Sunday, 15 April 2018

Hornets Victims of RFL Whistleblower Policy

Hornets 15 - London 30

In an archetypal game of two halves, the work done in Hornets’ top quality opening 40 minutes was systematically dismantled in the second half of the John McMullen show.

Seldom have we seen the shape of a game so directly impacted by the actions of the referee. Mr McMullen was simultaneously pedantic and sloppy, picky and laissez-faire. The only consistency in his performance was his extreme level of inconsistency.

So unconfident was he in his own level of performance that, before the game, he actually asked the RFL time keeper to keep an eye out in case he missed a free-play. That he then went on to mis-interpret two, indicates that he actually knows that he doesn’t understand the laws.

As it was, Mr McMullen gifted London three back to back penalties in the opening stages which gave the visitors a platform to pound the Hornets goal-line. Four sets later - and having run out of ideas - London were stood under their own crossbar after Ben Moores mugged a napping defence to steal in from acting half-back to give Hornets an early lead.

These early exchanges set the pattern for the half. Mr McMullen working his way through the I-Spy Book of Stupid Penalties, London all thud & blunder with the ball, Hornets working hard to repel a pretty one-dimensional attack: London caught in possession twice on the last tackle.

After half an hour of mounting a rear-guard action, the pressure finally told on Hornets’ hard-working defence. Again, after multiple repeat sets, London finally managed to string three passes together, Dixon looping in as the extra man to score out wide; Sammut the extras - the crowd close to mutiny.

Hornets hit straight back: regaining the lead with a Harvey Livett penalty, then a great break by Dec Kay took Hornets deep into London territory. But the momentum was sucked out of the game when Sammut ‘old-headed’ Mr McMullen, starting a punch-up at the play the ball and giving the Broncos defence a chance to regather.

With the half ebbing away, both sides exchanged knock-ons under the visitors’ posts and, with the last kick of the half, Dec Patton slammed home a drop-goal to send Hornets into the sheds leading 9-6. Stat of the half was a Hornets completion rate of 80% versus London’s shoddy 50%.

London began the second half at a noticeably higher tempo and three quick-fire tries shifted the balance of the game: on 45 minutes, Dixon again arcing in to score - then a carbon-copy double from Adebyi (the first after a string of penalties) taking London into a 9-22 lead.

But Hornets hit back: on 56 minutes London knocked-on a Hornets last tackle kick, Deon Cross gathered the loose ball in open field and sprinted away for a certain score - only for Mr McMullen to somehow interpret the situation as a Hornets offside, rather than the Free-Play it was. Perhaps he should have consulted the time-keeper. Disgraceful.

Dixon’s hat-trick try on the hour sent the obligatory taxi-load of London fans into paroxysms: he converted his own try to extend the London Lead to 9-28.

But Hornets keep on coming: building pressure to send in Dec Kay off a short-ball for a well-worked try. Harvey Livett the extras and 15-28 a more reasonable reflection of Hornets’ contribution.

There was still time for Mr McMullen to leave his grubby stamp on the game. Hornets forced into a 78th minute drop-out found touch with a short-kick, but despite being 40 metres away, he over-ruled his touch-judge marking the point at which the ball exited the field of play to award London a penalty in front for Hornets not propelling the ball 10 metres (despite the touchy clearly indicating that they had). Shite, to be honest,

But if you thought that that was as bad as it got, the game reached a refereeing nadir in the 78th minute.

London coughed the kick-off possession, Richard Lepori gathered the loose ball and touched down - only for  Mr McMullen to bring Hornets back to feed a scrum. He clearly has no understanding of how a free-play works - and you began to think Oscar Wilde was right when he said “Once can be considered unfortunate, but twice looks like carelessness”.

Hopefully RFL Timekeeper Colin Morris had a discreet word afterwards.

In the end Hornets strove hard against a full-time side abetted by some frankly terrible refereeing. Indeed, a 15 point margin against a full-time side would be impressive enough - but for two perfectly good tries to be chalked off through some indifferent officiating sticks in the throat. 12 more points would show you just how close Hornets are to matching the supposed quality of the full time outfits in the Championship.

But we need to be given a fair-go - and, on this showing, Hornets might have to wait a little longer for a victory under Mr McMullen’s control.