Saturday, 14 June 2014

Hornets Suffer the Curse of Friday the 13th

Swinton 39 - Hornets 18

Not even the final hooter could provide the sizeable Hornets following with respite from this Friday night shocker. With 80 minutes gone and the hooter sounded, Hornets' desperation in chasing the increasingly elusive bonus point led to a series of flapping passes that saw Swinton's Barber snaffle a loose ball and score.

In reality, it ended as it had begun: Hornets coughing the ball on the 2nd tackle of the first set; 30 seconds later Ackers plunging in to score. O'Brien converted and Hornets, again, were 6-nil down before many had got settled in their seats.

Having forced a knock-on from the resuting kick-off, Hornets were given an early chance to rectify their dozy start, but the last tackle dink kick rolled harmlessly dead.

On the next foray into Swinton territory Hornets did conjure up one of those moments of slick, lucid football that only serve to tease us so mercilessly. Ryan Millard picked out Wayne English making the extra man; Wayne smuggled the ball to Shaun Robinson who finished in style. Crooky hit the extras for 6-all.

But rather than settle nerves, the try seemed to compel Hornets to force passes where there were none to be had. Two incidences in as many minutes gave Swinton easy possession the wrong side of half-way, but a poor Lions kick allowed Chris Baines to clear the lines.

With litle more in their armoury than a big hoof behind Wayne English, Swinton looked short on ideas, but when Referee Hewer was the only person in the ground to spot a high tackle on 17 minutes, the resulting penalty gave the Lions the platform to build some pressure.

A kick into the in-goal was defused by Paul Crook to give the home side a repeat set. And when Mr Hewer snagged Hornets for offside at a play the ball under their own posts to give Swinton a third bite of the cherry, it looked a matter of 'not if, bit when'.

To Hornets' credit their defence held up But when a last tackle kick going nowhere struck a Hornets foot Mr Hewer wiped the tackle count and Nanyn gathered the bobbling ball to score through a stunned defence. O'Brian the two: 12-6

On 25 minutes the game took a bad-tempered turn. Shaun Robinson had the ball stolen on-on-one on the 2nd tackle, but reacted to the manner in which it had been taken. With the home fans baying for retribution, Mr Hewer broke up a growing scuffle and gave Hornets the penalty.

Given the chance to build some pressure of their own, Hornets got pulled for offside, Swinton took the 60 easy metres and Ackers scooted softly from acting half through a napping defence. O'Brian the extras and, at 18-6, Hornets looked in all kinds of trouble.

Brief respite was provided on the half-hour when Hornets moved the ball left via Ryan Millard, whose bouncing pass was seized by Shaun Robinson who scored by the flag. Cooky a great kick from the touchline for 18-12.

But still the momentum refused to swing Hornets' way. on 38 minutes Mr Hewer gave a Swinton knock-on when the ball bounced out of a tackle, on the Lions 30 metre line. But with Hornets packing down to launch one last attack of the half, Mr Hewer changed his judgement, gave Swinton a mystery penalty for ball-stealing and swept the home side fully 70 metres downfield. One minute later Brown went barrelling in under the black-dot and Hornets went in at the break 24-12 down.

Hornets started the second half at a significantly higher tempo. Gifted good field position after Swinton hoyed the kick-off dead, Ryan Millard's last-tackle show and go created just enough space for him to stretch in and score. Crooky the two; 24-18. 

Immediately Hornets were back on the attack. A high-tempo set ended with a great last tackle play that saw Ryan Millard feed Stuart Littler, whose cheeky kick through forced a repeat set. With further pressure courtesy of a penalty for holding down and repeat set off a Crooky kick, Hornets sought the killer pass, but - having expended three sets under Swinton's posts - they came up with a poor last tackle option and it all came to nought.

Swinton took the chance to launch their own attack, but - having withstood it - Hornets coughed the ball on the second tackle, Watson provided the fulcrum for a tidy exchange of passes and Barber said 'thanks very much' with a straightforward finish. O'Brien good with the boot and, at 30-18, you could sense the shift in momentum.

A 10-minute spell of scrappy play, dropped ball and scrambling defence was ended by a run of pernickety Swinton penalties surmounted by a drop goal that took the bonus point out of reach at 31-18.

With 10 minutes remaining, Hornets were now compelled to chase the bonus point rather than the game, but hurried passes, fumbled catches and poor kicking options just increased the sense of frustration.

With their fans calling for a drop-goal to secure the bonus point, Hornets persisted with the ball in hand, but a 77th minute attack could only come up with a dropped forward pass. Not great.

And when Hornets conceded a penalty under their own posts for ball-stealing, O'Brian slapped home the two for 33-18.

This left Hornets with only one option to secure the bonus point. A short kick-off from Paul Crook was gathered by his onrushing team-mates, but with time ebbing away, Hornets came up with another forward pass.

But this game had one last kick in the spuds waiting. In possession as the hooter sounded Hornets panicked the ball out of a series of tackles - only to hand Barber a clear run to the line. O'Brian added the coup-de grace to give Swinton a 39-18 win.

Notwithstanding the fact that Hornets look like a side unable to resist repeating their now standard litany of errors, this surely must be the season's nadir. Before this and the previous game Swinton had lost six on the trot and looked like a busted flush, but a couple of wins down the line, they look to have regained their confidence.

The loyal, noisy Hornets following - who, incidentally, outnumbered their Swinton counterparts in a crowd that struggled to crawl over 400 - can only hope for something similar.  In the meantime, we have what remains of this weekend off to get over this disappointing  horror-show.