This was a great day to be English in Wales - Wayne English to be precise. Celebrating his 350th career game by scoring his 149th and 150th career tries, Wayne cemented his status as a genuine Hornets legend as he produced a near flawless performance, leading from the back as Hornets overcame a stubborn Scorpions resistance.
Having coughed the kick-off (a pattern that was to repeat itself througout the afternoon), Hornets were underway with only two minutes on the clock: Woz Thompson embarking on a bullocking 60 metre break, ending with Paul Crook touching down. Crooky did the honours on his own try: 0-6.
The try shook South Wales into life. For the next 15 minutes they dug-in and frustrated Hornets - tackling in numbers and leaving lots of bodies in the ruck to suck as much momentum out of the game as possible.
Respite looked to have arrived when Paul Crook unleashed a big 40-20 - but the touch judge deemed the ball had fallen two metres short. Scorpions seized the opportunity to launch an attack of their own, but a poor last tackle kick could only yield a Hornets drop-out. Crooky turned pressure into attack as he launched the drop-out fully 90 metres.
Having regained the ball, Hornets couldn’t quite make the passes stick. And, aided by some extra pedantic officiating, Scorpions were taken back downfield where, again, a poor last tackle kick saw the threat evaporate.
On 26 minutes Hornets produced a rare moment of fluid football, Danny Bridge’s dink through into space, Dale Bloomfield coolly side footing the ball past the full-back for Danny Yates to score: 0-10.
From the kick-off a big break by Jordan Hand found him with support both sides and he chose the inside ball for Danny Yates to add another to his total. Jordan Case the two from bang-in front for 0-16.
For half an hour, Scorpions’ last tackle play had been a kick & hope - and on 34 minutes it worked: Parker out-jumping Dale Bloomfield by the flag to get the home side on the scoreboard at 4-16. Hornets response was immediate, Danny Bridge arriving off a flat-pass to score. Half-time 4-20, Hornets comfortably ahead after a scrappy, disjointed half.
Hornets began the second half at a noticeably higher tempo - and after just 90 seconds Danny Bridge crashed through out wide. and just four minutes later a teasing Ryan Smith chip was lost in flight by Scorpions full-back Newbury, Wayne English on hand to pounce. Jordan Case the two: 4-30
But South Wales remained persistent: a repeat set off the back of Dale Bloomfield’s fumble gave them a good attacking platform, but Hornets defence held firm. An enormous Emmanuelli 40/20 maintained the pressure, but a first-tackle dropped-ball saw the chance blown.
Hornets response was to shift the ball wide for Brad Hargreaves to score out wide; Jordan Case missing his fourth conversion attempt; 4-34.
On the hour, Wayne English made the extra man, his bustling break sent the ball via Ryan Smith and Danny Yates for Lee Paterson to score. Danny Yates with the extras to bring up the forty.
Again South Wales continued to push back. This time Petelo taking the ball wide, drawing the defence to create Space for Scrivens to score off the inside ball. Emmanuelli the two: 10-40.
Coming into the last quarter, Hornets hit the gas. On 65 minutes Paul Crook jinked his way through traffic to score a well-taken solo-effort; adding his own extras for 10-46. Then Woz Thompson dummying through to slip Crooky under the posts. The extras a formality; 10-52.
With the game ebbing away, two moments of Wayne English magic to seal the win. On 71 minutes he released a miracle-pass on the run to release Ryan Smith who slotted Danny Yates under the posts. Then, a big cut-out pass to Dale Bloomfield, Bloomers inside to Danny Yates who generously gifted Wayne his 150th try. Quality.
With a final score of 10-64, it’d be churlish to pick too many faults with a performance that takes Hornets to the top of League 1. And, as Wayne English led the team and the hardy knot of travelling fans in the victory song, it felt like a fitting Hornets Family celebration.