Monday, 11 March 2013

Cold Comfort

Oldham 26 - Hornets 10

On lots of fronts, this was one to forget. With Whitebank redolent of Arctic Tundra, it was always going to be a quite literal uphill task. But, compelled to shuffle key playmaker Paul Crook to an unfamilar berth at loose forward to accommodate Saints' Dual Reg loanee Lee Gaskell at stand-off, Hornets struggled to find any real fluidity. 

To his credit, Crooky dug in and celebrated his 100th Hornets appearance with a well-taken try, but by the time he was switched back to stand-off after 65 minutes - with Gaskell moved to centre - the damage had pretty much been done.

In reality, Hornets were architects of their own downfall. A procession of cheap penalties and dropped balls gave Oldham ample opportunity to build momentum. Indeed, the biggest puzzle was why it took them 20 minutes to get over the Hornets goal-line.

As it was, a short-range sucker-try from Gee broke the icy deadlock, followed swiftly by a well taken try by Agoro who shrugged off a challenge that Martin Waring won't want to see in next week's video session. 10-nil Oldham. 

Hornets did rouse themselves upfield sufficiently to launch probably their only tangible attack of the half: Paul Crook responding first to a bouncing ball to skate through and score. Uphill into the biting wind his conversion attempt drifted wide and the supporters of both clubs endeavoured to reinstate circulation to frozen fingers as Hornets went in trailing 10-4 at the break.

The second half started with two pieces of Dallimore skill that took the game beyond Hornets' reach. Firstly a well-executed one-one-one steal from Gaz Langley saw him stroll in from 20 metres; secondly, he beat a flapping defence to his own neatly lofted chip. Both came either side of a close range Jordan Hand try, but it was token resistance from Ian Talbot's men.

The coup-de-grace came on the hour when Dallimore dinked a teasing grubber behind the Hornets defence for Bloomfield to touch down. And if that wasn't enough, Dallimore also dinked over a penalty just to rub it in.

The last 20 minutes was a bit of a non-event. Oldham's big pack making easy yards up the hill, Hornets finding a little more relief courtesy of some booming downfield kicks from Crook. 

In the end, when there's not a great deal between teams, desire and a sense of purpose takes you a very long way. But for long periods Hornets were a flabby, rudderless mess: short on ideas, light on poke and lacking direction. Oldham kept it simple and direct - and it worked.

There were few real stand-outs in the Hornets side: Wayne English drove diligently from the back, but was well policed; Danny Davies ran hard and straight all afternoon and looked Hornets' most dangerous forward - and Paul Crook worked his arse off at loose forward, but was seldom in a position to extert any direct influence on the game.

The week before, Clive Griffiths had said that shutting down Oldham's half-back combination of Palfrey and Dallimore had been key to the Crusaders win. It wasn't some great coaching secret - he said it in the paper. And on the internet. Ultimately, in giving them too much time, too many opportunities and too many options, Hornets proved him right.

All up, a cold, miserable day at the office for all concerned.