Sunday, 18 May 2014

Hornets Get Harsh Lesson in the Fax of Life

Hornets 12 Halifax 28

Think back to the start of the season: when every gobshite and doom-monger was happy to predict that we'd never win a game all year. Back then if you'd said that we'd lose to Halifax - a club with ambitions almost as big as their budget - by just 16 points, most people would have taken that. Even you. You would. I know you would.

But in the heat of May, having grabbed four wins, expectations are suddenly raised. But Expectation is a cruel mistress: teasing you with what could possibly be, if only things were perfect and reality had no real role in proceedings.

Whilst we at TLCRF80mins believe that there might well be five clubs in this division worse than Hornets, we're pretty certain that there are five that are better. And Halifax is one of them.

Last week against Workington Tony Suffolk pulled an astonishing 50+ tackles. Having broken his ribs in the process, Hornets were shorn of his Herculean workrate. Also lacking the added attack-dog snap of Gaz Langley and the cultured punch of Mike Ratu, this was going to be a tough one for Hornets. And so it proved.

But Hornets gave Halifax every opportunity to impose themselves on the game. In a first half strewn with dropped ball and soft penalties, Hornets spent long tracts on the back-foot, while the visitors barely had to work for possession or field position.

Halifax began proceedings by slamming the kick-off into the Peal Street end. Hornets went stright onto the attack, the first set taking them close to the visitors' line. Hornets had the opportunity to build some momentum when a Fax sortie up the left flank ended with Hornets handed possession - but a first tackle knock-on gave the ball straight back to Halifax and they forced a drop-out after some sustained pressure.

Having basically run out of ideas, Halifax were piggy-backed upfield in the 14th miiutes by soft back-to-back penalties: the ball finally scrambled to Reittie who scored by the flag.

Thankfully Tyrer had left his kicking boots behind and he hoofed the conversion attempt wide.

On 19 minutes, with a Halifax set going nowhere, Murrell launched a hit and hope kick towards the in-goal. Its descent found Hornets' defence static and Tyrer gathered to score the softest of tries. Again, he slapped the conversion wide. 0-8.

An offside against Hornets (certainly not the worst of the first quarter) heralded their worst period of the game. Shaun Robinson's 2nd tackle fumble in playing the ball, followed by James Tilley's loose carry (also on the 2nd tackle) gave Halifax ample opportunity to gain easy ground - and on 28 minutes quick hands wide to Reittie gave him a carbon-copy try. Tyrer on target to stretch Fax's lead to 0-14.

On the half-hour another hoist and hope kick was snaffled unchallenged by Tyrer for 0-18 and five minutes later another Shaun Robinson knock-on gave Fax easy ball on the Hornets 20 metre line. Fax ran a basic extra-man play off the back of the scrum for full-back Fieldhouse to score untouched. 0-22.

Hornets did end the half on a positive note: Liam Gilchrist held up over the line after some tidy apprroach work, the resulting play from 10 metres yielding a teasing grubber that was guided harmlessly dead.

Half-time, Hornets 0-22 down: Halifax barely broken sweat.

Hornets did start the second-half with noticeably more purpose, forcing two quick-fire drop-outs from the Halifax defence. While Hornets puffed and pushed, they came up empty-handed - then conceded a soft penalty for holding down that marched Halifax back downfield. As it was, they knocked on and conceded an almost immediate penalty for offside. 

On 54 minutes, with the Halifax attack going aimlessly down a cul-de-sac, a fluffed, scuffed kick on the Hornets 10 metre line was allowed to scud into the in-goal. Fieldhouse was the first to react. Tyrer added the two and at 0-28 the visiting hordes awaited the floodgates.

But wait…

With the hour approaching, Halifax began to make mistakes and - given a more equitable share of the ball - Hornets began to make inroads.

On 61 minutes Sean Casey dinked the ball behind the Fax defence and - amidst a tangle of limbs - stretched his fingers to touch down. But Referee Woodhead puzzled pretty much everyone by giving Fax a penalty.

On 69 minutes Fax's resident fat-lad Tonks piled a third-man haymaker into Alex Clare's face, but the officials saw nothing. And when Jordan Case was poleaxed three minutes later the outcome was pretty similar.

But Hornets continued to press. On 76 minutes a dash up the right channel saw Hornets grab a repeat set courtesy of a Fax knock-on - and finally fashioned an attack of note when Lewis Galbraith hit a short pass to bully his way over. Chris Baines added the extras.

Hornets took the kick-off possession straigh back upfoeld where Wayne English played a beautiful give-go-and go back for the return to create space for Ryan Millard to skate through and score. Baines with the two and Hornets salvaging some pride. Final score 12-28 - Hornets winning the second half.

And that's what really rankles about this one. Once Hornets gave themselves a chance to play, they looked ok. But for too long they gave themselves way too much to do against a Halifax side desperate to get its championship challenge back on track.

Indeed, in a division fundamentally split into two, Halifax has ambitions in a - quite literal - different league. But consider this: we're just 16 points short of that level. 

And as facts go, that's not too bad.