Sunday, 17 May 2015

Unstoppable Hornets give Oxford the blues.

Hornets 76 - Oxford 16

We’d always thought that, when Hornets found the optimum mix of those two key drivers of success - completion and confidence - that someone would get a bit of a hammering. Step forward poor Oxford, who encountered Hornets on a day when a completion rate of 95% and two in-play errors laid the platform for a good old-fashioned flogging that launched Hornets - temporarily - to the top of League 1.

Whilst the visitors played at their limit and kept going for the 80 minutes, they spent much of the game either back-pedalling against a relentless tide of pace and power - or running headlong into a brick-wall defence.

Hornets went off with the gun - a first minute attack seeing Danny Bridge slip Dave Hull into space, only for the ball to bobble from his grasp. No matter. Hornets went straight back on the attack - a teasing Danny Yates bomb forcing Oxford full-back Thomas into conceding a drop-out.

Oxford heaped more pressure onto themselves, shipping a soft penalty. And when the ball was whipped left, a Wayne English cut-out pass sent Dale Bloomfield in for the first of a first-half hat-trick. Crooky good with the boot off the touchline - Hornets up with the clock at 6-nil.

Oxford rallied briefly, buoyed by a fumbled ball, but Dale Bloomfield produced a terrific try-saving tackle to dump diving winger Jones-Bishop into touch. Hornets response was rapid and clinical.

A rapid set down the left channel had Oxford going backwards and a 15th minute blind-side sneak from Dave Hull into open field found Danny Yates in support to score from 30 metres.Crooky the two for 12-nil.

The game took a brief lull as Oxford strove to slow down the play-the-ball and end their own sets with a huge hoof upfield, but when Hornets kept a last-tackle ball alive in the 23rd minute, a sweeping 50 metre spread saw Dale Bloomfield the beneficiary of a pinpoint Paul Crook pass to score his second. Crooky equally clinical with the boot for 18-nil.

Hornets continued to press. First Ryan Smith and Danny Yates working an old-skool runaround only for the killer pass to bounce from Dave Hull’s hands. Then a last tackle kick, seized by Jack Ashworth who audaciously dropped the ball back over his shoulder to send the supporting Woz Thompson in to run round and score under the posts. Crooky the two: 25 minutes, 24-nil.

To make matters worse for the vistitors, hawk-eyed ref Mr Sweet snagged them for a marginal offside at the kick-off. Two tackles later Jack Ashworth led a phalanx of Hornets four-on-one on the full-back - Ashworth dummying his way past to score. This time Danny Yates with the extras 30-nil.

It was looking increasingly like Oxford would need a lucky break to get anything from the half - and it arrived in the 38th minute; Higgins snaffling a loose pass to race in from 30 metres. Kitson added the two for 30-6.

Hornets’ response was to regather the kick-off and send Woz Thompson crashing in only to be held-up. From the restart the ball was shipped wide for Dale Bloomfield to score his third try. Yatesey just wide with the kick. Half-time, a comprehensive 34-6.

For 30 minutes, the second half was a one-way landslide of points.

Matty Hadden first-up with a quick-fire double-whammy - carbon-copy close-range efforts both converted by Danny Yates: 46-6 before most people had returned to their seats.

Then on 50 minutes Ant Walker maintained his impressive try-scoring run, steaming onto a short-ball to score off the back of some brutally direct approach work. Crooky the two: 52-6. Two minutes later it was Danny Bridge off a short, flat ball to crash through. Crooky again spot on for 58-6.

Withe the hour approaching, Oxford had a good spell: first a 70 metre intercept mopped up beautifully by Wayne English, then a seemingly good try struck-off after the touch-judge saw an off the ball incident in back-play. Mr Sweet preferring to award Oxford a penalty rather than a try.

Hornets responded in style, sweeping the length of the field, where Brad Hargreaves was last in a chain of slick passes to score. Crooky the two: 64-6.

On the next foray into the Oxford half, Hornets pack bludgeoned Oxford back onto their own line, where Tony Suffolk arrived at pace, wrestling through a mass of tacklers to put the ball down. Crooky the conversion to bring up the 70.

With the game ebbing away, Oxford did produce a late, late flourish. A quick tap restart saw the visitors scoot through for Nasso to score at the other end, then good hands sent Gardiner in by the flag to give the score line a thin-veneer of respectability.

Right on the hooter, Hornets’ pressure created an opening for Paul Crook to grab a deserved try from close range. The man himself banging over the two for a huge 76-16 win.

Afterwards, Ian Talbot spoke about the importance of completion and its effect on confidence. How impressive stats like the ones achieved here will give even the good sides in this division something very serious to think about. With a weekend off ahead of a month on the road, Talbot said that by the time Hornets return to Spotland, we should have a very good picture of where we’re really at for this season.

But in the here and now, Hornets are in a very good place indeed.