Thursday, 28 April 2016

Sunday's Coming - Barrow

Barrow, this morning.

Sunday sees Hornets embark on a Bank Holiday Sunday trip down the UK’s longest cul-de-sac to Barrow.

Having seen his side go down 21-18 to 12 man Doncaster last week, Raiders coach Paul Crarey labelled his side’s approach as ‘amateurish’. In an attempt to rectify this, Crarey added former Barrow AFC strength and conditioner Paddy Maher to his backroom staff this week: “He will bring a wealth of experience and help to make us a lot more professional,” he said in the NW Evening Mail.

In a top eight where the margins look incredibly fine, Barrow sit 7th with three wins, a draw and a defeat from their five games.

Hornets face the Raiders:
You sure this is the right picture?
Since Hornets pulled off a gritty 4-14 iPro Cup win in monsoon conditions at Craven Park back in February, Barrow have flogged Hunslet in the league 40-6, battered a hapless North Wales 37-18, somehow drawn with Newcastle 24-all and whacked Coventry 0-36. All pretty good until they hit the buffers at Donny.

In an attempt to give his side a bit more creativity at Half-back, Crarey has added the peripatetic Jamie Dallimore at half-back. If he does for Barrow what he did for Oldham and North Wales, we won’t be complaining.

At a glance the Barrow squad is packed with quality local talent, augmented by some ‘imported’ players who clearly like a bit of a drive three times a week. Amongst those, the most eyecatching is Martin Aspinwall, who brings a top class pedigree and 15 years of experience. Having played 113 games for Wigan, 82 for Huddersfield, 19 for Castleford, 27 for Hull FC and 36 for Leigh, he’s currently three months into a one year deal at Barrow, with an option on a second. He’s got a bit of international experience too, In 2003, he played and scored a try for England A in a 22–26 defeat against Australia at Brentford’s Griffin Park and made a further two appearances against Wales and France in the 2003 European Nations Cup. He was represented Lancashire in the 2003 County of Origin match.

Hornets travel to Cumbria on the back of that rare rugby league commodity, a ‘massive’ draw - briging Toulouse’s juggernaut season to a shuddering halt at Spotland last week. In addition to maintaining our unbeeaten record, the result sent a message to the rest of the competition that Toulouse aren’t invincible if you get in their faces and don’t succumb to their dubious gamesmanship.

Taking dives in back-play and gang-hassling the officials are reprehensible enough tactics, but claims of gouging, biting and working the neck and head in tackles paints a picture of a side prepared to win at all costs. A poor advert for expansion, we thought.

Thankfully, Sunday will take us back to a proper blood and thunder contest against a good side with promotion aspirations in what is shaping up into another ultra-competitive season. It should be a cracker. And take a brolly just in case.

Sunday, 24 April 2016


Hornets 28 - Toulouse 28

Rochdale Hornets threw the kitchen sink at this one and came within a sliver of stealing this game from a scrapping, moaning Toulouse side that was more TOXIIIC than TO-XIII. Notwithstanding the constant niggling, harassing the officials, theatrical diving that would have made Cristiano Ronaldo look like a mard-arsed cheat and kicking off in the tunnel afterwards, Toulouse left under a cloud of allegations of gouging and biting that left Alan Kilshaw fuming.

In the end, that Kilshaw and the fevered, vocal home support were proud but disappointed to have taken a draw out of League 1’s ‘je-suis’ Charlie-big-spuds, speaks volumes for the effort expended in remaining unbeaten in this season’s campaign.

But my, how badly this game started. Ford’s ridiculous dive drew a penalty from Mr Grant in the very first set. Toulouse sent Curran in to score. Then on 7 minutes, great feet by Toulouse winger Minga saw him burn fully 80 metres to score. And, when Bentley hit an inside ball at pace to score on 11 minutes, it looked like it’d be a very long afternoon at 0-16.

