Hornets 40 - South Wales Scorpions 0
On another arctic-cold day, Hornets overcame tundra-like conditions, persistent icy rain and a stubborn if unspectacular South Wales Scorpions to progress to the next round of the lovely new iPro Cup (formerly, last week, the League 1 Cup).
On a day when good handling was going to be at a premium, Hornets played the conditions better - and were quick off the mark. Having fumbled possession early in the tackle count, Hornets recovered the ball from an equally lax Scorpions and made it count: Danny Bridge scoring off a short Danny Yates ball after just four minutes: Paul Crook adding the extras for 6-0.
It was Crooky again causing havoc three minutes later: his steepling bomb was gathered by Brad Hargreaves who was held up over the line. and, when possession was handed over close the Scorpions line, stern Hornets defence forced a drop-out.
From the resulting possession, Alex McClurg embarked on a last-tackle blind-side sneak to send Brad Hargreaves in at the corner: 10-0 and Hornets with all the momentum.
A ten minute spell of loose handling gave South Wales the breathing space they needed to regroup and it needed a one-metre Alex McClurg sucker-punch try from a metre to break the stasis. Crooky with the two and Hornets seemingly back in the groove at 16-0.
But stray passes and loose carries in the challenging conditions continued to plague any real progress - a seemingly good Paul Crook try (struck off for offside, chasing a Danny Yates kick) the only respite.
The introduction of Dean Mignacca on the half hour had an immediate - and literal - impact, with three consectutive crunching tackles; his first a shuddering bone-shaker that left a Scorpions forward in a crumpled heap.
The visitors did rally briefly - their only real threat of the first half, forcing a 33rd minute drop-out as they drove Wayne English back in-goal.
With the half slipping away, Danny Yates released a pinpoint 40/20, but the ball was coughed first tackle. But there was just time for Yates to jink his way through a flat-footed Scorpions defence and score. Crooky's conversion giving a more convincing 22-nil view of proceedings.
Hornets started the second half with a sense of purpose: barely a minute gone when Dean Mignacca switched play to the narrow side to slot Dale Bloomfield in by the flag. Crooky landing a beauty from the touchline: 28-0.
But Hornets made a complete horse's arse of the kick-off, allowing it to bobble dead and shipping a drop-out. Thankfully, while the Scorpions applied some pressure, they couldn't unlock a determined Hornets defence. The pressure was eased by a booming Danny Yates 40/20, but a mistimed pass to Dave Hull saw the ball hit the deck - which seemed to suck the momentum out of the game.
Twixt the 45th and 65th minute, very little of import happened and it took a Jordan Case try - relentlessly chasing down a Crooky bomb - to shake off the torpor. Crooky the two: 34-0.
On 75 minutes, the Tony Suffolk juggernaut arrived, capping a man-of-the-match performance with a barnstorming bulldozer of a try. Crooky with the conversion to bring up 40-0.
There was just enough time for James Dandy to shrug his way through some tired tackles - only to be deemed to have been held-up in-goal.
No matter. For a first competitive hit-out, it'd be churlish to moan too much about nilling a side, and scoring forty points in the process. And to say that South Wales could well have played until midnight and still have struggled to fashion a viable chance would be to undermine a solid defensive effort. Indeed, whilst the forty-points is good it is the 'nil' that's more impressive.
Hornets' reward is a trip to Big Spending North Wales Crusaders™ - who beat Conference side West Hull by 36-10 in their first round tie. They led just 14-nil at the break and faded to concede two late tries.
As a benchmark, the other iPro cup scores were:
Barrow 16-14 UG All Golds
Keighley Cougars 64-0 East Leeds
London Skolars 10-78 York City Knights
Oldham 42-6 Coventry Bears
Oxford 20-56 Newcastle Thunder
Swinton Lions 34-0 Hemel Stags