Hornets 54-Barrow 22
And so it came to pass: Bobbie Goulding's return to Spotand sparked briefly with the threat of an upset, but ended with his well-beaten Barrow packed of back up the M6 on the end of a good old-fashioned flogging.
Despite a stuttering start that saw Barrow snatch two early-bird tries from Wiper (in the first set) and Mossop (after 10 minutes) to leap into a 10-nil lead, once Hornets' gears engaged, this was relentless one-way traffic.
On 15 minutes, Hornets began to build pressure. Double drop-outs forced by a Lewis Sheridan kick through and a probing Paul Crook dink gave Hornets a good platform. And when Barrow coughed a soft penalty it seemed inevitable when Lewis Sheridan jinked through a series of flailing tackles to score a great solo try. Crooky the two and Hornets were up and running.
And whatever Lewis could do, his half-back partner Ryan Millard does equally well: producing a sparkling solo effort of his own on 24 minutes. Crooky the two, Hornets with a lead they never looked like relinquishing.
Hornets were now pushing hard, guilty maybe of forcing passes in search of opportunities. And when Barrow deigned to attack they were repelled by determined defence.
On the half hour Ryan Millard unveiled a delicate chip, gathered by Sean Casey who fed Matt Dawson in for a well crafted try. Crooky the extras of the touchline for 16-10.
Just three minutes later Joe Greenwood was held-up over the line after a great approach-set. The 10m restart set up a cheeky one metre sucker try from Alex McClurg. This time Sheridan with the two: 24-10
On the next set, the Millard-Sheridan combination cut the Barrow defence wide-open, but the last pass was deemed forward and the try struck-off. No matter, within two minutes Hornets had come up with a try that had more than a hint of the freak about it. Lewis Sheridan's last tackle kick, Matt Dawson hitting the receiving defender perfectly, the ball knocked loose into the hands of the chasing Jordan Case who scopped the ball off his boots to score. Sheridan the two and Hornets in complete control, 30-10 at the break.
Within minutes of the restart Hornets were compelled to remove Ryan Millard with a knee injury after he was targetted in consecutive tackle. With the Hornets line shuffling to accommodate the reintroduction of Paul Crook, Barrow repeated their long-distance try act, stringing together a series of passes over 80 metres for Shaw to score. He also added the two: 30-16.
A brief Barrow rally was quelled by some stern Hornets defence, and when a clinically, ruthlessly direct set drove the Raiders 70 metres downfield, it was capped by a twisting, mazy run that took Alex McClurg under the black dot. Crooky the two. Almost immediately Hornets struck again, this time Jordan Case in off a short-ball after Barrow had coughed a bomb. Crooky flawless as Hornets cruised past the 40 mark.
Indeed, Hornets were now irresistable and when Stuart Litller took a last tackle ball to the gain line, he instigated another moment of freakish fortune. Seemingly wrapped up in the tackle, he found the wherewithal to drop the ball onto his toe. With the defence occupied, Jordan Case produced a piece of sleight of hand to send Paul Crook through to score. Just for good measure he added the two from the touchline and with an hour gone, Barrow's challenge was effectively over at 48-16.
Indeed, Hornets pretty much declared. Barrow increasingly out of ideas; Hornets playing their way through the sets with with an almost cruel relish.
Barrow did flicker a little before their light was eventually extinguished: rag-handed winger Grant eventually catching something that came his way in the 75th minute to score. Shaw the two, 48-22.
It was fitting that Hornets should have the last say in this one, and when John Cookson launched himself onto a short ball in the last minute there was no stopping him; crashing in to bring up the half century. Crooky the two for good measure. 54-22.
The game ended in concerning fashion when Barrow threequarter Bradley Goulding got his head position all-wrong in a collision with Dave Llewellyn, but immediate medical attention and the application of oxygen got him gingerly to his feet as the hooter sounded.
Once again, Hornets showed just what this side can do when it clicks; playing direct, high-tempo football off the back of the Millard-Sheridan-Crook axis and some relentless forward play.
There's no doubt that next week's roadtrip to Workington will pose a real test of this revitalised Hornets' mettle (Workington sneaked a low-scoring win at Keighley this week), but with Fev and Barrow in the bag, we can travel with some confidence.
And, with plenty of football still to be played, maybe there's still reason to believe.