Fortunately, Hornets sucked in, stiffened up and battled back into the game. Having goaded the visitors into conceding a penalty by holding the ball in the scrum, Hornets went on the attack: Crooky held-up over the line. And It was Paul Crook’s short ball to James Tilley that unzipped the Toulouse defence one minute later that lifted the main stand roof. Crooky cool with the extras and you could sense that the French weren’t used to such direct resistance.

Indeed, the remainder of the half became an arm-wrestle that Toulouse really didn’t fancy. With Samir Tahraoui and Jono Smith causing the French defence all sorts of problems, Hornets built some steady pressure. And a high tempo set on the half-hour fed Tom Lineham in for a debut try. 10-16: Toulouse hoofed the kick off dead.

Hornets went straight to the left edge where Lewis Galbraith ran out of pitch as the retreating French defence scrambled across. No matter, a steepling Yatesey kick to flapping winger Minga saw Tom Lineham out-muscle his opposite number to score. Crooky nudged the conversion wide. 14-16: Toulouse hoofed yet another kick-off dead.

With the half running on fumes, an obviously knackered Toulouse transgressed at a ruck and, with the hooter sounding, Paul Crook the coolest man in the ground to slot over the penalty to send in the teams at 16-all.  Astonishing stuff.

The second half began in a whirlwind of action. On 44 minutes, Lewis Galbraith reeled out of a tackle showing bite-marks on his arm. Mr Grant put the incident on report. From the resulting possession a direct, assertive set saw Hornets force a drop-out - and when Jono Smith came booming onto a short-ball from close range, you could hear the French sphincters squeak from the press box. Great try, Hornets in front 20-16: Toulouse on the ropes - now swinging blindly into tackles like a punch-drunk boxer.

On 50 minutes, Hornets produced a moment of magic. Great approach play pinned the French on their goal-line; Danny Yates’ show & go bamboozling defenders as he skipped in to score untouched. Crooky hit the target and Hornets in charge at 26-16.

On the hour mark, the passage of play that gave Toulouse a way back into the game. Again Ford belied his skills by taking another dive in back-play after a kick - pitiful cheating, really. Mr Grant suitably gullible. Toulouse gifted two repeat sets off two equally dubious penalties sent in White to score under a hail of boos from the home fans. Khierallah with the two and the French back with a sniff at 26-22.

Hornets rallied, looking for space up the edges, but their momentum was halted when Mr Grant penalised James Tilley for not regaining his feet at the play-the-ball despite Toulouse leaving bodies in the ruck. On 70 minutes, frustrations boiled over: Ben Moores forcing an error from Tyla Hepi, handbags all-round. Somehow Mr Grant dispatched Jono Smith and Toulouse captain Planas to the sin-bin.

Again Hornets probed the left-edge - Riley sniping off the back of some great running by Samir Tahraoui, but the French defence just about holding out.

Then what looked like a killer blow: a last tackle penalty to Toulouse 10m from the Hornets line saw the ball shipped wide for Ader to score. Khierallah good with the boot to give the visitors an unlikely lead with two minutes to go. 26-28.

Hornets went all-in for a big finish. A short kick-off regathered by James Tilley; Toulouse ill-disciplined; Paul Crook ruthless with the penalty to lock-up the game at 28-all. The home fans in a frenzy.

There was still time for Hornets to set-up Paul Crook for a drop-goal attempt that faded teasingly wide and for Hornets to repel one last French incursion to grab a draw that will make everyone in League 1 sit up and take notice.

Indeed, this was Toulouse’s first real test on English soil and they were found-out. When the going got tough, the French got niggly and that, really, is their weakness. Hornets got in their face and basically just refused to lose. And on St George’s day weekend, it was enough to swell this English heart with pride.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Sunday's Coming: Toulouse Olympique

Sunday brings Toulouse Olympique to Spotland, a French juggernaut en-route to Super League come hell or high-water.  As Hornets face their toughest #FrenchInvasion yet we take a look at what’s coming our way.

