Monday, 7 March 2016

Hornets off to a Flyer

Hornets 28 - Hunslet 18

If half time in tight games is where good coaches really earn their money, Alan Kilshaw passed his first stern test with flying colours. Trailing 14-10 after a scrappy,  disjointed half peppered with pernickety penalties - and in which Hornets looked uncomfortable in accommodating three DRs from Warrington - Killers side emerged after the break to sweep Hunslet aside in a 20 minute spell of pace, power and inventive football.

But the game started in pretty lousy fashion. The usually robust Samir Tahraoui fumbled the ball first set and Hunslet shipped the ball wide for Barnett to score by the flag after just two minutes. This prompted the Hunslet supporters to sing that they’re ‘going to winthe league. Ah - premature elation. 0-4.

As referee Mr Merrick picked his way through the laws with obsessive detail, Hornets took advantage of a couple of back-to-back pemalties - a wide ball to Joe Philbin who blasted straight through Ansell  - hiding out in  the centres - to score. 4-all.

Off a repeat set, Hornets gpt over the line again after 18 minutes - Woz Thompson of a flat Danny Yates pass - only for Mr Merrick to defy the laws of parallax and call if forward.

It ws then Hunslet;’s turn to build some pressure. Two repeat sets turned the screw, but Hornets’ defence held firm. On 24 minutes the otherwise eagle-eyed Mr Merrick was conned when Hunslet released the ball in the ruck. Assuming it’d been raked he gave Hunslet a penalty, the set brought to a premature end by a pass so far forward it’s probably still falling from the sky in an alternative dimension.

Hornets continued to press - this time Philbin bustling up the left channel - but forcing a non-pass in heavy traffic to give Hunslet the feed at the scrum. Again Mr Merrick was somewhat over-fastidious in policing the tackle, A retreating Hornets mugged from acting half by Flanagan. Brown his only goal of the day: 4-10.

On 32 minutes, Hornets forced an error - Alex McClurg spooking Agoro who coughed the ball at the feet of Joe Philbin, who kept cool, dinked the ball into the in-goal and followed up to touch down. Crooky the extras and all locked up at 10-all.

Seemingly running out of laws to apply pedantically, Hornets were snagged for a borderline offside and given a team warning - Mr Merrick happy to try a new signal, it seemed. From the resulting posession Brown launched a hail-mary of a kick into the corner, where Agoro caught Corey Lee wrong-footed to score. Brown then hoyed the ball into the Pearl Street end like a fan trying to win fifty-quid and Hornets went in at the hooter 10-14 down.

The second half started much as the first had ended: the ball blatantly raked from Corey Lee’s grasp three feet from a touch judge, but play-on waved. Then Jordan Case sin-binned for a high tackle, that looked from our vantage point like he’d grabbed the Hunslet player by the collar. No matter. Hornets response? Up the tempo, get to the edges and play some football.

On 45 minutes Danny Yates’ teasing kick into the in-goal just too strong for the chasing duo of Chris Riley and Joe Taira. Then, on 49 minutes, Corey Lee’s blistering break up the far side; tracked by Duckworth and Agoro, he floated an inch perfect kick infield where the mercurial Wayne English punced to gather and score. Crooky the two: 16-14.

Now chasing the game, Hunslet delved into their bag of referee con-tricks, which delivered a moment of comedy gold on the 52 minute mark. On the last tackle, a Hornets body was left lying in the ruck, Hunslet’s Lee deliberately passed the ball into the prone Hornets player to try and win a penalty - but he passed the ball in a forward direction, Mr Merrick blew for a forward pass: handover. Genius.

As the hour mark ticked up, Hornets finally ripped the game from Hunslet’s graps with a try that brought the house down. Big Samir Tahraoui hit a peach of a ball like an Exocet just inside the Hunslet half and hit the gas, leaving a trail of flapping defenders in his wake. With Hornets support queuing up on his shoulder, he backed himself to score, dumying the cover as he approached the line, he pretty much went back to make a mug out of Hawks full-back Watson and score under the black dot. Stunning stuff. Crooky buried the extras and, at 22-14, Hunslet’s body language basically told you that they were gone.

Three minutes later Hornets put the game to bed. A solid approach set took play close to the Hunslet line, and when Yatesey’s ‘bouncing bomb’ of a pass was snaffled by Stu Biscombe, there was no stopping him as he skittled defenders to force his way over the line. Crooky showing how it’s done: 28-14.

Hunslet did rally briefly: a high kick sucking-in defenders and a neat cut-out ball for Barnett to score out wide (Brown spectacularly awry with the kick); 28-18.

The last ten minutes provided a platform for Hornets latest Fijian addition Joe Taira to show some exciting potential: on 70 minutes his crunching tackle on his opposite number knocked the ball loose, but as he gathered and touched down, the effort was struck-off for a knock-on. The, when Hunslet launched Mvududu up the left hand side, Taira tracked back and hit him with the kitchen sink to bundle him into row E. Lovely.

In the end, this was a good win. Hunslet are supposedly amongst the favourites to win this competition, so the benchmark is set. In other good news, the attendance of 610 was the second biggest in League 1 this weekend, the biggest in the comp. on British soil, only 40 fewer than at Championship leaders Batley - and more than Whitehaven had against Swinton, also in the Championship.

As opening weekends go, this was a pretty good start. Let’s kick on.