Hornets 48 - Barrow 12
Having put 50 points through Swinton last week, there were pre-match thoughts that Barrow would provide a stern test for Hornets. But from first whistle to final hooter, this was such a one-sided display of total domination, that Barrow never looked capable of competing, never mind winning. Throughout, Hornets played high-tempo, direct football that had the Raiders in retreat for long tracts of the game. And they were in the groove straight from the off.
When Mike Ratu stepped inside to score off a Danny Yates pass after just three minutes, there were hints that that channel might prove fruitful. And when a Danny Yates’ last-tackle dink overhead was gathered by Dale Bloomfield who coolly slotted the supporting Paul Crook in for a well made try via the same route two minutes later, you could sense that Hornets might exploit it more. Five minutes gone, Crooky sound with the boot: 12-nil.
Indeed, on the next foray into the Raiders’ half, Hornets went straight back to the left centre channel, but Wayne English overshot a cut-out pass to give Barrow’s three quarters some much needed respite. With Barrow desperately trying to slow down the pace of the game, the next ten minutes saw both sides trade penalties, Barrow briefly threatening off the back of repeat infringements before running out of ideas 5 metres short.
On 16 minutes Hornets shook off the Barrow spoiling to create a quality try. A prestidigitous reverse pass from Paul Crook to Danny Bridge had the defence in all sorts of back-pedalling trouble, the ball was worked wide, Bridgey went for the return to bring the main stand to its feet. 16-0.
With Barrow now reduced to a series of soft penalties for interference, Hornets went straight back on the offensive and on 20 minutes Paul Crook slapped the raiders with a 2 metre sucker try from acting half, before adding the two. a quite resounding 22-0.
On 23 minutes Ryan Smith was unfortunate to have a try chalked off for offside chasing a Danny Yates chip. This seemed to shake Barrow from their torpor and, on the half hour Lupton’s clever delayed pass sent Briscoe in to open Barrow’s account. Hankinson the two: 22-6. No matter. With the hooter imminent, James Tilley hit a short ball at pace from close range to crash in and score. Gas Langley adding the two to send Hornets in 28-6 up at the break.
The second half began with a rare aberration, Ryan Smith misjudging the kick-off to concede a drop-out. For the next ten minutes Barrow chucked the kitchen sink at the Hornets defence, but they were twice forced to hand-over on the last tackle close to the Hornets line. Having ridden out Barrow’s brief flurry, it was Hornets’ turn to press the Barrow defence. Under a relentless forward barrage, Barrow clung to the ropes and when the ball was shipped wide to Dale Bloomfield on 48 minutes he took advantage of the stretched defence to dive in by the flag. 32-6.
To compound their problems, Barrow put the Kick-off into the Sandy Lane end - but Hornets failed to find touch with the resulting penalty. This heralded another scrappy period as Barrow lay bodies in every tackle in an attempt to suck the momentum out of the game. On the hour the ever-impressive Tony Suffolk carved a huge break through the heart of the Barrow defence, carrying the ball 30 metres before switching an inside pass to Ryan Smith who finished in style under the black dot. Crooky with the extras: 38-6
On 65 minutes Barrow did fashion a consolation try when Briscoe went in off the back of a penalty, but the relief was brief. Immediately Hornets worked the ball back to the left channel - Bridge to Charnock, Charnock to Ratu- Mike Ratu crashing through retreating bodies to score Paul Crook a dead-shot off the touchline: 44-12. Barrow - again - hoyed the kick-off into the Sandy Lane end.
With the game coming into the last ten minutes, the penalty count began to climb; Barrow now a tripping, high tackling, late tackling, interfering mess. On 76 minutes Hornets delivered the coup de grace: Danny Bridge capping his best game in a Hornets shirt, arriving like a train off a short ball to score. Final score 48-12.
No doubts, this was a quite exceptional performance. Playing off the back of a supremely high completion rate, Hornets played with poise, pace and confidence. The return of Wayne English to Full-back gave Hornets that additional frisson of attacking threat and, in Lee Paterson and Mike Ratu, Hornets had power in the three quarters that Barrow never really looked like handling. Up front the forwards out-punched their bigger counterparts - Danny Bridge and Tony Suffolk, the pick of an excellent pack, Lewis Charnock looking more comfortable at loose forward.
And so, the benchmark has been set. Someone commented as we left that expectations have been significantly raised by this performance - and they’re right. And if this is an indication of what Hornets are capable of, it’s going to be a very interesting season indeed.