Hornets 24 Barrow 18
It was a robust and clinical Hornets that finally torpedoed Barrow's chances of winning CC1. Hornets were as inventive, determined and enthusiastic as Barrow were, frankly, soft - and, with the scoreline flattering a flaccid Raiders, Hornets turned in a supremely cohesive performance.
Not once in 80 minutes did title-chokers Barrow breach the Hornets defence under their own steam. Of their four tries, three came directly from Hornets errors and the scrappy fourth from a last-tackle kick. Indeed, under a relentless pounding from the Hornets pack and a dual aeriel bombardment from Crook and Hough, Barrow spent most of the afternoon going backwards.
With the early exchanges played in the visitors' half, Wayne English's wriggling run on 7 minutes mesmerised the defenders sufficiently to create space for Dayne Donoghue to crash through and score. And within minutes, Donoghue was again tormenting the Raiders - this time unzipping the defence for Paul Crook to sail through for a well-crafted try.
With Barrow going nowhere, Hornets set-up camp in the Raiders' 40, causing havoc in the ranks and forcing repeat sets with a series of teasing in-goal kicks. But it was Barrow who got the lucky break: a ball squirming from a Hornets hand, a freakish bounce and two tries in quick succession from Ballard and Larkin to give the visitors an undeserved lead.
But Hornets didn't panic. Working the ball back downfield, Steve Roper found Wayne English on a looping crossfield run, the defence bammboozled as he ghosted through a huge gap to score. Hornets in front at the break by 14 to 10.
Hornets began the second half playing high-tempo, high impact football and it took Barrow just six minutes to succumb. English again scampering across the face of a panicking defence, hitting Jonny Leather at pace for him to scoot in at the flag. Fantastic stuff. For good measure Paul Crook slotted the extras from the touchline.
Barrow again capitalised on a Hornets error for Shaw to score and, eventually, scored a try of their own making when a kick hit more in hope than expectation pinballed through a crowd of bodies for Larkin to find himself in the in-goal with the ball.
But it was Barrow's last hurrah. In the final 20 minutes Hornets gave no quarter, repeatedly compelling Barrow to start under their own posts; their only hope a stream of lead-footed hoofs downfield. And with a punch-drunk Barrow desperately flailing, Hornets ended strongly: Crooky's dink into the in-goal causing the pre-requisite panic; Dayne Donoghue keeping his head to plunge through and touch down.
Ultimately, this was a commanding performance and a terrific win - demonstrating just what this Hornets side is capable of. Indeed, on yesterday's evidence, there was only one side on show that looked capable of competing at a higher level. And it wasn't Barrow.