Sunday, 9 April 2017

Party Fears Too.

Batley 38 - Hornets 36

We’ve all been there.

You go to a party and - for once - you look good; feel confident. You get chatting to a really interesting girl and she’s actually interested in you. You laugh at each other’s jokes, the conversation flows: you’ve read the same books, seen the same films. As the evening progresses you find a real connection: you both say how you can’t believe this is happening -  you find yourself drawn ever closer. Then comes the moment: she says she has to leave because she has a big day tomorrow; you say ‘I have my car outside, can I give you a lift home?’.  She pecks you on the cheek and says ‘Yes that would be lovely’.

So you go into the kitchen to grab your coat and get back into the hallway just in time to see her jumping into a cab with the biggest dickhead at the party.

And you’re left on the doormat. Keys in hand. Wondering what the hell just happened…

For 70 minutes, Hornets were king of the party - looking good, playing with confidence. Fast fluid football just flowed: the boisterous travelling support bounced and sang…

But at the death, victory jumped into Batley’s cab and everyone associated with Hornets was left wondering what the hell just happened.

Leading 12-36 after an hour, Hornets looked racing certs to take the points. Batley had been a distant second-best - reduced to slugging and scrapping in an attempt to suck the momentum out of the game. And even now, we’re not entirely sure what happened next…

Hornets went off from the gun: capitalising on the Mount Pleasant slope to race into a 10 point lead after tries from Rob Massam (in off a crash-ball by the flag) and Harvey Livett (taking a short-ball from Gav Bennion after Joe Taira had gone close). And when Livett, Ben Julien and Jake Eccleston combined to score a sweeping delight of a try over 60 metres to give Hornets a deserved nil-16 advantage in-pace with the clock, it already looked like a literal uphill task for the shellshocked Bulldogs.

The home side flickered briefly: back to back penalties conceded by Lewis Galbraith (the second for backchat) gave Batley the platform to send in Smeaton  at the corner.

Galbraith made amends for his indiscretion almost immediately: Hornets seizing upon a Batley knock-on, the ball shipped left and Trigger on a big looping run to plant the ball down amongst a gaggle of defenders. Harvey Livett the extras off the touchline for 4-22.

With 10 minutes of the half remaining, Referee Mr Straw put Hornets on a team warning after a string of silly penalties hauled Batley back into the game. Batley’s response was clinical: ball shipped right for (3) to score through a stretched defence. Hornets now with a discernible wobble. A 34th minute high-shot saw Jono Smith sin-binned, and Batley’s pinpoint chip into the space benind the centre channel saw Hallett gather and score: 12-22

The half ended with both sides trading high-shots, Mr Straw favouring the home side, Batley failing to make touch. 12-man Hornets just about making it to the break 12-22 ahead.

Having had the slope, the question was always going to be “Would 10 points be enough?”

Hornets began the second half brightly: a last tackle kick, Gaz Middlehurst unable to reel it in. Then Batley’s Brown sinbinned for a frankly horrendous swinging arm into Middlehurst’s head. Livett taking the two, 12-30.

With the hour approaching, Jack Johnson stepped through some ordinary Batley tackling to race home from 40 metres to give Hornets a 12-34 lead. Livett added the extras and Hornets looked racing certs to take the points… but wait…

Two quick-fire Batley tries gave the subdued home fans a chink of hope: Smeaton given space to score through a stretched defence and the Bulldogs running a big man at a small man at close quarters for Maher to score. Brambani finding his kicking boots to give the home side a sniff at 22-36.

For the next 10 minutes the game became a battle of messy attrition marked by a successsion of slack errors and some distinctly shoddy officiating.

As the game broke into a fragmented stop/start mess, three successive incidents handed Batley the momentum: Danny Yates kicked out on the full (a poor end to a great approach set), Andre Savelio knocked-on on the first tackle with Batley in retreat (a huge let-off) and then Matt Hadden sin-binned for a 72nd minute professional foul after a Batley break up the guts of the Hornets defence.

The home side’s response was immediate, the ball whipped left for Ainscough to score. 26-36. Surely 10 points would be enough…

As it was, back to back penalties piggy-backed Batley down the slope where they reproduced their previous effort for Ainscough to score. Brambani the extras off the touchline for 32-36.

Then comes the moment: Hornets fans headed for the kitchen to get their coats, only to return to find Batley fumbling the ball through the heart of the Hornets defence. Mr Straw ignored both the obvious knock-on and the dubious forward pass as Brambanbi set up Lilycrop to score under the black dot.  Brambani hit the extras to ensure that victory left in Batley’s cab, despite having teased Hornets for 79 minutes. Just heartbreaking, really.

We’ve written here recently about how Rugby League puts fans through the emotional wringer, but this was a proper kick in the proverbial spuds. Batley were nowhere near this game for vast periods of time, but they did take advantage of both occasions when Hornets were down to 12 men and that proved to be the decisive factor.

While this was a monumental effort against the team finishing fourth last year, it was a chance unwittingly blown. And when a party ends that way, no-one really cares how good the rest of the evening was.