Sunday, 24 January 2016


Swinton 24 - Hornets 30

On a swamp of a pitch that would have had Keith Hill spewing into his bag of Miracle Grow, Hornets produced a high-impact, high-tempo performance to dominate the Lions of Swinton from first whistle to final hooter.

Yes, we know it’s only a friendly and neither side is quite the finished article, but with newly promoted Swinton looking to shape a side for a shot at Championship survival, a neutral would have seen Hornets as the better equipped of the two sides on show.

Swinton tested Hornets with their first use of the ball, hoisting a high kick to the corner that was consummately snaffled by Chris Riley. But beyond that, the first half hour was pretty one sided.

Having forced Swinton into handing over the ball near half-way, Hornets steamed upfield where Danny Yates produced an optical illusion of a cross-field kick for Wayne English to ghost in and touch down through a bamboozled home defence. Crooky with the simple extras; Hornets 0-6 to the good.

A series of pernickity penalties gave Swinton some temporary momentum, but a sweeping 60 metre move sparked by Lewis Galbraith’s bustling break took Hornets to within striking distance of the Lions line - where they shipped a sloppy penalty for encroaching at the play-the-ball.

Two plays later Ben Moores burrowed through a flat-footed defence to score under the black dot. Crooky slotted the two and Hornets looked comfortable at 0-12.

A series of penalties again gave Swinton a platform to build some reciprocal pressure (first half penalty count 8-4 against Hornets), from whch they created two tries in five minutes from Kilday and Scott to bring themselves within touching distance at 10-12.

There was still time before the hooter for Hornets to force a drop-out - and to produce a nifty kick  from the back of the scrum for spring-heeled Corey Lee to chase. But to no avail - half time 10-12.

It didn’t take Hornets long to get back into their groove. Only two minutes into the second half, a teasing Paul Crook kick to the Swinton corner saw Dave Cookson soar to outjump his opposite number and score. Crooky on his way to yet another 100% with the boot, flawless off the touchline: 10-18.

For the next 10 minutes Swinton hurled themselves recklessly onto a big-hitting Hornets defence and, when that proved fruitless, Hornets struck with surgical precision - Galbraith leaving Littler for dead, slotting Danny Yates under the posts. 10-24, with 20 minutes to play.

Swinton did, finally, conjure up two moments of lucid football either side of the 70 minute mark: Dwyer and Thornley on the end of two excellently crafted tries to haul the Lions within striking distance - but this Hornets side looks to have another gear when the going gets tough.

Hard, direct forward play shoved Swinton back downfield and - as they sought to play out of their own half - debutant Kieron Walpole picked Swinton’s pocket to score a well-taken interception. Crooky brought up the 30 and the game was pretty much done.

There was still time for a last minute melee that saw Stu Biscombe given the red card for pushing away a niggling tackler at the play the ball: Swinton's Barlow shown the yellow option for running in.

Swinton found just enough wherewithal to lodge a late late Scott try to give the score a veneer of respectability, but the reality was that Hornets bossed this game throughout.

Yates and Crook look revitalised at half-back Hadden and Cookie have taken on new wrecking-ball capabilities in the pack - and there’s both pace and potential out on the edges where Riley, Bloomfield and Lee will compete for who leaves opposition wingers clutching air.

Yes, yes, we know we shouldn’t get carried away - but if Killer can pull this potential through into weekly performances, this will be a side well worth keeping a close eye on.