Monday, 8 April 2019

Whistle While You Work

Hornets 24 - Halifax 48.

This was the archetypal game of two halves, hamfistedly glued together by an over-officious refereeing performance that saw Hornets slammed 15-5 in the penalty count.

For 40 minutes Hornets matched a Halifax outfit that looked like it'd much rather be somewhere else, but in the second half they were swept away by a tidal wave of unlucky breaks, dubious decisions and a Halifax side that had clearly had a rocket up their arse at half time.

But it was Hornets who started with a bang, Lee Mitchell hitting a short-ball at pace after just two minutes to glide under the black dot. Abram the extras - and on target again with a penalty five minutes later to give Hornets a comfortable 8-nil lead.

But on 10 minutes, Mr Crashley made his first intervention. Fairbank's break up the guts of the Hornets defence had defenders scrambling back, loanee Jack Higginson adjudged to have loitered too long in the tackle and shown the yellow card.

Halifax took instant advantage of their numerical superiority, Tyrer racing onto a kick into the space vacated by Higginson to get Halifax on the board; Tyrer improving his own try. 

Almost immediately Hornets were gifted an opportunity to respond: a frankly awful pass from Laulu-Togagae fell to Lee Mitchell, but Hornets panicked the ball wide where the last pass bounced harmlessly into touch.

On the quarter-mark, Tyrer again exploited Higginson's absence to grab his second try of the afternoon to give Halifax the lead at 8-10.

Higginson's return paid immediate dividends: Hornets executing a neat, looping shift up the right channel where he proved too strong for a retreating defence. Hornets back in the box-seat at 12-10.

With the game approaching the half hour mark, Mr Crashley became increasingly whistle-happy. The result was a sucker-punch double for Woodburn-Hall - the first coming from a blatant obstruction.

But Hornets sucked in for a big finish and got their reward in the last minute of the half when Ellis Robson out-muscled three defenders to plant the ball down. Dan Abram with the two and Hornets with the momentum at 18-22.

Indeed, Hornets began the second half in similar fashion, Ben Moores denied two tries in rapid succession. First his lunge to touch down his own kick into the in-goal was ruled out, then his reaction to a sloppy carry by Fleming was penalised as 'ripped'. Halifax, then marched straight upfield where Sharp went in by the flag. It kinda set the tone for what was to come.

As Mr Crashley became increasingly pedantic - and Hornets became increasingly frustrated - Halifax eventually crawled on top of the game.

Woodburn-Hall grabbed his third after a period of sustained pressure and - on the hour - Laulu-Togagae used a static attacker as cover to create a big enough hole to step through. No obstruction call was forthcoming.

We then saw a bit of refereeing that resembled a Two Ronnies gag. Hornets defence hit hard in the tackle, tipping the Halifax ball carrier onto his back. Whilst the travelling fans bayed for a 'tipping' penalty, it was obvious that the player concerned hadn't passed the vertical. However, at the conclusion of the NEXT tackle, Mr Crashley blew and gave a penalty for his interpretation of the offence that had happened the TACKLE BEFORE.  Just awful.

Despite this, Hornets continued to plug away and it was Ben Moores who went closest, the ball slipping from his fingers with the line begging as he looked to push a pass to Brandon Wood.

As the game moved into the closing stages, Halifax struck with a late brace: Saltonstall spinning away from defenders; Laulu-Togagae allowed to step through from close range.

Last word, though, went to Hornets: Carl Forster piling through defenders to score on the hooter, Dan Abram with the conversion.

This game was a great example of how big momentum shifts can hinge on individual moments: Dan Abram's attempted intercept that slipped from his grasp, Halifax scoring from the resulting scrum; the wayward pass to Brandon Wood off a Halifax error when Hornets were a man down; Ben Moores double denial early in the second half. Add the added impetus of Mr Crashley's surrealist interpretation of the laws and you can at least see how the game slid slowly away from Hornets.

Yes, it's frustrating - infuriating, even. This is a pretty ordinary Halifax side, but they capitalised on every opportunity that came their way. Maybe the need to be more ruthless is the lesson to take away from this one.