Monday, 27 July 2015

12-Man Hornets Heroics Not Quite Enough

Swinton 20 - Hornets 16

Heroics from 12-man Hornets were not enough as a stultifyingly dull Swinton capitalised on their numerical advantage to cling-on and take the points in a contest where you’d be hard-pushed at times to spot the side a man short.

On a day that required cool heads and concentration, the afternoon started pretty badly: Hornets coughing the kick-off possession, then a soft penalty - Ex Hornets Littler and Robinson combining to give the home side a pretty soft first minute lead.

Then - just as Hornets seemed to have regained their composure - a moment of madness from Gaz Langley. Penalised for swearing at a touch-judge, he then swore at the referee who produced a yellow card. Just for good measure he swore at the referee again as he passed by - and Mr Thomason was perfectly happy to convert the yellow to a red. 9 minutes gone…

Hornets responded positively, forcing a 13th minute drop-out. Then - on 15 minutes - Wayne English looped in off a short-ball to score. 4-all. Game on.

Tempers frayed further on 20 minutes - Dale Bloomfield and Littler engaged in handbags; then Hornets pressing hard - good field position off a direct approach-set squandered by an obstruction.

On 22 minutes, Swinton applied some basic physics, running their biggest forward at Danny Yates to create space for Thorley to score. Mort the extras 10-4.

Hornets again responded well - keeping play tight and direct in centre-field, stealing metres out of every tackle. But - having forced Swinton backwards - a soft (and dubious) penalty for interference not only let them off the hook, but gifted them a platform to work the overlap and put Rothwell in at the corner. Mort the two off the touchline: 16-4.

With half-time fast aproaching, Hornets continued to play the more progressive football: a great approach-set, but an undercooked last-tackle kick; then a better set forcing a drop-out. On 38 minutes Danny Yates’ dink into the in-goal was allowed to bobble, but his touchdown was deemed incomplete and Swinton went to the sheds breathing a sigh of relief.

A second half that Hornets would dominate began in scrappy fashion - both sides trading penalties and dropped balls. On 48 minutes a rare moment of Lions lucidity launched Robinson towards a certain try in the corner, but a remarkable tackle by Dave Hull sent the winger crashing into touch.
Then another scare - a Littler interception, a 60 metre dash, the ball slipped to Robinson - this time Wayne English scything down the winger in full flight.

With Hornets holding their own in what was now a tight arm-wrestle, Paul Crook began unleashing his repertoire of kicks. Twice forcing repeat sets, Swinton now on the ropes. Indeed, cometh the hour-mark cometh the Man - Crooky hoisting a huge cross-field kick, Dale Bloomfield soaring to catch and score. Crooky the 2 off the touchline. 16-10 and only one side playing any discernible football.

Within a minute a great charge-down and regather by Jordan Case put Hornets back in an attacking position, but a hurried pass too many saw the chance go begging.

Having soaked up half an hour of pressure, Swinton finally got to apply some of their own: Beecham taking a flat pass at pace to score through a stretched Hornets defence. Mort wide with the conversion attempt. 20-10 with 10 to play.

Hornets again responded positively and had redressed the balance within two minutes: Lee Paterson’s audacious show & go to create space for him to blast 70 metres for a great solo try. Crooky the two and Hornets in serious search of something from the game. But - despite heavy pressure in the last five minutes - Swinton hung-on just long-enough. Gutting.

We write here often that good teams have to find ways to win. That Hornets came within four points with only 12-men is testimony to their guts and determination. Certainly, Hornets finished the stronger side, but in the end it was just too much to ask.

Again, this was a weekend where the top eight got a shake-up. Barrow unconvincing at Oxford, North Wales falling apart at home against Oldham, York getting a free bag of points on their easy-street run-in. A cursory glance at the table today shows just two points - one win - separating third from seventh. It’s that close. Next week Oldham play Keighley and Swinton go to Newcastle: And Hornets get a shot at racking up some points aganst Scorpions. It’s not over till it’s over folks.