Don’t mention the war
France's Vichy Government: Big fans of Rugby Union -
and the Third Reich.
Toulouse Olympique were founded on 22 October 1937 by the Française de Rugby à XIII as a way of establishing the game in the city.

In 1939 Toulouse reached the French Cup final, but their success was put on hold when -  like other rugby league clubs in France -  they were compelled to play Nazi-backed Rugby Union following the ban on rugby league by the Vichy regime in France.  Their stadium was also confiscated by the State, like most of the assets of the French Federation of rugby league.

Post-war the battered French Championship was reformed and Toulouse got to the final in both the 1944-45 and 1945-46 seasons - losing both times to the Canaries of Carcassonne. Indeed, Toulouse have played in six Coupe de Lord Derby  finals, but have never won the competition. However, they have been champions of France on four occasions, as well as runners-up five times.

In 1995, on the back of the city’s links to the European Space programme, Toulouse Olympique changed their name to ’Toulouse Spacers’. They stuck a rocket on the badge and played under that name until this until 2002 - winning one championship.

By then Toulouse began voicing ambitions to join the ‘European’ Super League, but in 2003, the RFL blew out their application in favour of Catalans Dragons. In 2005 Olympique became the first French club to reach the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, beating Widnes 40-24, before going down by 56-18 to Leeds at the Galpharm Stadium.

Tray bien: The French League champions win a large tea-tray.
Having been denied a Super League licence, Toulouse joined the UK’s National League in 2009. Having reached the lofty heights of 4th, they finished the season 10th out of 11 teams in their first season. In the 2010 season, the club knew it needed to reach the Grand Final to qualify for Super League consideration. They finished 8th. In 2011, they got relegated, so they returned to the French Elite Championship after the Super League ‘experiment’  was deemed ‘unsuccessful’.

Back in French competition Toulouse won Championship Finals back to back in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons - which gave them the impetus to apply once again top play in the UK’s pro ranks.

Winner winner, poulet dinner
With ambitions to play their way through the ranks and into Super League contention, Toulouse arrive at Spotland on Sunday with a formidable 2016 season start behind them. They’ve now won all six of their matches on their return to British rugby league. So far they’ve beaten:

Wath Brow Hornets 14 - 32 (Ch. Cup) (A)
Coventry Bears 54 - 6 (H)
Hemel Stags 74 - 0 (H)
Gloucestershire All Golds 62 - 28  (Ch. Cup) (H)
South Wales Scorpions 0 - 64 (A)
Leigh Centurions 10 - 8 (Ch. Cup) (H)

Cynics may suggest that a) playing amateurs/the weaker sides in League 1 and b) playing four of six games at home gives an unrealistic picture of just what Toulouse are really capable of. But the last result on that list will have made every team in League 1 sit up and take notice, as Olympique saw off perpetual SL pretenders/Championship bottlers Leigh last week.

In a game where both sides scored just one try each, Toulouse were were 8-0 up at the break after Bastien Canet's converted try and a Mark Kheirallah penalty. Leigh levelled the scores with a Sam Hopkins try and a couple of Martyn Ridyard goals, but a brace of Mark Kheiralla penalties that saw the French side home.

We’re just a speed-bump
Toulouse are coached by former French international Sylvain Houles. Houles toured New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in 2001 and played for Huddersfield, London Broncos Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Dewsbury Rams.

Houles is already dismissing a year in League one as an irritating speed-bump in Toulouse’s five year plan to get into Super League. Speaking at the Season Launch in February he said: "The long-term aim is Super League and in the short term we have to get to the Championship as quickly as we can. We need to win (League 1)  this year.”

