Crusaders 16 - Hornets 42
Hubris is the stock in trade at the Unvrsty f n Vwls Racecourse Stadium. 'We Fear Nothing" is their motto - but there will be plenty of people in Wrexham waking up sweating at the torment meted out by Hornets in this outstanding win.
Outmuscled by a superior pack, out-thought by a smarter half-back pairing, out-played by a fitter looking side and out-enthused 1-to-17, Crusaders were a distant second to a ruthless Hornets in full flow.
All the early pressure came from from Hornets, with Ryan Millard spraying the ball wide, with debutant Shaun Robinson hustled into touch twice in the opening minutes. After 10 minutes the concerted pressure finally told, Paul Crook ghosting over from acting half, then converting his own try to give Hornets a nil-6 lead.
Crusaders tried desperately to get themselves into the game. But poor discipline and a pack looking increasingly second best as the game progressed ensured that the momentum stayed with Hornets. Ironic then that it was a Hornets transgression that piggy-backed the homeside downfield where Johnson found space to score after 15 minutes. He slapped his conversion attempt wide of the mark.
Crusaders continued to spoil and scrap and when they coughed up a penalty for holding down after 25 minutes, Crooky coolly took the two to stretch Hornets' lead to 4-8.
With the home side's persisting in attempting to stymie every ruck, referee Cobb's patience finally snapped, and when Crusaders' Walker challenged his point of view he was dispatched to consider his role in matters for 10 minutes. Hornets' response was immediate.
With Walker still… er… walking to the bench, Sean Casey picked a peach of a pass for Chris Baines to hit at pace and score. Crooky with the extras, 4-14.
Now with the momentum, Hornets continued to press and with the half hour on the clock, Mike Ratu wrestled his arms clear of surrounding defenders to touch down. Crooky with the two; Hornets looking comfortable at 4-20.
With half-time approaching, Crusaders launched a late attack. Playing some rare football, Ashall conjured up a short ball for Offerdahl to score on the hooter. Johnson adding the two: half time, Crusaders flattered at 10-20.
The second half began with the home side clearly having ratcheted up the niggling, but Hornets began with serious intent. An early penalty gave Hornets good field position, where Paul Crook sent Adam Bowman powering under the black dot. The two a formality: 10-26
Tempers finally frayed after 50 minutes when roly-poly Jono Smith goaded a reaction out of Adam Bowman. Both players sin-binned; Crusaders first to compose themselves, Ashall scoring of the next set. Johnson with the extras 16-26.
Hornets had clearly had enough of the home side's pissing around and stepped up a gear to take the game out of Crusaders' reach.
On 58 minutes good hands fashioned a great break for Mike Ratu out wide. Ratu backed himself against ex-Super League threequarter Wilde and left him for dead. With support on his right and defenders gathering, Ratu produced an outrageous dummy that left him with a clear run to score the try of the day. Crooky banged the two over from the touchline and Crusaders were blowing hard at 16-32.
Further Welsh niggling on the hour gifted Paul Crook two more from a penalty -and it was Crooky again tormenting the home defence four minutes later when he drew two defenders and slipped a gem of an inside ball to Gaz Langley who skated through to score. Crooky with the two: 16-40 and the home side a busted flush.
On the next foray into Welsh territory a good kick and chase forced a repeat set - but Crusaders fluffed the drop-out, failing to go 10 metres. Crooky said "ta" and whacked home the two: 16-42.
The home side repeated the feat from the kick-off, Jono Smith's effort failing to go the ten; Hornets straight back up field to turn the screw some more, but - now unable to summon the wherewithal to niggle - the home defence held-out.
Final score 16-42.
Make no mistake about it, this was about as one-sided a flogging as it's possible to see. There's no doubt that Crusaders have capable players in their line-up, but their desire to spoil was their downfall here - and Hornets were happy to play expansive, high-tempo football around the Welsh side's lame antics.
Certainly, there are questions to be asked about the desire in the Crusaders camp. Where Ian Talbot has galvanised his team into a tight, united, spirited unit, as soon as the game began to slip away from the home side, they sought to disrupt - and when that failed, they basically folded. The vociferous home fans didn't like it much - but the noisy, elated Hornets contingent in the 835 crowd didn't really care.
And with Hornets hoisted up the table, this was a great afternoon's work by everyone involved.