Monday, 13 August 2012

'neath Contempt

Hornets 42 Scorpions 12

I don't know what it is about Welsh Rugby League teams but, having now seen both North and South varieties in quick succession, it seems pretty clear that they come to scrap. Quite literally in this case.

Whilst Hornets had completely bossed the first 40, a couple of 'interesting' decisions from the officials had tempered their dominance and kept the Scorpions in the game.

Hornets opened the scoring on 13 minutes off the back of a booming Paul Crook 40/20, Crooky adding the extras. Then Hornets had two tries struck off within a minute: Middlehurst for obstruction, English for a dubious forward pass.

Scorpions took played their 'get out of jail' card, working the ball back upfield where Gilbert was first to react to a Davies kick through.

But Hornets hit back almost immediately, Middlehurst's skittling run setting up Roper to score under the black dot from 30 metres.

Again Hornets were denied an almost immediate score, a flowing break up the left flank led by Chris Hough slotted Roper under the posts - only for the touch-judge to inform referee Merrick that Houghy had entered the field of play as subsititute in an offside position. Bedlam in the stands. From the resulting penalty Scorpions sent James crashing in, Hawkes converted and - astonishingly, we found the scores locked at 12-all coming into the final seconds of the half. 

With the ball going nowhere, Gary Middlehurst was goaded into throwing a punch and all hell broke loose. As all 26 players slugged it out in a series of rolling brawls, it was clear from the glee in the Scorpions directors area that this was all part of the plan.

In the wash-up, Middlehurst was sent-off for punching, Phil Braddish for running in to protect Steve Roper who was being kicked on the floor; Roper dispatched to hospital with a suspected concussion. On the Welsh side Mossop displayed all the traits of 'small-man' syndrome, yapping and snapping all the way to the dressing room, whilst sub Howells was red-carded for rushing off the bench to hit Chris Hough from behind. Nasty.

Referee Merrick finally restored order - commanding the teams from the field separately to avoid re-ignition. But with the teams starting the second half 11 v 12 (Scorpions having lost an unused sub), it was clear that there would be some major re-shaping required.

And it was Hornets who regained shape and composure most effectively, beginning the half with a well-taken Bloomfield try. As the Scorpions frustration began to leach into every tackle, Hornets kept their cool, overcoming their numercial disadvantage as Crook sent Jonny Leather in at the corner. On the next possession in the Scorpions half, Hornets worked a similar trick up the opposite wing only for Andy Taylor to be bundled into the corner flag. Hornets now completely on top: South Wales looking to stem the tide by any means necessary - a penalty count of 13-5 indicative of their growing desperation.

As it was, when John Cookson steamed the ball in just past the hour mark, Scorpions' Crosby finally succumbed to his anger-management issues - a flailing arm, followed by a headbutt, followed by a red card - followed by a hail of boos from a now incensed home crowd. Now with momentum and parity, Hornets went in search of the coup de grace.

From the resulting penalty Stephen Bannister blasted through for Hornets fifth try of the afternoon, followed three minutes later by Dale Bloomfield's hat-trick - slicing through to score.

Three minutes later, Hornets went ripping through a flailing Scorpions defence, Bloomfield turning provider to send Andy Taylor in by the flag. And, with South Wales now visibly punch-drunk, Hornets lifted for a big finish - Jonny Leather providing the knock-out punch in the 79th minute. Crooky cool under pressure to slot the extras from wide out.

So - with yet another ugly win over a Welsh side devoid of any real footballing capability, Hornets deserve credit for finding the wherewithal to play some tidy rugby under such difficult circumstances. To nil the Scorpions in the second half - 20 minutes of which were played at a numerical disadvantage - shows great attitude and commitment.

And that in itself is a firm base to build on for next year.