Hornets 30 - Crusaders 28
The Welsh have a word for the emotional robustness of the spirit and degree of success it contributes to the execution of a particular task: they call it 'Hwyl'.
Once again, the closeness of the scoreline belies the truth. This was a game which Hornets dominated for long periods, but as the injuries began to mount and the available subsititutes dwindled, it fell to the players left standing to hang-on as North Wales exploted broken, tired bodies to - somehow - haul themselves to within a whisker of what would've been a wholly underserved win.
Indeed, it all started wretchedly for Hornets. Ryan Millard pulled up with injury in the first set of the game, and - with Hornets defence all bent out of shape - Crusaders capitalised on the extra man for Thornley to score.
With Lewis Sheridan pressed into early service, it didn't take long for Hornets to click and it was his half-back partner Adam Swift who unzipped the visitors' defence in spectacular fashion after 12 minutes. Embarking on a twisting, jinking run from 40 metres Swifty pinballed through a series of flaccid tackles to score a great solo try. Paul Crook banged over the two and Hornets were up and running.
The game entered a scrappy period as North Wales sucked everything within 20 metres into their spoiling black-hole. Forced passes, loose carries and messy defence became the order of play and, when North Wales broke three-on-one on Gaz Langley, he pulled off a great tackle to defuse the Welsh attack.
On the quarter mark, Hornets took maximum advantage of a penalty for a high shot. Starting with the ball 20 metres from the Crusaders' line, the ball was shipped rapidy left where Shannon McDonnell scrambled in under some sloppy Welsh defence to score. Crooky the two: 12-4
Almost immediately Hornets were in again. Another mazy run from Adam Swift reduced defenders to spectators as, again, he blitzed through to score. Crooky the extras for 18-4 and only one side at the party.
With half-time approaching Crusaders did find one moment of lucid football: Jono Smith the king-sized fulcrum at the midst of a slick interchange of passes that put Jonson into open field to score. He converted his own try for 18-8.
Somehow back in the chase, North Wales coughed a penalty right on the hooter. Gaz Langley on target to give Hornets what looked like a comfortable 20-10 half time lead.
The third quarter of the game was a tight arm-wrestle, neither side able to make any meaningful headway. The only two moments of creativity coming from Hornets as they twice moved the ball wide via Staurt Littler only for Wayne English to find the route to the line too narrow to navigate.
The deadlock was broken on the hour when Gaz Langley set off on a teasing, looping run across the face of the Crusaders' defence; his cut-out pass found Lewis Sheridan running an unstoppable angle and he hit the gas to burst through and score. 24-10, Langley wide with the conversion attempt.
The try seemed to rouse North Wales from their slumbers, this time Hornets caught napping up the left side as quick hands drew Dallimore from his hiding place to score. Johnson the conversion: 24-16.
Hornets' response was instant - and produced a moment of individual quality. Anthony Walker's direct approach punched the hole; Adam Swift played distributor as Lewis Sheridan arrived at pace. Sheridan took the ball to the full-back and produced a perfectly executed chip that he chased and touched down. Marvellous stuff that brought the main stand to its feet. Crooky with the two and, at 30-16 Hornets looked home and hosed.
Indeed, this heralded a period of concerted Hornets pressure. First Stuart Littler was deemed held-up over the line; then the ball fell from Jordan Case's hand as he reached out to touch down. And, when Warren Thompson was carried off with a leg injury on 70 minutes, You could sense that Hornets may have to make one positional shuffle too many.
Aided and abetted by a series of pedantic back-to-back penalties, Crusaders' response utilised their bluntest instrument to bludgeon two tries in the closing nine minutes - Carbon copy efforts from Jono Smith, chucking his carcass in from 18 inches to, somehow, give Crusaders a veneer of having competed at 30-28.
As it was, a punch-drunk Hornets side out on its feet, hung-on for a vital win that keeps our season alive. For another week at least.