Hornets 76 - All Golds 4
Sometimes, a win of any colour can be the catalyst to ignite a team's confidence. The arrival of the University of Gloucestershire All Golds provided Hornets with a chance to demonstrate how far they've come since leaving Championship 1. Even to the most partisan Hornets supporter, the difference in class was startling.
Hornets were underway after just two minutes when Chris Baines launched himself off a Ryan Millard pass to dive under the black dot. Crooky with the two, 6-nil.
It looked like another for Baines four minutes later, when he took a neat pass off a Millard show & go, but the ball bobbled loose as he reached to touch down. No matter. It took just 2 minutes for Hornets to sweep downfield where slick hands to the right and a neat pass from Dave Llewellyn smuggled Gaz Langley in by the flag. Crook with a gem from the touchline for 12-nil.
With the All Golds hanging in against repeated Hornets attacks it was only a matter of time before their defence buckled. It came on 15 minutes when Chris Baines stepped his way through flailing tackles; Crook with the extras; 18-nil and Hornets ahead of the clock.
On 20 minutes Sam Te'o got in on the action - slipped in at the corner off a neat short pass after rapid-fire passes to the left; 22-nil.
Credit to the All Golds: on 25 minutes they launched a 40 metre attack off the back of a neat step & go by Sideshow Bob lookalike scrum-half Thomas, but his pass to full-back Elliot was fumbled over the line.
Hornets marched straight back downfield, where a great interchange of passes twixt Wayne Engllish and Ryan Millard created ample space out wide for Sam Te'o to grab his second. 26-nil.
On the half hour it was the English/Millard combintion that again caused havoc. Millard slipped English into a huge hole and went back for the return inside pass to score from 30 metres. Crook with the two for 32-nil.
The All Golds' day went from bad to worse as they punted the kick-off into the Wilbutts Lane stand. From the resulting penalty, Ryan Millard jinked through a maze of tackles for a well-taken solo try. Crooky's comversion hit the post and Hornets went in at the break holding a comfortable 36-nil lead.
The second half followed much the same pattern. The first set saw Paul Crook launch a big 40/20. Deep in All Golds territory, Crooky's inside ball handed Jordan Case a walk-in try. Crook the extras; 42-nil.
On 44 minutes Ryan Millard's outrageous 60 metre break came to nought when he delayed his pass a little too long and the chance went to ground. He made amends three minutes later when he combined again with Wayne English to send Sam Te'o in for his hat-trick. Only a minute later Hornets swept forward again. This time a peach of a reverse pass from Dave Llewellyn sent Gaz Langley crashing through to score. The half cenury up for Hornets at 50-nil.
It took only another 2 minutes for Langley to clock up his hat-trick, with a try that had a hint of the bizzarre about it. A 30 metre break from a revitalised Mike Ratu punched a huge hole in the visitors' defence; his inside pass went to ground, but with the ref waving play-on the ball was hacked forward. The scrambling All Golds defence made a spectacular hash of clearing up, coughing the ball straight into the hands of an onrushing Gaz Langley who ducked through a swinging head-shot to score. Crooky with the 2 for 56-nil.
Punch-drunk, the All Golds continued to plug away and on 50 minutes came up with a freak try of their own. A last tackle kick into space saw Referee Cobb stumble and fall into the path of chasing defenders, creating space for the visitors to gather, ship the ball to Elliot and snatch a try. 56-4: a blip.
Normal service was resumed on the hour when Wayne English made the extra man off a Ryan Millard pass to send Dave Llewellyn in for a well taken try (60-4), then Millard himself jinking and squeezing through for his hat-trick (64-4). Then Wayne English again the provider: a mercurial break, the full-back drawn and Paul Crook sent under the posts. Crooky improved his own try for 70-4.
With time almost up, Hornets ended as they had begun. Quick hands across the field found Dave Llewellyn arriving like a train to punch through and score. Crooky added the two. Hornets convincing winners at 76-4.
After only a month of playing in the Championship, this game demonstrated the gulf in effort required to make a successful step up. Whilst statistics show Hornets just five places above the All Golds in the pyramid, the reality is that - even as Hornets battle with the increased intensity in the Championship - they are already a different animal than the one that left Championship 1 way back in September.
And, in registering the joint highest score of Round Three of the Challenge Cup and the biggest winning margin of the round - against semi-pro opposition - there is encouragement that Hornets have it in them to be the real Championship deal.