Sunday, 30 April 2017

Culture Clash

Hull KR 24 - Hornets 16

One dictionary definition of ‘culture’ is: ‘the propagation of bacteria, in an artificial medium’. And it is with this in mind that we consider Hornets’ trip to the UK city of ‘culture’ to take on Hull KR.

Indeed, a trip to East Hull is very much like peering down a microscope: you may be vastly outnumbered by the simple life-forms you see, but life at both ends is very, very different.

A trip to Craven Park is something you need to endure. The sense of hubris and entitlement is all-pervading. From the jobsworth posturing of the stewards to the pavlovian reaction of the East Stand to anything that dares offer the slightest resistance to the Robins juggernaut, it’s an unedifying experience. And when they screw you for £23 for a seat behind the posts, it becomes perfectly clear that - as an away fan - your role for the afternoon is to have the piss taken out of you.

On the field, Hornets set about their task with impressive composure: strong resistance the order of the day as the home side threw themselves into the Hornets defence to no avail. Having refused to buckle in the early exchanges, Hornets went on the attack where Ben Moores was held up in the Robins’ in-goal.

Despite a flurry of dubious penalties, Hornets stood firm and, on 18 minutes, Jordan Case arced into  the line to leave the home defence flat-footed to score the try that stunned the East Stand into slack-jawed silence: 0-4.

In the next phase of play, Rovers’ very own peroxide pillock Greenwood put in the sort of horrendous lifting tackle that has seen other players banned for weeks. A casual word from the ref and a penalty was deemed sufficient. But fear not. Within minutes he was yellow-carded for niggling, after Rovers were placed on a team warning. Palfrey took the penalty and Hornets looked pretty comfortable at 0-6. And when Sam Wilde was held-up in-goal on 25 minutes, Hull KR were visibly wobbling.

But a dubious penalty - incorporating a Hornets team warning - took the home side fully 60 metres and when they moved the ball left late in the tackle count Lawler found space by the flag to score: 4-6.

On the half-hour Hornets came up with their first error of the game: Chris Riley had superbly fielded a long kick, only for the ball to be fumbled on the next play. As the Robins pushed hard, Lewis Galbraith was snagged by the referee and dispatched for 10 minutes - but Rovers knocked-on under good defensive pressure to the jeering despair of the home fans.

With the half ebbing away and the home side back to 13 men, Rovers worked the numbers well for Shaw to score up the right edge. Ellis hit the extras and - out of nowhere - Hull KR went to the sheds 10-6 in front.

Hull KR began the second half with noticeably more purpose: an 80 metre break from the base of a scrum reeled in by Lewis Galbraith; a couple of penalties to establish a platform and two quick-fire tries (Lunt off a neat offload, Kavanagh stepping through tackles, Ellis good with the extras) and with the hour mark approaching the game apperared to be slipping away at 22-6.

On the hour the fire alarm in the North Stand sounded and, while the stewards swarmed around sniffing the air for smoke, the Hornets contingent sang: “North Stand’s on fire, your stewards are terrified”. Out on the field, Rob Massam out-jumped Oakes to gather and score off a kick to the corner 22-10. Cue more singing…  Hornets continued to press: Rob Massam producing a miracle offload for Danny Yates to plant the ball down: no try, forward pass.

With Hornets now back in the game, Hull KR returned to their ‘six-drives and a big hoof’ tactic - and when a last tackle kick was was clearly knocked on by an onrushing Robins hand, the referee confounded logic to give the feed to Rovers. Having begged another dubious penalty, the home side underlined their lack of adventure by taking the penalty: 24-10, with 11 to play.

Going into the final phase of the game, Hornets looked to be finishing stronger and, when Yatesey slammed a huge 40/20 downfield, Jordan Case hit an inside ball at pace to score. Lewis Palfrey hit the target and with four minutes to play - and mindful of how Hull KR lost the million pound game from an 8-point advantage - the Hornets fans sang “eight points won’t be enough”. Cue scowls from the locals. Hilarious.

As it was Hull KR hung on to secure a 24-16 victory, but Hornets had run Tim Sheens' full-time outfit very very close indeed.

In the wash-up, Hornets looked tight, solid and hard-working. Led by the ruthless graft of Gary Middlehurst, the relentless torque of Rob Massam and some clinical finishing from Jordan Case, this performance showed what Hornets are really capable of at this level. Indeed, this sets the bar for the remainder of the season.

As for Hull KR, I hope they and their fans think they got their money’s worth today. In a city with one of the UK’s lowest levels of disposable income, you sense that - at £23 - struggling to overcome a part-time team is taking the piss out if its own fans too.