Sunday, 7 April 2013

You can't fight progress...

Hornets 40 -  Hunslet Old Boys 4

Ah the magic of the Challenge Cup. Plucky underdog ptited against accomplished favourites. The chance to show the game what you're made of on its most venerable stage. The chance to give a good account of yourself as Rugby League's spotlight looks your way. 

Shame no-one told Hunslet Old Boys, whose sole intention seemed to be to ruin the afternoon for everyone involved.

Almost from the off, their agricultural brand of anti-Rugby League left a stain on pretty much every aspect of the game that it came into contact with. Indeed, the level of relentless commitment required to sprawl, brawl, slug and and spoil their way through every one of its 80 minutes is, perversely, admirable.

Indeed, four yellow cards for a mix of persistent foul play and dissent, plus a red for Foster after 50 minutes for throwing a mindless punch whilst in possession barely tell the tale of this rolling assault.

Chasing a kick off the back of the game's very first set, Gaz Langley copped an off the ball elbow to the face. Referee Sharpe gave the visitors the penalty. Next to suffer was Alex Trumper, subbed for treatment to a head injury after 8 minutes. He didn't return.

To their credit, Hornets kept working the ball around - occasionally forcing passes to let Old Boys off the hook. While the visiting pack seemed set on imposing themselves on the Hornets threequarter line, when John Cookson came calling off a short Steve Roper ball after 11 minutes, they were oddly absent as he skittled an exposed defence to score. Paul Crook added the two.

Old Boys were invited to test the Hornets defence after Gaz Langley dropped the ensuing kick-off, but the challenge of having to play some actual football proved too great as prop Miller spilled the ball.

Hornets marched straight back upfield where Dave Llewellyn dropped Warren Thompson's pass with the line begging. Minutes later it was Thomson again, with a huge break through the heart of a blowing Old Boys defence. He slipped a neat ball inside to Paul Crook, but the pass was deemed forward. Hornets sustained the pressure. This time Danny Davies providing the break, his pass bouncing away from a slipping Langley.

Old Boys only moment of lucid football came after 23 minuters when a dink over the top by O'Malley came to naught when the receiving player was called offside. From the resulting possession, Hornets conjured up a sweeping passing move to launch Dave Sutton into space where he outpaced the cover to score. Crooky added the extras off the touchline: 12-nil. Hornets repeated the move up the opposite wing on 33 minutes, this time Gaz Langley surging in. 

Hornets spent the remainder of the half avoiding a miscelleny of high shots, cheap shots and three-man flops to go in 16-nil to the good. Hunslet Old Boys barely worth their nil.

Hornets fans muttered darkly during the break about Old Boys' outrageously rudimentary approach. But there was much worse to come.

Hornets came out determined to play round Old Boys' decapitatory technique. and within two minutes a cute pop-out ball from Dave Hull sent Dave Sutton sprinting in unopposed from 40 metres. Crooky added the two off the touchline. 22-nil.

Sutton Bagged his hat-trick five minutes later when he embarked on a looping run across a dead-footed defence to score, again, from distance, and within five minutes Danny Davies ducked up the short side to score a well-taken try.

However, it was Foster's red-card punch on 50 minutes that really set this game on its slide into farce. Refusing to leave the playing area, Foster was brought to the attention of the 4th official and match commissioner. Simultaneously an over-reacting, beer-handed Old Boys supporter was ejected from the ground for violent behaviour by the stewards. In the ensuing melee an Old Boys player from the bench was seen endeavouring to join the skirmish. 

Under increasing provocation, Hornets kept their composure, creating enough space for Gaz Langley to duck in and score by the flag. 34-nil.

On 75 minutes, with one player in the bath and one cooling his heels for use of the shoulder, Old Boys finally got their moment of ill-gained glory, Thomson breaking the line for a consolation try.

Hornets shrugged, Crooky stroked a short kick-off for John Cookson to regather and Old Boys' had time stood under their own crossbar to contemplate their try as Wayne English's arcing run clinically bisected defenders to score. Paul Crook added the two and Ray Myers blew the hooter to put this quite dreadful game out of its misery.

Ordinarily, you see ambassadors for the amateur game applauded off the field on Challenge Cup day, but Old Boys were decidedly worthy of the disdain levelled at them on this occasion.

Certainly the game is hard enough without people trying to take your head off. But it's interesting to note that Hunslet Old Boys eschew the concept of summer Rugby League and continue to peddle a minority brand of throwback football through the winter months. Their whole approach seems like an anachronism in the modern game. And there's really no place for it.