Hornets 36 - South Wales Scorpions 10
With the sideshow of Welsh *nion lump Andy Powell cancelled due to (his) lack of interest (he withdrew on the morning of the game due to 'illness'), at least everyone at Spotland could concentrate on the business at hand.
Having lost to a fast-improving Gateshead last week, South Wales coach Dave Clark was looking for a response - and he got one, almost instantly.
Hornets started awkwardly; dropping the ball in the very first set to give the visitors the platform to launch Powell in at the corner to give the Scorpions a first minute lead.
Powell then hoisted a 40/20 and the Welshmen turned the screw in the Hornets 20m zone - but despite the Scorpions' best efforts, the Hornets defence stood firm.
For almost 20 minutes the game became a real hand-to-hand contest, slugged out at close quarters in the middle third of the field. When South Wales did threaten, the redoubtable Wayne English provided a solid rearguard.
The arm-lock was finally broken when Hornets' half-backs combined to produce a well-crafted try; Paul Crook taking on the Scorpions line, creating space to send Danny Yates in to score. Crooky added the two and Hornets' edged ahead.
With time almost up, the Scorpions drove Hornets back under their own posts, and some determined approach play created space for Powell to slip though a retreating defence. Wilcox added the two and, at 6-10, Hornets supporters raised eybrows and looked skywards.
With Ray Myers' finger on the hooter and Hornets in possession deep in their own half, a response looked unlikely. But Dave Hull's strong break was backed up by Martin Waring; and he showed good awareness to pick out the supporting Danny Yates who finished a flowing 60 metre move in style to level the scores as the hooter sounded. Half time 10-all, the first 40 the tightest of tussles.
Hornets began the second half with visible intent, and a clear increase in intensity. Danny Yates slammed a 40/20 downfield from the first set, John Cookson drove the ball into the gathering defenders and slipped a neat pass outside to Andy Ainscough who steamed in by the posts to open his account for the season. Crook added the two.
Hornets maintained patient pressure and it took Dave Llewellyn only five minutes to stretch Hornets' lead - crashing through a tangle of bodies to score following a series of strong forward drives.
With Hornets now in the groove, Paul Crook sent a 40/20 downfield, and off the back of some hard, direct running, Chris Baines spied the narrowest of gaps to step through and score. Crooky with the exras and South Wales a busted flush.
With South Wales hoisting the kick-off into the main stand, Hornets set up camp in their 20m zone, repeatedly forcing the Scorpions backwards with a series of searching kicks. It was only a matter of time before it paid off and, on 68 miniutes, the ball was shuttled to the right side where Danny Davies squeezed Gaz Langley through the narrowest of gaps to score by the flag.
The right flank proved fruitful again seven minutes later, this time it was Paul Crook with the pass and Danny Davis with the finish to end a sequence of 30 unanswered points.
Once again this was the archetypal game of two halves: the first a genuinely close contest with both teams refusing to yield; the second Hornets on top from the very start, playing with confidence and at a much higher tempo.
In a game entrenched in the forwards for long periods, it's doubtful whether Wigan's show-pony Powell would have made any real difference. Indeed, given the commitment of both packs in the first-half, whichever of the Scorpions players has to make way for him has every right to be pissed-off.
As for Hornets, another fantastic second-half hauled the game out of the reach of a troublesome opposition. Certainly when we play with pace and confidence, we look the part - but with Gateshead going painfully close to rolling over North Wales, Hornets will have to be switched on for the full 80 next week.