Monday, 6 August 2012

Shambles Squared

Skolars 56 Hornets 36

To misquote TS Eliot: so this is how the 2012 season ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper?

On a weekend when Team GB cleaned up a raft of golds at London 2012, Hornets travelled to the capital only to deliver a 24 carat omnishambles. On previous showings, you know what to expect from the Skolars: given the opportunity (and a referee with no control over the ruck area) they'll suck you into a spoiling battle of perpetual niggling and, once your frustration reaches boiling point, your discipline cracks and your shape goes, they'll bludgeon you with their blunt-instrument approach.

And so it was in this pig-ugly, messy affair that saw Hornets on the wrong end of a ridiculous 16-8 penalty count. But, despite the fact that, at times, this barely resembled Rugby League, Hornets contrbuted to their own downfall with some shoddy defence.

Hornets were caught napping after just 45 seconds as Bryan cruised through a static defence to give Skolars the lead. But Hornets shook themselves down and edged in front with well worked tries from Stephen Bannister and Dayne Donoghue.

But Hornets allowed Skolars back into the game, asleep again as Hopkins strode through to tie the scores at 12-all. Hornets then had their best spell of the game. A Paul Crook 40/20 provided the platform for Dale Bloomfield to score. Then Bloomers turned provider slipping the ball to Steve McDermott who jinked in. At 24-12 Hornets looked to have steadied the ship, but right on the hooter they nodded off just long enough to allow Skee in for a soft try. Half time Hornets up 24-18, but the momentum now with Skolars.

Hornets began the second half in similar fashion to the way they started the first; Anthony catching a last-tackle kick under his own posts, then given sufficient space to run the length of the field to score. 

Then came a spell of 'you score, we score' - two awful defences trading tries to stretch the scoreline out to 36-34 in Hornets' favour (Danny Ekis, then Adebesi, then Mclean, then Steve McDermott). And all the time, the game degenerating into a fragmented mess as the penalty count began to soar. Steve Roper was the first valve to blow, sin-binned for dissent on the hour.

Skolars took full advantage. With Hornets all over the place, McLean grabbed two tries in a minute for his hat-trick. And with Hornets shipping penalties every time they were asked to defend, Skee gleefully accepted, pushing the game further from Hornets' reach. Steve McDermott was next to feel the ire of referee Cobb, dispatched for persistent infringements in the ruck (risible under the circumstances), then Danny Price followed for dissent as Skolars were awarded a scrappy try after they appeared to knock on in the in-goal. A fitting end to such a shite afternoon.

The clutch of Hornets fans making the trip left the ground bemused and angry at such a feeble effort. Certainly this felt like a game of little consequence, of a team (barely) going through the motions and praying for the season to end.

The long-slow walk/tube/walk/train/drive home (and the bitter smell of a hundred quid burned) gives you ample time to ruminate on the reasons why this was so bloody awful.  A patched-up backline missing English and Leather? A front-row missing Cookson? A referee with no real grip of the game and whose 24 penalties indicates a total lack of control? Well, yes to all - but not nearly enough reasons for allowing Joe Mbu's unique brand of 'anti-football' to prevail.

Indeed, in every aspect, Rugby League doesn't get any worse than this - and it's those who suffered a long, expensive, disappointing day that deserve a medal.