Sunday, 10 January 2016

Impressive Hornets Hit the Ground Running

Hornets 16 - Salford 44

Common sense tells you not to read too much into pre-season friendly scorelines, but as fans, it’s hard not to. And, after this combative encounter in which Salford fielded pretty much their best 13, the score is hardly an indication of where either side is at at this stage of the season.

You’d have to hope that Salford have a considerable amount of improvement left in them as - after half an hour - Hornets were a comfortable 12-nill ahead having played prettty much all of the football on offer. Indeed, other than the wily Michael Dobson looking for Kopczak at every opportunity, the visitors were a distant second best:  a neutral would have struggled to pick the Super League team in this contest.

It was all relatively straightforward: with one try already struck off for a forward pass, Hornets went to the right edge - Chris Riley gathering an awkward pass to round Justin Carney who looks to have the turning circle of a canal barge; Crooky off the touchline for 6-nil.

And it was Crooky again on 21 minutes producing a peach of a short ball for Dave Cookson to crash onto and score. The Ginger General with the extras and the Salford bench eagerly scanning the clip-board for a way back into the game.

It came on 32 minutes when Lui replaced a frankly ornamental O’Brien and, with pretty much his first touch,  he showed decent pace and balance to peel away from the back of a scrum to score. Dobson good with the two for 12-6.

On 36 minutes Salford forced a drop-out and, from the resulting possession Sarsfield turned a prospective knock-on into a fingertip try. All a bit slutchy, really. Dobson the two to level the scores.

With the last action of the half, ex-Hornet Carl Forster ducked in through a tiring goal-line defence to give Salford a lead they scantly deserved. Dobson the two: 12-18 as the sides went to the sheds.

Unable to play through or round a resolute Hornets defence, Salford went aerial in the second half - a series of cross-field kicks bringing almost immediate rewards. Two tries in five minutes - Carney out-jumping Riley in the corner/Evalds chasing a kick into the in-goal - and Salford briefly flattered to deceive at 12-28.

But Hornets struck straight back. A teasing Danny Yates dink behind Carney, Carney struggling to effect a three-point turn, Dave Cookson out-muscling Josh Griffin to touch down. Crooky hitting the post with the kick: 16-28

Going into the last ten minutes, Salford finally made their full-time fitness tell. A rare fumble from Wayne English off a Lui bomb handed Junior Sau the opportunity to skate round and score, then Krasniqi plunging through a stretched defence. Finally - in the last seconds Lui’s kick was snaffled by Griffin to give the scoreline a lop-sided look at 16-44.

There’s no doubt that if Watson and Sheens can get Liu and Hobson firing that Salford will have a pretty potent half-back pairing - but in pretty much every other position they were matched for long periods by their part time counterparts.

For a team including nine debutants, Hornets looked fluid and well organised. Samir Tahraoui put himself about well, Matt Hadden looks to have gained a ‘granite’ edge and John Cookson’s bell-ringing tackle that put Tommy Lee on his arse gained approval from the crowd.

Interestingly, while Hornets were acquitting themselves admirably against Super League competition, newly promoted Oldham were going down 16-8 at ‘unpromoted’ Keighley. Indeed, Hornets scored more points against a Super League side than Oldham did against a team in the league below them.

Did anyone mention that it’s the Law Cup next week? On this showing, it could be very interesting.