“We don't want to put ourselves under pressure but we would have to bring in new players to compete in the Championship. We have to be realistic, there are full-time teams and a lot of quality teams in the Championship. It is a tough competition, we've been there."
Mark Kheiralla playing
for Newtown Jets

And - in order to navigate the League 1 speed-bump as expediently as possible, Toulouse are running a full-time squad packed with antipodean journeymen/mercenaries - a veritable Foreign Legion.

• Aussie Mark Kheiralla - ex Mascot/Souths junior, ex Sydney Roosters Toyota cup, Ex Newtown Jets, ex Wyong Roos, ex-Kurri Kurri Bulldogs  now pulling the strings at Toulouse. Played in the Jets' 2012 New South Wales Cup Grand Final win over the Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers - and one game in the NRL for the Roosters (v Canberra 2011, Round 17). At home in either half-back berth or at full-back

• Kiwi forward Tyla Hepi - ex-Glenora Bears, ex-Port Chevalier Pirates (NZ), Ex- All Golds, Hull KR and Whitehaven. Son of ex-hornet Brad Hepi.

• Gregory White (born in Manly New South Wales, Australia) is a dual rugby union and rugby league utility, with French, English and Australian nationality.

• Kuni MInga - a Papua New Guinean winger formerly of TNA Simbu Lions in PNG’s Digicel Cup.

Jonathan Ford playing
for Newtown Jets
• Brit Danny Hulme  - son of David Hulme - who scored the fastest hat trick of tries for Widnes Vikings against Halifax in 2011.

• Australian Jonathan Ford - former Macquarie Scorpions Junior also ex Newtown Jets, ex-Wyong Roos, ex- Newcastle Knights, played three games in the NRL for the Rosters and has six international caps for the Cook Islands - one as captain in their recent Asia-Pacific World Cup Qualifying match against Tonga.

• Aussie loose forward Rhys Curran from the Central Coast - ex Erina Eagles, ex Balmain Tigers NSW Cup, Ex-Villeneuve.

• Kiwi and French International (12 caps)  hooker Kane Bentley: Has played almost all of his senior football in France. Ex- Marseilles, ex-Catalans Dragons, ex-Pia, ex-Lezignan, Ex Dewsbury and ex-Boston 13s in the USA RL. His family came to France when his dad went  to France to play rugby league for La Réole.

• Kiwi - and French International (9 caps) second row Andrew Bentley. Older brother of Kane Bentley. Ex-Catalans Dragons, ex-Lezignan.

Let’s ‘ave it.
Ahead of last weekend, Franco-sceptics might’ve suggested that giving Toulouse a raft of ‘gimme’ games at home against the weaker sides in League 1 (or away games at sides of an even lower standard) gave us - and them - a false impression of how good they really are.

Last week’s result against Leigh suggests that they might actuallty be as good as they think they are. But Sunday’s game provides them with their sternest test yet - an away game against serious League 1 opposition. We’ll see how they really travel and perform against a side that will - in the words of Denis Betts - ‘rough ‘em up a bit’.

We think it’s a fascinating contest that will benchmark both sides’ ambitions for the season - as big as games get at our level. You’d be mad to miss it.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Cup shock: Widnes actually quite good!

Hornets 6 - Widnes 62

On a weekend of cup upsets, Hornets found a two division differential too big a gulf to bridge, battling hard against a workmanlike if unspectacular Widnes. The visitors did most of the damage in the two quarters either side of half-time when they stepped up a gear to score seven tries - Kevin Brown, as predicted, pulling the strings and bagging a hat-trick into the bargain.

But for long periodsl Hornets competed valiantly - and, when the going got a little ‘robust’, you could see Widnes wobble.

The other contributory factor to Widnes’ dominance was Referee James Child’s inconsistently awful policing of both the ruck and the 10 metres. In an overly picky performance, he allowed Widnes to leave bodies in pretty much every ruck, but repeatedly snagged Hornets for the same ‘offence’.

Indeed, it was a Widnes repeat set off such a penalty that led to the opening score when Bridge found a gap. He then blasted the conversion comedically wide - something he’d continue to do all afternoon, unable it seemed to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo unless bang in front.

