Monday, 30 April 2018

Ghost Busted

Hornets 12 - Sheffield 38

Losing to Sheffield Eagles is a bit like being haunted. You don’t really see them coming as they creep up on you out of your peripheral vision, spook you when you’re at your most vulnerable and then disappear back into another dimension leaving you feeling somewhat disconcerted.

Indeed, much like ghosts, you never really believe they actually exist until you’re confronted by them.

It was a patched-up, hacked-together Hornets given the ghastly task of dealing with the Eagles. Cut apart and reassembled by an ever growing injury list, Hornets hadn’t got past the warm-up when they lost Lewis Hatton; Earl Hurst conscripted as a late replacement.

With triallist Tyler Whittaker drafted in at half-back and Billy Brickhill playing long-minutes at hooker,  hard-working Hornets clung to this game for longer than they had any right to - clawing themselves back within a score at one point, only for multiple injuries to finally take their toll.

Jo Taira, both Adamson brothers, Pat Moran and Dave Allen were all lost to injury and, in the end, Hornets simply ran out of bodies, as Sheffield kept trundling away in the middle distance.

The Eagles got off to a dream start, Millar the last man in a string of passes to score by the flag after five minutes. Then, cue the intervention of referee Mr Hewer, who put in a horror-show of missed incidents, a lack of attention and a shocking understanding of the laws.

Having gifted the visitors five consecutive sets on Hornets 10m line, only for them to come up empty, he handed them a sixth opportunity to run at a tiring defence. Burns plunging in from acting half on 15 minutes had an air of the inevitability about it.

Fatiguing and frustrated, Hornets continued to hold back a Sheffield onslaught, but on the half hour  Makelim (looking a couple of stones heavier then the last time we saw him in the Ron Massey Cup), rumbled into the line like a runaway bin-wagon to score. Having slogged their guts out on defence, Hornets found themselves 18-nil down.

But their response was positive: Danny Yates creating space, Lee Mitchell hitting a neat ball at pace steaming straight through Makelim to score.

Having grabbed a foothold in the game, Hornets switched off just long enough for Eagles’ lump James to burst through from a metre to score, but with half-time looming Hornets went straight down the other end where Billy Brickhill bulled his way over from acting half, Tyler Whittaker added thew two and Hornets went to the sheds only 10-22 behind.

Hornets began the second half with a bang. Sheffield prop Offerdahl coughing the ball; Matty Hadden ruthless as he stretched out to score. Tyler Whittaker the two and Hornets in it at 16-22. Game on!

As it was, Sheffield took advantage of a couple of penalties to march downfield where Ashworth was first to respond to a kick seemingly going nowhere. Fozzard the extras and the 12 point gap re-established at 16-28. And there it stayed for the best part of half an hour; Hornets pushing hard for an opening, Pat Moran looking most likely, but adjudged to be held-up. As the injuries clocked-up, Hornets were compelled to shuffle the line-up, but some heavy-duty scrambling kept the visitors at bay until the 72nd minute when Fozzard stepped away from knackered defenders to put the game to bed.

That Toole scored at the death following a scramble in the in-goal to blow-out the scoreline is neither here nor there, as a busted, broken Hornets left the field to the appreciation of the home supporters.

In the week, Alan Kilshaw had said that he was looking for a response from his side and he - we - got it. Whilst lacking fluidity and finesse, his patched-up side gave it a dig, but were beaten in the end by a side heavy on process and light on excitement.

Add a rising body-count that saw Luke Adamson go back on the field with what looks like a broken thumb, and the fact that Hornets never gave up the ghost, whilst they may be physically busted, at least the spirit remains.