Monday, 1 February 2016

The Law Cup Runneth Over...

Hornets 12 - Oldham 29

Notwithstanding the view that - in recent years - Oldham only want to play the Law Cup when they think they have a chance of winning it, this was a sloppy, squelching sop of a game in which the visitors played the conditions better and took their chances when they came.

There’s no doubt that, at the other end of the A627M, this will be heralded as a precursor to Oldham’s return to the bottom of Rugby League’s top table, but on this performance we’d say that we’re better prepred fopr a tilt at Barrow than Oldham are for their debut shot at London next week.

Played under a persistent blanket of heavy drizzle, the game started brightly - Hornets with the early pressure, shifting the ball wide only for Chris Riley’s foot to touch the line on his way to the corner.

Oldham responded with an attack that looked to be going nowhere, but when the ball hit the deck, they were quicker to respond to the broken play, Grimshaw taking advantage to skate through and score: 0-4.

The game settled into a messy phase - loose carries, forced passes, pesky penalties: Oldham’s Grimshaw helped from the field after a clattering charge-down from Matt Hadden; James Dandy denied a try, deemed to have infringed Chisholm in flight.

Out of nowhere, Hornets produced a moment of incision: Danny Yates’ teasing kick into the in-goal, Wayne English plunging in at Spotland’s deep-end to touch down the bobbling ball. Crooky the extras and Hornets in front at 6-4.

Having cracked the game open, Hornets seemingly switched off for seven minutes: Oldham didn’t need inviting twice and whipped in three quick-fire scores. Chaos off a last tackle kick, Spencer taking advantage; again on the last tackle, Hornets napping out wide, Chisolm just enough reach to score; then a huge break by Roper, his inside ball putting Ward under the black dot. 6-22 on the half hour: Hornets regrouping sufficiently to hang on to the break.

Oldham began the second half in direct fashion. Some old-skool route-one approach work ended with Ward crashing in off a short ball from one metre. Palfrey the two - all very unedifying at 6-28. At which point, Oldham declared to leave Hornets chasing 23 points to win.

As the conditions and the game deteriorated, Hornets worked hard to haul themselves upfield where they too produced ‘Plan-X’: Woz Thompson arriving with determination to barge in and score from close range. Yatesy the two (Crooky removed as a precaution after a knock on the knee): 12-28.

The last quarter was a soggy scramble; the ball a bar of soap that slithered repeatedly from the grasp. Hornets pushed hard and forced a couple of repeat sets, but couldn’t quite get the cogs to click.

The game was brought to an end, with Palfrey hitting a last minute drop-goal to take the Law Cup by 12-29.

To be fair, it was hard to judge the game as a contest given that both sides struggled with the appalling conditions. The difference being Oldham’s seven-minute spell that effectively put the game beyond Hornets’ reach by half time.

So, while we’re disappointed that Oldham get to retain the Law Cup until such time they deem themselves ready to defend it, we turn to Rudyard Kipling for a few words on the nature of pre-season friendlies: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same…” then you build on the positives, learn from the mistakes and move on.

And don’t forget - the last time Oldham woin the Law Cup at Spotland, Hornets ended the season with an altogether more meaningful trophy.