th minute scrum, Barry Clarke looped through weak tackling to score in the corner.
On 14 minutes, Hornets capitalised on another SW error, as Dean Gorton hit space off a short pass, only to be recalled for a forward pass. But it merely delayed the inevitable as just two minutes later Gary Middlehurst blasted onto a short Will Chadwick pass to crash in and score. Crooky good with the boot for 22-nil.
Despite the conditions, Hornets continued to play with creatvity and confidence: Gary Middlehurst unveiling a tricksy short kicking game that had the visitors defence backpedaling. But the Welsh side stuck to their simple, direct game-plan and it finally came to fruition after 26 minutes when good hands in traffic fed in Crow off a short pass. Wildbore converted for 22-6.
Normal service was resumed on the half hour: Hornets forcing a drop-out, the ball worked to Jonny Leather who stepped into space, executed a quite exquisite back-handed flick pass to Barry Clarke who planted the ball by the corner flag. In swirling, sopping conditions Paul Crook hoisted the ball between the uprights from the touchline. 28-6
Directly from the kick-off a neat Gary Middlehurst pass found Jonny Leather arriving at pace and he steamed in from 50 metres. Crook added the extras. 34-6 at the break.
Hornets began the second half seamlessly. Gary Middlehurst's dink behind the defence bait enough for Will Chadwick to bite, sliding in to score. Crooky added the 2: 40-6.
Four minutes later Jonny Leather's break up the right instigated a quick exchange of passes with Alex West, Leather going back for the last pass to score under the black-dot. Crooky converting; 46-6. Job pretty much done.
With Stanky withdrawing Crook, Wood, Bowman and Middlehurst, South Wales found a bit of breathing space and, as Hornets played through the sets the Scorpions gained confidence and fashioned three well-taken tries: James on the end of good handling on 52 minutes; Crow off a neat Wildbore show & go on the hour and Morgan stepping through a napping defence to score from half-way on 70 minutes.
With time ebbing away and the conditions increasingly poor, referee Sharpe pulled up with what looked like a groin injury. After treatment and a consultation with both sides it was decided to call an end to matters five minutes early and both sides left the field to warm applause.
In the end, this was an obligation fulfilled. But don't be misled that this was just a training run. Both sides were committed and competitive - and it's encouraging to see the talent coming through at Hornets. Steadied by a few experienced hands, the 'espoirs' play without fear; a fast, slick game on attack and working hard in numbers on defence.
Will Chadwick was named man of the match - worthy because of his dynamo attitude to getting round the field, but also because he was felled by a horribly mistimed tackle from Curtis. It was clearly an accident and it was heartening to see the player responsible apologise to both Chaddy and the referee; Chadwick's acceptance and a handshake drew applause from a surprisingly healthy crowd.
The debut of new signing Joe Fitzpatrick was also positive. Though he lacks match fitness at the moment, he put himself about, landed one or two bell-ringing tackles and augments Gary Middlehurst's 'mongrel' attitude in the pack.
All in all, an entertaining, well-contested match. And - at last - some reasons to be cheerful for the Hornets regulars.