Halifax 42 - Hornets 24
Confidence is an ephemeral thing. We spoke here last week about finding ways to 'lose well', and - despite the result at the Shay - this was an old-skool battling performance from a Hornets side that sometimes finds it hard to believe in its own abilities.
In marked contrast to recent weeks, Hornets began in solid style. The early exchanges were tight, but it was Hornets looking the more eager.
In just the second minute a high kick launched into 'Fax's left corner saw Shaun Robinson wrestle the winger for possession on the home goal line, but Mr Bloem's dubious penalty for offside let Halifax off the hook. And let's not even talk about the 'Fax penalty for holding down two minutes later. Shocker.
On 15 mins, a good spell of Hornets pressure drove Halifax backwards, but James Dandy's last tackle lunge from acting half landed just short. Halifax exhaled and shipped the ball rapidly left through a stretched Hornets line for Divorty to race home on the end of an 80 metre move. Tyrer the two, 6-nil - somewhat against the run of play.
Hornets hit straight back. Again, determined approach work took them close, but Anthony Walker knocked on close to the line and the chance went begging. Adding insult to injury, a poor penalty for offside swept Halifax back downfield. But with Halifax looking to spread the ball wide it took a superb crunching tackle by Shaun Robinson to dump his opposite number into touch.
This gave Hornets a visible lift. A great exit-set followed by a good kick-chase pinned Fax back. And, having snaffled possession more good approach-work took Hornets close, but they couldn't find the killer-pass to unlock the Fax defence.
But Hornets kept coming. More good error-free approach work, with a well-placed Crooky kick to push Fax backwards. Under pressure, Fax produced a freak try - a series of finger-tip speculator passes somwhow stuck and Divorty expoited space out wide for a long-range try. Tyrer the 2: 12-0.
On the half-hour some nifty footwork by Holmes set up a three on one on Wayne English, Fieldhouse the beneficiary. Tyrer put the simple kick wide: 16-0
With a shellshocked Hornets now desperately trying to regain their shape, Halifax again busted the line from distance, but fluffed the last pass for a thankful let-off.
Composure regained, Hornets marched straight back upfield where Dave Llewllyn embarked on an arcing, dummying run for a well-taken individual try. Crooky the extras and Hornets batting down the clock to go in at the break 16-6 down.
Hornets began the second half with a bang. With barely a minute on the clock, a break by Alex McClurg saw him step into open field and slot Lewis Sheridan in by the posts. No mistake from Crooky, 16-12. Game on.
Hornets were now playing with confidence and, on 44 mins, a terrific exchange of passes had Halifax in all sorts of trouble, but the last pass from Wayne English to Danny Davis was deemed forward by the eagle-eyed former Halifax player Mr Bloem to maintain his former club's lead.
Having played their get-out-of-jail card, Halifax exploited a stretched Hornets line to go up the other end to send Ambler in. They repeated the feat six minutes later - Mr Bloem noiticeably less concerned with the two 'flat' passes in the build-up. A poor spell from the ref: Halifax 28-12 up.
Hornets got back in the game on the hour when good passing up the left Channel saw Paul Crook score a terrific try off a neat Stuart Littler pass. He celebrated his 1000 points by smacking home the conversion and Hornets were back in the chase at 28-18. But an almost immediate lapse of concentration saw Hornets fumble the ball under their own posts. 'Fax took full advantage, working the ball around until a big hole appeaed, through which Divorty cavorted to score: 32-18.
But this wasn't a day for lying down. On 68 minutes Chris Baines was launched exocet-style off a short-ball to crash through a tangle of defenders to score, Crooky slotted the two and at 32-24 you could hear the home sphincters squeak.
Hornets began to turn the screw, but a 70th minute mystery-penalty for God-knows-what took 'Fax fully 60 metres upfield, where a last tackle kick behind a tiring defence was touched down by Divorty: 36-24.
Hornets sucked-in hard for one last spell of pressure, but the good approach didn't quite have the crucial end-product. Conversely, Halifax launched one last attack where a hopeful kick going nowhere was allowed to bobble one time too many and Adamson got a hand through a crowd of legs to score. FInal score 42-24.
But despair ye not. The disappointment of seeing that elusive Bonus point slip is mitigated by a hard-working, no-frills performance that showed that - when it comes to the crunch - we're really not that far short of competing with sides who have ambitions (and budgets) significantly loftier than ours. Indeed, if Hornets can pull some of the grit, determination and hard-work of this performance into the last third of the season, we may yet surprise some people. Not least ourselves,