Hornets responded well with some pressure of their own, but their momentum was halted when James Child was the only person in the ground to spot a forward pass.

On 10 minutes a huge break by Chamberlain swept Widnes upfield, but Wayne English produced a top class tackle to stop him in his tracks.  The visitors continued to build pressure, but some determined defence saw the Hornets line hold, before a rapid counter attack involving Dale Bloomfled and Stu Biscombe drove Widnes backwards; a rare penalty creating a good attacking platform. And how Hornets capitalised.

A teasing Paul Crook dink into the in-goal created chaos in the Widnes defence and, with the ball bobbling free he was first to react, lunging in to touch down. Crooky as cool as you like with the extras and Hornets looking good value for a 6-4 lead.

Hornets now had the momentum and went straight back on the attack. With Widnes pinned against their goal-line, a fizzing Ben Moores cut-out pass launched Dale Bloomfield for the corner, only for his opposite number to nudge him into touch by the flag.

Against the run of play, Widnes created a huge break for Johnstone to score under the black-dot. Bridge finding his range from 10 metres; 6-10.

But Hornets continued to press - a Dale Bloomfield intercept agonisingly slipping from his outstretched hands. From the resulting possession, Brown found space to twist through defenders and score. Then, a rare aberration as Crooky put the long kick-off dead. Thankfully Widnes panicked the kick at the end of a set going nowhere, Michael Ratu mopping up in the in-goal.

Then, on 35 minutes, the catalyst for two quickfire Widnes tries. Mr Child gave Joe Taira ten minutes for a ‘muscular’ contribution to a tackle on Johnstone and the visitors clinically exploited the extra man advantage: first Brown producing a carbon copy effort, then Thompson right on the hooter.

Bridge frankly embarrassing with the boot. Half-time 6-28.

Two equally rapid tries at the start of the second half (Bridge on 41 minutes and Marsh on 43) streteched the scoreline to 6-44, but the return of Joe Taira shored-up the defence: Hornets setttling the ship for a good 20 minute period where some ‘sturdy’ defence knocked the shape and momentum out of the Vikings. But as the Hornets defence began to tire in the last 15 minutes, Widnes took full advantage.

On 65 minutes, trundling lump Manuokafoa crashed onto a short-ball from all of a metre, on 68 minutes Brown reversing in to somehow get the ball down, Bridge on 71 joining Brown on a hat-trick, then Thompson and Whitley combining from range in the last minute to turn a knackered defence inside out. Final score, a flattering 6-62.

In the wash-up Widnes were undoubtedly a much, much better side. But the fact that for long periods Hornets matched them for invention and intensity is a major positive to carry through into the league campaign. Hornets also showed a bit of ‘mongrel’ - Super League players jumping into tackles six at a time to the jeers of their own fans is a reasonable indicator that you’ve got under their skin: and in Samir Tahraoui and Joe Taira Hornets provided two major irritations.

Elsewhere in the cup, next week’s visitors slipped past Leigh by 10-8. And, whilst this was a challenge, next week is the real test.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Sunday's Coming: Widnes

Once were kings: Hornets captain
Jack Bennett with the 1921-22
Northern Union Challenge Cup.
Ah, the allure of the cup - and a welcome to Spotland to Rugby League’s former ‘cup kings’. From 1975, the Chemics appeared in seven of ten Challenge Cup Finals, winning four of those  - and, until recently, people dared to dream that the good times were on their way back to ’Naughton Park’.

Indeed, when the draw was made for this weekend’s Challenge Cup tie, Widnes sat on top of Super League; for one brief, heady moment the best team in the Northern Hemisphere. Having finished last term fourth bottom, all the talk in League circles was whether Widnes could ‘do a Leicester’.

