Hornets 20 - Barrow 8
We have ignition - as Hornets got their 2019 campaign off the ground with a convincing win over a pretty mediocre Barrow Raiders. Built on a backbone of stern goal-line defence, punishing running round the ruck and the faultless boot of Dan Abram, Hornets progressively hauled the game out of Barrow's reach, looking comfortably in control for the most part.
But it began with a brief Barrow burst. On three minutes a Charnock lob to the corner saw Brandon Wood outnumbered by Jarrod Stack and rangy PNG international winger Amean who scored by the flag. Dallmore slammed the conversion attempt wide into the Pearl Street end. The next time the visitors would trouble the scoreboard was 70 minutes away, with the game gone.
As the rain came crashing down, the game became a wrestle - which looked to suit Barrow's attritional style. Indeed, with efforts struck off for obstruction and a knock-on over the line after a spell of sustained pressure, the visitors looked likely to add to their total. But Hornets stood firm.
The introduction of Adam Lawton on the quarter mark paid instant dividends. With not quite his first or second touch this week, he stepped and dummied his way past defenders from 25 metres, running straight over the top of full-back Cresswell to grab his third try in three games. Abram the first of a perfect afternoon with the boot and Hornets with a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
With errors and penalties breaking up the flow of the game, both coaches would have been glad to get to the sheds and iron out the wrinkles.
Barrow began the second half with a great opportunity to grab the momentum. Shaun Ainscough fumbled a swirling bomb, Tyler Whittaker mopping up snagged in-goal. Directly from the drop-out Hornets were snagged for another penalty and Dallimore opted to kick for goal. As it was, he slammed the kick against a post from bang in front and you could sense the shift in confidence.
Within five minutes Hornets were up the other end where Barrow fullback Cresswell made a complete hash of a Dan Abram bomb and, on the next set, Ben Moores produced an outrageous step from dummy half to stroll in under the black dot untouched. Dan Abram hit the target and Hornets looked good value for their 12-4 lead.
With Hornets now playing what little football was on offer, Barrow sought to suck the pace out of the game - only to get pulled on 55 minutes for interference. Dan Abram with the penalty to stretch the lead to 14-4.
On the hour mark Hornets looked likely to score again: a huge break up the guts of the Raiders' defence from Ben Moores was taken on by Sitaleki Akauola, but hands in the ruck saw the ball slip free: Mr Dolan giving a knock-on. No matter...
Within four minutes Hornets found themselves again camped close to the Barrow goal line, where Liam Carberry arrived at pace off a short Dan Abram pass to skittle defenders and score. Abram raised the flags: 20-4.
Barrow flickered briefly in the 73rd minute when Amean took advantage of a fumbled ball to score by the flag. Dallimore again hitting the post for a 0/3 return.
The last five minutes saw the visitors put in their best spell of the game, but knock-ons and a lack of ideas proved too much of an impediment: Hornets strong-arming them out of the last five minutes to grab a vital two points.
This was a solid, rather than spectacular performance - built on hard-work and determination. And there was more week-on-week improvement for all to see - most notably in a much better kick-chase that penned Barrow deep in their own territory for long spells.
Satisfying too was Swinton's late, late choking at Halifax which leaves Hornets out of the bottom two and breathing hard down Batley and Dewsbury's necks. A launch pad for the rest of the season? Next week's game against RFL darlings York will pose a genuine test for sure, but it's better to go into into it with the boost of a win.