Workington 30 Hornets 18
Anyone wondering where Cumbrians get their reputation for being dour miserablists from could do worse than spend an afternoon at Workington. From first minute to last, the hardy knot of Hornets fans had to suffer a relentless wave of whining, griping and moaning from the locals. Every play the ball offside; every pass forward; all three officials bent, blind or bastardly. Or a combination of the three.
And all this on a day that the sun cracked the flags and their team won. God knows what they're like when they lose in the rain.
On the field Hornets got off to a shoddy start, allowing the kick-off to roll sloppily dead. Fortunately Workington knocked on from the resulting possession.
Hornets finally got started after 4 minutes when two pieces of trickery from Lewis Sheridan (a neat one-two and a reverse kick that forced a drop-out) built pressure, but James Dandy was held up over the line.
With both sides tangled in an arm wrestle, it took a moment of freakish fortune to crack the Hornets defence. In a hurry to switch play, Town's acting half dropped the ball cold at his feet, but referee Kendall bizzarely waved not only play-on, but also wiped the tackle count and, with Hornets' defence scrambling the home side worked the ball wide for Carter to score by the flag. Forber the extras off the touchline for 6-nil.
This heralded a horribly scrappy period for Hornets. Gifted a frustrating last-tackle penalty for holding down on half-way, Workington began their set 10 metres from the Hornets line and, in a carbon copy of its predecessor , it was Hulme this time on the end of the move to score. Forber hit the post with the kick: 10-nil. To make matters worse, Hornets hoofed the kick-off straight out to invite Workington to have another run at them. This time, though the defence held firm as the king-sized Town pack piled in from close range.
Hornets responded well. A towering kick from Lewis Sheridan was dropped by Carter under no pressure, giving Hornets a good platform deep in Town territory. Struggling to find a way through, switching Paul Crook back to stand-off delivered an instant dividend when swift hands right sent Dave Llewellyn careering in for a try that had the locals grumbling further. Crooky with the two; 10-6.
With Hornets now making steady inroads, it was another error from Mr Kendall that pulled the rug from under them. Making a complete hash of a decision on a Hornets' 'free-play' following a Town knock-on, he gave the home side the feed at the scrum. To add insult to injury, Hornets were mugged out of the back of the scrum as Hulme darted through the narrowest of gaps to score; 16-6.
Clearly shaken, Hornets got the yips: first shipping another penalty late in the tackle count, then dropping the ball 1st tackle in a great attacking position.
Having shouted for 'offside' for the entire first half, the locals finally got their wish on 39 minutes as Hornets got snagged and Town were swept 60 metres downfield, but they were beaten by the clock. Half-time 16-6: the grumbling Cumbrians berating the officials from the field at the end of a frustrating, scrappy half.
Hornets began the second half with noticeably more purpose. After just 4 minutes John Cookson produced a miracle-pass out of the back of the tackle to send James Dandy scampering under the black-dot. Crooky the two, 16-12: game-on.
The game then entered an ugly, scrappy period as both sides struggled to find any fluidity. Workington coming closest to scoring - stopped by a cracking try-saving tackle by Shannon McDonnell.
The stalemate was broken with two moments of inspiration either side of the hour: first a neat one-two sent McAvoy in to score under the posts, then by far the biggest 40/20 we've seen this season from Lupton gave him the platform to launch a teasing bomb that was snaffled by Mossop who scored out wide. Within the space of two minutes Hornets were 28-12 down and chasing a bonus point.
Having sparked briefly, the game shrank back into a gritty scramble and, when Town were given a close-range penalty for a spurious high tackle on 70 minutes Forber took the two for 30-12. The locals in moaning-overdrive "Ya should'a run it".
Despite the game's deterioration into a shapeless mess, Hornets kept plugging away and were rewarded on 76 minutes when Lewis Sheridan intercepted a sloppy pass from Lupton to outpace the Workington cover from 80 metres and score. Crooky the two and Hornets with the bonus point in the bag at 30-18.
Having written at length here about the need to find a way to 'lose well', there's irony in taking a bonus point out of Workington - the masters of the 'constructive defeat'. But in a sloppy, fragmented game that needed big hearts to dig in to get anything from it, this was a creditable performance by a Hornets side shorn of the twin attacking threats of Ryan Millard and Wayne English.
Needless to say, the Hornets faithful were philosophical about the result: a hard-working performance, a bonus point and an implausibly warm day in Cumbria. The locals, conversely, grumbled to the very end. Whilst most applauded Town from the field, the bloke next to us turned on his heel and as he passed us, muttered "Bloody rubbish."
Guess there's just no pleasing some people.