Monday, 23 January 2017

Hornets Fought The Law (and the Law's Won).

Oldham 12 - Hornets 24

Hornets sent the first signal of intent for 2017 as they out-muscled a lacklustre Oldham in the gloom of Bower Fold.

Whilst we know that pre-season ’friendlies’ (since when has the Law Cup ever been ‘friendly’?) are an imprecise indicator of future potential, they do provide a benchmark to see where your progress is against other sides. And on this showing Hornets are significantly ahead of Oldham in fitness, desire, creativity and physicality.

Indeed, beyond an opening quarter where Oldham pummelled the Hornets line with the bluntest of instruments, this game slid steadily away from the home side as Hornets’ edge in both craft and graft allowed them to dominate.

After a tight opening, Hornets were first to produce a spark of creativity: Lewis Palfrey’s 9th minute chip gathered by Danny Yates to score through a static defence: referee Mr Marklove the only man in the ground to spot an offside. No Try.

Aided by an excalating penalty count, the Oldham juggernaut trundled into life - pounding down the Bower Fold slope in search of an opening. On the back of multiple repeat sets, the Hornets defence cracked after 16 minutes as Joy slumped in off a short ball from 1 metre. Leatherbarrow the extras and the home fans priapic at 6-0.

But as Oldham’s jabs at the Hornets defence became increasingly impotent, Alan Kilshaw’s men grew in confidence. Most interesting was the contrast in styles of the Hornets props: Gavin Bennion a crowbar - prising, wrenching, jemmying gaps in the home defence; Samir Tahraoui a sledgehammer - big on impact, the home defenders recoiling as he slammed into the line.

On the quarter mark, Hornets forward domination laid the foundation for an attack deep in Oldham territory: Chris Riley the extra man looping left off the back of a scrum to scythe past flapping defenders to score. Lewis Palfrew on target for 6-all.

Oldham tried to rally, but twice Hornets bundled threatening attacks into touch. And, with Josh Crowley and debutant Lee Mitchell now making headway up the channels Hornets looked comfortable as the teams went in level at the break.

Hornets didn’t waste much time to assert their dominance in the second half. On 52 minutes Lewis Galbraith went close. From the play the ball a smart pass from Ben Moores found makeshift centre Jordan Case arriving at pace to spin out of the tackle and score. Lewis Palfrey the extras; Hornets in front at 6-12.

As an increasingly frustrated Oldham now began shipping penalties, it was Ben Moores again who made them pay. A cheeky dink into the in-goal from acting half gave Gary Middlehurst ample time to stroll in and touch down. Lewis Palfrey the two from in front, Oldham’s body language shot at 6-18. Hornets continued to turn the screw.

On 70 minutes a clinical move up the left provided the coup de grace. A Danny Yates break, Jordan case on hand to continue the move. Then Yatesey involved again, picking out Lewis Galbraith with a peach of a cut-out pass; Trigger lunging in by the flag. Irresistable stuff.

Lewis Palfrey 100% with the boot and Hornets home and hosed with a 6-24 lead.

With seconds remaining, Oldham produced their one moment of lucid football: Tyson’s chip, Owen on hand to touch down, Leatherbarrow the extras to give the fascade of a contest. Oldham ended the game in ignominy as Tyson pointlessly swung punches after the hooter, earning a red-card. Hornets Paddy Jones also dismissed for chucking a few back. Needless.

In the end, Hornets were worthy winners of the Law Cup. Oldham can bleat all they want about having six players missing, but Hornets had Greenwood, Ratu, Cookson and Smith missing - and had DR back-rower Lee Mitchell filling in, plus Jordan Case putting in a sterling show at centre.

And as Hornets celebrated with their vociferous supporters in an empty Bower Fold, the real satisfaction came from knowing that that, right now, it’s much better to be a Hornets fan than a Roughyed.