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.