While Leicester City continue to confound and amaze at the top of the Premier League, four weeks - and four consecutive defeats - later, the Vikings have slipped to fifth place, seemingly en route for familiar waters of the division’s lower half.

Having gone down to Warrington (28-10), Saints (12-20) and Catalans (21-8), last Sunday’s home defeat to Castleford deserves special mention as they tossed away an 18-nil lead to go down 24-34.

Seemingly cruising after 20 minutes, Cas upped the ante to score 28 unanswered points that gave the Tigers a 10-point cushion before the Vikings’ Lloyd White grabbed a consolation with eight minutes remaining. Even then there was enough time left for Paul McShane to score direct from a play-the-ball to give the visitors an impressive victory.

In the wash-up, Cas did most of the damage on the edges where both wingers either got sucked in leaving space up the outside, or they failed to handle high kicks to the corners. Other than that, they fell for a couple of close range sucker tries from acting half.

Brown Town: Can Kev stop Widnes' season
going down the pan?
It’d be somewhat contentious to describe Widnes as a one-man team, but our feeling is that if you can stop Kevin Brown, you’ll go a long way to stalling the Vikings’ progress.

Don’t just take our word for it, though.  A Guardian article last month recognises Brown’s disproportionate influence on what happens around him, describing Widnes as having   “… no superstars in this present side, but in their captain, Kevin Brown, Widnes have a player who is at the heart of their success”

Speaking in the same article, Widnes coach, Denis Betts said: “He’s the leader of this group and he’s fantastic for us. I say it every week. He’s never underperformed since he’s been here. He makes decisions on the hoof that only a good player can make.”

Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find any real media view beyond the fact that Widnes is essentially the Kev Brown show. Even in defeat, he’s the man all eyes are on, the Yorkshire Post singling him out in their report on the Cas game: “Widnes skipper Kevin Brown tormented Tigers full-back Ryan Hampshire in the early stages and kept the pressure on the visitors’ line.”

Again in the Guardian, Aaron Bower wrote: “The Widnes Vikings captain Kevin Brown has been integral to his side’s success this season… Brown arrived at the club at the start of 2013 and since becoming captain, has produced the form of his career, with many believing England honours now await him this year…”  That ‘many’ doesn’t include us, by the way - we believe that Wayne Bennett should be looking to nurture a pair of gun tyros at half back that can take England round for the next decade, rather than a more than capable 31 year old shining in a team with ‘no superstars’.
Indeed, can you even name Brown’s half-back partner at Widnes?

No? It’s Joe Mellor - ex Latchford Albion, Wigan, Harlequins RL half, who joined Widnes in 2013.  He’s just signed a new three-year contract that ties him to the Vikings until the end of 2019 and Denis Betts likes him: "It is fantastic news that Joe has committed the next three years to the club. As a player he is developing year on year.” he said to Sky Sports.

"Joe has been in sensational form so far this year… he is a fantastic bloke and great within the group. He knows the way that we want to play and he has the attitude and energy that will keep enhancing the team." (Translation: ‘he tries hard and runs around a lot’).

The last few weeks have seen a flurry of Widnes players rushing to sign contract extensions - Rhys Hanbury, Stefan Marsh, Chris Dean, Eamon O'Carroll, Joe Mellor, Charly Runicman, Gil Dudson and Patrick Ah Van at latest count. Hanbury said of his deal: “ I always wanted to stay at the Vikings and me and my girlfriend are really happy…” Ah, bless.

Hornets come into the game off the back of a scratchy, but convincing win against an ever improving All Golds. And it is with one eye on the week after’s key game against Toulouse that we consider the context of Sunday’s contest. Yes it’d be nice to bust our backs to have a real dig at Widnes, but it’s a long season ahead and it’d be wise to keep the eyes on the important prize. Given that we’re not going to win the Challenge Cup, at TLCRF80mins we’d be happy with a good showing, a decent crowd and no injuries.

Then we can get back to the serious business.



