Sunday, 23 February 2014

Benchmark Established

Hornets 12 - Dewsbury Rams 42

Make no bones about it, the scoreline flatters Dewsbury. For an hour the anticipated gap in class twixt Championship 1 and the Championship wasn't evident, as Hornets played most of the football against a Dewsbury side that looked like they thought that turning up would be enough.

The killer difference was two periods where Dewsbury scored two tries in two minutes - effectively 24 points to stretch the scoreline and make the win look more convincing than it was. But it's the clinical ruthlessness that Dewsbury applied in those two spells that Hornets have to acquire to bridge that gap.

Hornets started brightly: a teasing lofted kick to the corner after just two minutes accelerated pulses but came to nothing.

Dewsbury then gave us a hint of what lay under the bonnet when a sweeping 80 metre break by Grady rushed the rams upfield Matt Dawson and Sean Casey combining to snuff it out. But Hornets hurried the restart and fumbled possession on the first play out of their own 20 to put themselves under unneccessary pressure. Thankfully Dewsbury had nothing in response.

With the game locked in an intriguing arm-wrestle - Hornets camped in the Dewsbury half, but unable to find the killer ball to unlock a resolute Rams defence - it took a mistake to crack open the game: Paul Crook uncharacteristically failing to find touch from a penalty, handed Dewsbury easy possession after 28 minutes.

Within a minute, Dewsbury's rotund wrecking ball Gallagher came barreling onto a short ball from a metre and gravity did the rest. 4-nil Dewsbury, Hemingway swinging the conversion attempt well wide of the mark.

Hornets continued to press hard. A booming Paul Crook 40/20 on 34 mins took Hornets within 20 metres of the visitors' line, but confusion and poor execution on the first tackle saw the ball go to ground and let Dewsbury off the hook.

With the half ebbing away, Hornets launched one last attack, this time a bustling break by Matt Dawson pushed him into space and he swatted off defenders on a 30 metre run to the line. Cue the music. 4-all. Bedlam.

Crook added the extras and - having played 40 minutes of Championship football, Hornets were 6-4 to the good. Grins all round.

Dewsbury started the second half in a focused, determined mood - handed field position by two Hornets mistakes. Firstly a knock-on in the first set gave the Rams an attacking platform, then a penalty in front of the posts gave them an opportunity to launch six tackles from 10 metres. They elected to take the two. Speaks volumes.

Dewsbury were now beginning to creep out of their shell, On 49 minutes quick hands stretched the Hornets right side defence too thinly and a swift ball by Pryce threaded Morton in by the flag. Hemmingway with the extras: 12-6

From their next possession, Dewsbury launched a long-range strike: a huge bust through centre-field by loose forward Brown was finished under the black-dot by Thackray. Hemmingway with the formalities: 18-6

But Hornets dug in and took the game back deep into Dewsbuy's half. Needlessly pushing the last pass of the set, the atack came to nought, but on the next foray, Paul Crook hit the ball up into Dewsbury playmaker Hemmingway, who crumpled in the tackle.  As he was helped from the field, Hornets shipped the ball right. Tony Suffolk dinked the ball behind a reshuffling defence and Joe Greenwood showed great determination to dive in past a flapping full-back to score. Crooky added the two and, with the hour on the clock, Hornets were back in the contest at 18-12.

Dewsbory responded almost immediately: good approach work, Pryce sliding the ball into the in-goal, a scramble of bodies. Fortunately, referee Mr Bloem spotted a knock-on and the main stand exhaled.

Four minutes later, Hornets conceded a soft penalty on 40 metres after Tony Suffolk took a needless second bite at the tackle. Hyde took the two: 20-12 with 15 to play.

On 69 minutes Dewsbury launched their own 40-20: from the resulting possession Godwin took advantage of a napping Hornets defence to burrow in from acting half. All a bit scrappy. Hyde with the two: 26-12.

Straight from the kick-off Brown produced a carbon copy of his earlier break, shrugging off a tiring defence that had given its all. This time, comedy full-back Sheriff was the beneficiary. The score line now looking decidedly lop-sided at 30-12. Hyde added the two…

With the Hornets defence already running on empty, a dumb penalty for talking back put Dewsbury on the attack. They capitalised with a freak try. 

Hornets defence swarmed around winger Morton, driving him inexorably towards the touchline. As the bundle of bodies heaved into touch, Pryce was the first to realise that - in the melée the ball had been left behind. It was all he could do to pick it up and put it down over the line unopposed. Gutting.

With the final hooter imminent, Dewsbury whacked the ball downfield more in hope than expectation, Wayne English alert to scramble the ball dead with chasers gathering. Thackray peeled off the resulting scrum to scoot through for a simple try. Hyde added the two as the hooter sounded. Final score 42-12.

If every game contains a lesson, this initiation into Championship football contained a crash course in how to win a game from nothing. In general, open play there was nothing between the teams: but Dewsbury's ability to turn half chances into points when it really matters was the real difference.

With that experience in the bank - and Ryan Millard and Sam Te'o in the wings to add a crucial bit of quality and steel - Hornets don't look too far away from the benchmark. Equally encouraging was the attendance of 817 - third highest in the competition.

And with established Championship sides Barrow, Workington, Keighley and Swinton getting similarly thumped this weekend, this could shape-up into a very interesting season.

Teamsheet - Hornets v Dewsbury