Sunday, 6 September 2015

Barrow Leave Hornets Pig Sick.

Barrow 46 - Hornets 28
"The pig lay on a barrow, dead." So begins the Ted Hughes poem 'View of a Pig' and, after quite possibly the most disappointing performance of the year, it appeared to be a remarkable metaphor for Hornets playoff chances: Dead at Barrow.

Once again the 'home-side hoodoo' that has now seen the home team batter the other in the last eight of Hornets/Barrow fixtures has struck.

But after 26 minutes, with Hornets leading 16-6, this looked like a fairly straightforward exercise. However, in the next 40 minutes, a deeply ordinary Barrow side piled 40 unanswered points onto a rudderless, static Hornets cursed by poor discipine, poor decision-making and a collective body language that cried ‘submission’.

But for the spark of Alex McClurg, the consistent, clockwork professionalism of Paul Crook and Wayne English’s ability to tackle pretty much anything that comes his way, this could’ve been a more comprehensive embarrassment.

In looking for specifics, this was defeat by incremental failure - a performance significantly less than the sum of its parts. No one player was drop-dead awful, but the cumulative weight of a hundred tiny lost battles chipped away at Hornets resolve to leave this season’s ambitions as so much dust.

But Hornets started brightly - determined running, good support, a high tempo - and, when Danny Bridge launched Dale Bloomfield into space after just five minutes, he slotted Danny Yates under the black dot for a top quality try that had the home crowd reeling. Crooky the two: 0-6.

The next set saw Paul Crook land a massive 40/20, but a needless forced pass from Wayne English - compounded by a penalty for ball stealing - took Barrow 50 metres downfield. They ramped up the pressure.

Hornets were unlucky to suffer a last tackle ‘back to one’ after Mr Hewer interpreted an awful pass as having been touched in flight and, with the stretched Hornets defence backpedalling it was simple ‘run-and-pass’ football that saw fleming score out wide. Ward the extras for 6-all.

Barrow’s Harrison spectacularly coughed the kick-off and Hornets took immediate advantage: Lee Paterson dropping the ball out of the back of a gang-tackle for Dale Bloomfield to score in the corner. Crooky struck the post with the kick: 6-10 - Hornets now with the momentum.

On 20 minutes a teasing Danny Yates kick for the corner squirmed from Dale Bloomfield’s grasp in the in-goal, then a Hornets intercept under their own posts found the Barrow defence out of shape, but Mike Ratu fumbled the pass second tackle. No matter.

Four minutes later a bullet of a cut-out pass from Danny Bridge found Dale Bloomfield who hit the afterburners. Again he found Danny Yates on his inside, but rather than back himself from 40 metres he took a somewhat scenic route via a selection of scrambling defenders before the ball made its way to the opposite side of the field for Mike Ratu to score. Crooky with the two; 6-16. All very straightforward. But wait…

What happened next set Hornets into a tail spin from which they didn’t recover. Such a minor indiscretion, but it snapped the momentum, gave Barrow renewed belief and impetus. Danny Bridge caught the kick-off under no pressure. In a scrappy tackle words were exchanged, Bridgey successfully goaded into reacting. Mr Hewer gave the penalty to Barrow and, with Hornets still analysing how they’d found themelves defending their own line, Mossop wriggled in through a mess of bodies to score a soft, gift try. Not really acceptable. Ward with the extras for 12-16.

Then things went downhill very fast. Handbags on the half-hour after a Barrow player’s fend ended up in Jordan Case’s mouth. Cries of ‘biting’ all round. Hornets given the penalty, but a frankly awful forward pass ended the set. Then Hornets snagged offside at a last tackle kick - followed by another soft penalty for holding-down. Barrow took the 60 metres with thanks and Ward hit Campbell with a flat-ball into space for a simple try. Ward with the goal and, somehow, Barrow in front at 18-16.

Now reeling from an array of sucker punches, Hornets switched off at the kick-off allowing Barrow to go 70 metres through the heart of the defence where Campbell put Marwood under the black dot. Ward with the two, Barrow into the sheds 24-16 up. Just bloody dreadful.

If Hornets were to salvage anything from this sinking ship of a game, they needed to score first. They didn’t. Mike Ratu was unlucky to be pinged for a knock-on after charging down and regathering a kick. Barrow worked the ball right on the last tackle for Fleming to plunge twixt  Ratu and Paterson to score. 28-16.

On 47 minutes James Dandy coughed another slack penalty to give Barrow more easy yards and, with the the Hornets defence flat-footed, Barrow passed round static bodies for Campbell to score. Ward the two, 34-16.

With Mike Ratu removed injured, Hornets reshuffled the backline - but an impotent last tackle kick to the corner saw Hornets penalised for contact in the air; Barrow - again - swept 70 metres upfield. This time Hornets held-out, but Lee Paterson forced a pass out of the tackle and Ward intercepted to stoll the 20 metres and score. The Thesaurus just hasn’t enough words for ‘awful’.

Barrow piled on the misery. This time Hankinson’s dink and gather leaving Hornets bamboozled. Ward with the conversion and Hornets sunk at 46-16. That’s FORTY unanswered points.

With time - much like Hornets’ season - ebbing away two converted tries from the ever-reliable Paul Crook (one right on the hooter) gave the scoreline a thin veneer of respectability at 46-28, but this was an unmitigated shocker.

However:  with York today beating North Wales Crusaders, the door to the top five has been left very slightly open. Quite simply, if Crusaders lose at Newcastle next week and Hornets beat Skolars at Spotland, Hornets steal fifth place.