Monday, 11 April 2016

Hornets Win Ugly

Hornets 38 - All Golds 16

From the off, his pig-ugly game had all the ingredients for the scrappy, shapeless mess it became. A Hornets side that felt all out of shape due to injuries and a key suspension, shored up by square-peg Dual Reg replacements playing in round-holes where they struggled to have any real impact. An opposition who rocked up late, plying the Greenwood Family Gameplan to scramble, spoil and slow the game to a standstill. Oh - and a referee in Mr Mikalauskas who was aided in his freestyle jazz interpretation of the laws by officials equally incapable of guessing right on pretty much every decision they were asked to make.

Given this perfect-storm of interesting challenges, it’s testimony to Hornets’ tenacity that they managed to carve out an, ultimately, convincing win - but where some games live in the memory for years, I’d imagine most of the 430 present would have struggled to recall this one by the time they got home.

The game started promisingly: Jordan Case plunging in from close range to give Hornets a 5th minute lead. DR Dec Patton wayward with his conversion attempt: 4-nil.

Then the game simply degenerated. An escalating penalty count exacerbated by Mr Mikalauskas slack policing of the rucks kept the All Golds clinging to the game. And when they fashioned a soft try for Murphy off a repeat set after 16 minutes, it felt inevitable. 4-all.

As Hornets got sucked into the All-Golds’ black-hole of anti-football, a flaccid set that ran out of ideas long before its impotent last-tackle kick resulted in an 80 metre All Golds break somehow ended with Tagayuna held-up over the Hornets line. With Jono Smith busy picking a fight in back-play, Hornets just about managed to defend a truly awful kick in the in-goal. Mr Mikalauskas gave the All Golds the feed at a 10m scrum. I know… bonkers.

Hornets response was immediate and punishing - a second quarter hike in tempo and intensity yielding three tries in 15 minutes to put some daylight between them and their tormentors.

First a Danny Yates cut-out pass for Dale Bloomfield to score out wide - Jono Smith’s kick-off return clothes-lined by McClean, Mr Mikalauskas happy with a light ticking off. And it was Jono Smith who exacted his revenge beautifully - slipping a peach of a pass out of the back of a tackle  for Danny Yates to score. Then, on the hooter, DR Jack Johnson skated through a wheezing, retreating All Golds defence to score. Half time 20-4 - a reasonable reflection on each side’s desire to play football.

The third quarter was a gruesome, fragmented, attritional scramble in which an accelerating penalty count saw the All Golds receive a team warning. Indeed, it took fuly 18 minutes for Hornets to play round the vistitors - Michael Ratu hitting a Dec Patton pass like a bullet to round the cover and score under the black-dot. Yatesey the two for 26-4.

Ratu featured again two minutes later, combining with Wayne English up the right flank to force an unlikely drop-out as All Golds’ Jones flapped at a kick into the in-goal.

Then - out of nowhere - the visitors came up with two tries. On 65 minutes some tidy handling created space for Cowburn to score; then Bryan exploiting a shuffling Hornets backline to launch Leather for a well-finished score. 26-16 and a thin veneer of respectability.

With 10 to play, normal service was resumed, but an Alex Trumper interception try from 70 metres put the game to bed. In the last seconds, it was that man Ratu again, hitting another short ball to collect his second of the day. Yatesey no mistake to give Hornets a convincing, if aesthetically displeasing, 38-16 victory.

As we all know, a win is a win. And good teams find ways to win when they’re not firing on all cylinders  - and this was one of those occasions. All Golds are no longer the easy-beats of this division (they put away North Wales at Wrexham last month) - but jeez, they play an ugly brand of football - the 14-7 penalty count tells its own story.

With Lewis Galbraith approaching fitness, big Samir back from his suspension  and Paul Crook back after his wedding Hornets should look better balanced going forward. And if we are to find just one positive from this game, an undefeated Hornets remain at the top of League 1. And that’s not too shoddy at all.