York 34 - Hornets 20
Seems that a lot of things can change in a week in Rugby League.
Even before this shoddy car-crash of a game began, there were indications that the large Hornets following might be in for an ‘interesting’ afternoon. A backline shorn of English, Bloomfield, Hull, Paterson and Langley had a makeshift look to it and York exploited that to the maximum; shipping the ball to the edges and peppering stand-in wings Alex Trumper (yes) and Matt Dawson with a rain of aerial attacks.
From the scrappy start, you could sense unease in the Hornets defence - a dropped kick, a fumbled pass, York gifted early field position - a last tackle kick causing chaos in the Hornets in-goal resulting in a drop-out. York took advantage, Cunningham shrugging his way through some ordinary tackling to score: 4-nil
After 10 minutes with no meaningful possession, Hornets’ slow-turning defence was exploited: York shipping the ball right, a neat kick inside where Smith took advantage of a two on none overlap to score under the black dot. Too easy; 10-0.
After much huffing and puffing, Hornets finally got to play some football in York’s half but the set fizzled out. York burst straight back, only to see the last pass go to ground. Hornets reciprocated with a pedestrian set that ended in a forward pass. Fortunately, York coughed the ball straight back and Hornets found the fluidity to ship the ball wide for Alex Trumper to score by the flag. Paul Crook hit the spot from the touchline and, at 10-6 Hornets were back in the game.
But not for long. Swamped in a rising tide of poor decisions, dropped passes, cheap penalties and quite miserable body-language, Hornets delivered their worst 15 minutes of the season, gifting York possibly their easiest.
On 25 minutes a last tackle cut-out pass found Clare with space to score out wide; on 30 minutes some frankly awful defence in centre-field saw Dent capitalise, strolling under the posts from 30 metres; then York switched the direction of play for Channing to step through a stretched, retreating defence to pick his spot; then rapid hands left where Clare scored, untouched, in the corner. Dent added insult to injury off the touchline and Hornets were left sucking the wet-end of an embarrassing 30-6 scoreline.
In the dying seconds of the half Hornets got a scintilla of luck when a dropped ball was hacked 50 metres upfield where Danny Yates was able to touch down. Yates the two - and Hornets performance given a thin veneer of respectabilty. Half time 30-12.
It was going to need a half-time team talk of Churchillian proportions to turn this mess around.
Hornets began the second half in shambolic fashion: Matt Dawson knocked on from the kick-off and, from the resulting York attack, shipped a drop-out, tackled in-goal.
But rather than crack as they had in the first half, Hornets began to play some football. On 50 minutes a pinpoint Danny Yates cross-field kick was tapped down by Matt Dawson for Jack Ashworth to score.
Then Ant Walker crashing in off a short ball - but the last pass deemed forward by a touch-judge 50 metres away. No matter
Two minutes later Hornets jolted the ball loose in the tackle, Matt Dawson the first to react, regathering to score. Game on at 30-20 with 18 minutes to play.
Despite struggling to complete sets in any real meaningful manner, Hornets were now playing the game deep in York’s half. But, when Jack Ashworth’s one-on-one steal was somehow penalised for offside (we know, ridiculous), York sensed the release of pressure.
Indeed, on 70 minutes a nothing kick fumbled by understudy full-back Brad Hargreaves gave York a repeat set and, off an almost slow-motion approach, Dent scored out wide to put this basket-case of a game to bed.
In the wash-up the Hornets fans spoke of the ‘curse of the green away kit’ and ‘the curse of the month of away games’ - but it was the curse of soft penalties, slack defence, no discernible last-tackle plan and that simply shocking 15 minutes before half-time that really did the damage here. Any side gifted a 30-point bonus would have to go some to lose and York were no exception.
The only real positive we took from this was that we’d have to go some to play this badly again. And it seems that all the other teams around us had a bit of an ordinary afternoon too - Oldham and Newcastle both choking to keep Hornets in second place in League 1.