Hornets 34 NW Crusaders 6
Despite North Wales Crusaders best attempts to spoil, niggle and grind this game to a standstill, an impressive Hornets packed them off back to Wrexham with a lesson in focus, control and clinical finishing.
While their Welsh counterparts tried everything in the book to take the momentum out of the game, Hornets played some neat football around them - and with three tries struck off for dubious forward passes, this drubbing could've been even more comprehensive.
Crusaders' gameplan was obvious from the off. Whilst the Hornets forwards ripped into some stern defence, every tackle brought two, three - sometimes four attendees to lie on for as long as referee Sharrad would allow. Hornets finally found a way through after 14 minutes when a cracking cut-out pass from Gary Middlehurst found Jonny Leather who blasted 70 metres downfield, held just short by some desperate cover. A quick play the ball and some smart handling worked the ball across the field for Dale Bloomfield to score in the corner. Paul Crook - cool as you like - stroked over the extras.
Five minutes later, Hornets conjured up a second for Bloomers - Steve Roper jinking into space with the supporting Wayne English providing the crucial pass.
With 20 minutes gone, Crusaders had created precisely nothing, but got a lucky break when a searching pass from Crook was plucked out of the air by Sheen, who ran it back under the Hornets posts. Johnson added a simple two - and that was the last the scoreboard would see of the visitors.
Hornets forwards continued to make good yards, and a blockbusting break from Gary Middlehurst created just enough room for him to find Steve Roper with a delicious one handed pass, Roper outpacing the cover from 30 metres to score. Crook added the extras and Hornets went in at the break 16-6 to the good having totally dominated the first 40.
Hornets began the second half as they'd finished the first: props Braddish and Ekis - ably supported by the redoubtable Danny Samuel - drove the Welsh back upfield, and Steve Roper terrorised a back pedalling defence, taking play to the edges where Hornets had a clear upper hand in strength and pace. With three minutes gone, Roper unzipped the Welsh defence to send Wayne English coasting in, only for Mr Sharrad to call play back for a seemingly invisible obstruction.
Hornets regained advantage from a Welsh error, and - from the resulting scrum - Roper and English repeated the feat, this time to the referee's satisfaction. Crook added the extras followed shortly after by a penalty and, with the Welsh blowing out of their not insubstantial arses, it was clear that the visitors were a busted flush. Their solution? Lie on a bit more in an attempt to stem the tide.
For 15 minutes, it appeared to work, frustrating Hornets and fans alike. It even gave Crusaders the opportunity to launch the odd attack, but laboured approach-play and some impotent jabbing was nowhere near enough to break down Hornets stern defence.
Having shot their bolt, North Wales were driven backwards - a string of penalties giving Hornets the position and possession for Steve Roper to find Wayne English with a slick short ball - English somersaulting in for a spectacular try.
With time ebbing away, Hornets sucked in to deliver the coup de grace: slick hands at pace saw Tony Stewart find Jonny Leather with a pinpoint pass: Leather hitting the afterburners to score by the flag. Nice.
In the end, this was a good old-fashioned flogging - the scoreline hugely flattering a North Wales Crusaders side who played no discernible football in 80 minutes, and whose sole objective was to rip the momentum out of the game. Their impressively noisy fans deserve better.
As for Hornets, over the last three games, they've scored 96 points and conceded just 10. Impressive stuff. More importantly, it now puts us within striking distance of Whitehaven - the next visitors to Spotland. Win by 13 or more next week and we go fourth.
You may recall that, when Crusaders beat our U23s in a pre-season friendly, one of the more excitable sons of Glyndwr shouted loudly in my face how they were going to win the league (amongst other things). I said to him (quite calmly, under the circumstances) not to get too excited and that, over the two league games, Hornets would score 100 against them. As it was we managed an aggregate of 86-24. How about that then, eh? Eh?