Monday, 22 February 2016

Muddy Brilliant

Barrow 4 - Hornets 14

Napoleon Bonaparte knew that great leaders were hewn in the filth and the fury of the battlefield. “I made my all generals out of mud”, he said - and in a sea of the stuff at Craven Park, we got a glimpse of the grit behind Alan Kilshaw’s Hornets.

Hornets overcame a doughty Barrow in a battle of squelchy attrition, played out on a swamp of a pitch in the most appalling conditions. As a Cumbrian deluge emptied the sky onto Craven Park turning a heavy surface into slurry, both teams dug in to deliver an ugly, but compelling contest.

The first quarter was a tight affair, Hornets on the front-foot taking the game to Barrow, Lewis Galbraith and Corey Lee combining up the left to unzip the home defence, only for the touch-judge to spot a foot on the line.

Already both sides were struggling to complete sets, and the particulalry finicky reffing style of Mr Mikalauskas broke up the flow of the game even further. A string of penalties gave Barrow a platform to build pressure, but determined Hornets defence held firm.

On 21 minutes a penalty took Hornets upfield, where they belied the conditions to sweep the ball wide to Corey Lee who blasted straight through his opposite number to score by the flag. Crooky hoisted the conversion attempt into the swirling elements to no avail: 0-4.

As the rain hammered down, Barrow had their best spell of the game: firstly shipping the ball to rag-handed winger Toal (who struggled to hang onto a pass all afternoon), then, on the half hour mark they produced a last tackle play to create just enough space for Ward to squeeze through a stretched defence to score.

Half time 4-all, neither side distinguishable from the other.

Barrow began the second half with real intent; regathering a short kick-off and setting up camp on the Hornets 20 metre line. And so began an error strewn period where the scrum-count was edged ever-upwards courtesy of a string of knock-ons. Barrow’s rather one-dimensional brand of ‘thud and blunder’ soaked up by some aggressive defence.

On 55 minutes Hornets wrenched the game from Barrow’s muddy grasp. A penalty took them close to Barrow’s line and a cheeky last-tackle dink into the in-goal was pounced on by James Dandy. Crooky added the two and, at 4-10, the advantage was with Killer’s side.

Barrow again produced a cute kick-off - this time finding touch - and some rare expansive football found Toal again unable to gather on the right wing. Again, the Raiders exerted some extensive pressure: held up over the line, then some neat soccer skills up the right only for Campbell to knock on over the goal-line.

Hornets sucked in for one last push and produced the game's singular moment of inventive football. Direct from a scrum on half-way, Danny Yates hoisted a howitzer of a kick deep behind the home defence. Compelled to scramble in the face of an on-rushing Hornets attack, chaos reigned (rained?) as Barrow defenders struggled to deal with the ball. It was eventually poked into the in-goal where Chris Riley spotted a chance to plunge in and score. 4-14, job done: hoodoo broken.

In the quite literal wash-up, both sides deserve credit for producing a great contest in such dreadful conditions. Indeed, in the end, it came down to desire and an ability to produce a moment of inspiration when it really mattered. Hornets were good value for this rare win in South Cumbria: they tackled in numbers for the full 80 minutes and played what little football was on offer.

We write here often that, sometimes, you just have to find a way to win - and this was a gritty, grafting, huge-hearted effort appreciated by the travelling fans.

Let’s just hope they manage to get those lovely new cup jerseys clean.


1. Wayne English, 2. Chris Riley, 3. David Cookson, 4. Lewis Galbraith, 5. Corey Lee, 6. Paul Crook, 7. Danny Yates, 18. Samir Tahraoui, 9. Ben Moores, 8. Matty Hadden, 12. Jordan Case, 15. Alex Trumper, 13. James Tilley

Subs: 10. Warren Thompson, 17. Jack Francis, 14. Harry Files, 19. James Dandy

Tries: Lee, Dandy, Riley

Goals: Crook 1/3

Our Man of the Match: Hard to pick in such an immense effort, but we've opted for Samir Tahraoui, who played a real old-skool enforcer role, putting himself about and relentlessly piling the ball in for some very hard yards.