Sunday, 22 May 2016

Blooming Brilliant

Hornets 70 - Scorpions 6

On an auspicious afternoon when Wayne English made his 150th appearance  for Hornets, Woz Thompson made his 100th career start and Dale Bloomfield grabbed a hat-trick to clock-up his 100 career tries, Hornets themselves can count themselves unlucky not to have hit SW Scorpions for a century of points.

With Paul Crook slotting only 7 from 13 conversions, Hornets knocking-on over the line four times and held-up in-goal three times, the 64 point winning margin flatters a Scorpions side that struggled manfully to arrest a 14-try tsunami.

Hornets were out of the blocks quickly with three well-crafted tries in the opening 18 minutes. Crooky kicking wide first play from a scrum for Dale Bloomfield to plunge in by the flag; a Crooky bomb to the opposite corner where Chris Riley popped up unmarked to touch down; and Jono Smith piling in off a short Danny Yates ball. 12-nil.

With Scorpions pressed into rear-guard action, Hornets were unlucky to have another Bloomers try struck off for a forward pass minutes later. But the visitors did rally briefly. Piggy-backed upfield off back-to-back penalties, Jones hit a flat ball at pace to score, Emmanuelli the extras and, somehow, Scorpions within a score at 12-6.

Hornets’ response was clinically swift. On the half hour, Jono Smith showed good feet to dummy his way through from 20 metres to score, followed by Joe Philbin, steaming in off a short ball just two minutes later. Crooky finding his range with the latter to stretch Hornets’ lead to 22-6. Two tries in the last two minutes of the half effectively extinguished Scorpions’ candle: good hands wide for impressive debutant Sam Wilde to skitter through under some ordinary defending. Then a break up the right flank, Sam Wilde a cute kick inside a flat-footed defence for Danny Yates to snaffle and score. Crooky good with both comversions to give Hornets a commanding half time lead of 34-6.

Hornets started the second half on the front foot: on 43 minutes Dan Murray adjudged to have knocked on over the line; two minutes later, Wayne English snagged in similar circumstances. Two minutes hence and it was Matty Hadden called held-up in goal. You could hear the visitors defence creaking.

It finally snapped in the 51st minute when a Woz Thompson break ended with Paul Crook planting the ball under the black dot, converting his own effort. Cue the opening of the floodgates. 56 minutes a huge bomb by Paul Crook, spewed under pressure by Sheridan, Wayne English following up to score; 57 minutes Chris Riley making the extra man to score out wide; 60 minutes, the ball shipped wide from the base of a scrum, Sam Wilde picking out Dale Bloomfield for his second. There was a brief respite while Michael Ratu and Wayne English knocked on over the line, but normal service was resumed on 70 minutes as Paul Crook’s prestidigitation bamboozled defenders, dummying in from 20 metres. The extras a formality to bring up the 60.

There was still time for Dale Bloomfield to cap a good afternoon’s work, slotted in at the flag on 75 minutes. One minute later a James Tilley Break found Lewis Galbraith in support and he sent Danny Yates in to score beneath the posts. Crooky the two: final score 70-6.

On any other week Paul Crook's 22 point haul and total control from five-eighth would have taken the Man of the Match award, but with a hat-trick of lethal finishes bringing up his century of tries, Dale Bloomfield deservedly takes it.

Ultimately, this was an old-skool flogging by a Hornets side that looked to be playing well within themselves. But for half a dozen in-goal decisions, this could’ve ended up anywhere north of the seventy point mark. Indeed, you feel for Paul Carleton.

As it is, Hornets continue unbeaten, going into the weekend off top of League 1 with three points of daylight between them and a fast-rising Doncaster.  With a trip to York to come in a fortnight - and the Knights involved in next weekend’s iPro cup final against Keighley - the break comes at a good time as Hornets prepare for a tough month of away fixtures.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Sunday's Coming: SW Scorpions

Say 'Cheese': Caerphilly's giant cheese monument.
Having learned pretty much all of my Welsh from Llandudno road-signs when I was a child, this Sunday there’s a big croeso i Spotland for ‘newydd’ Sgorpionau De Cymru.

Having previously played out of Neath, Maesteg and Mountain Ash, the rebooted Scorpions club will be based from  this season at Caerphilly's Virginia Park ground.

The word you see associated a lot with the club is ‘Opportunity’. Sitting as they do at the head of the South Wales development pyramid, Scorpions remain a vehicle for channeling the Valleys’ finest League prospects into our game.

The end of last season saw a new stage in the club’s evolution. Having been run by the Welsh RL after owner Phil Davies baled in 2014, the national governing body and and RFL approved the takeover by ex-solicitor Marc Lovering and former Scorpions, and Welsh academy team manager Neil Williams.

Lovering, a Cardiff University graduate in Business Administration, chair of community club Siddal and former RFL Club & Competition Manager added ‘principle shareholder’ to his League CV.

At the time of the takeover he said:  “This bodes well for the future but clearly adding some more quality and experience to compliment what is a young squad will be our immediate focus. Neil and I remain committed to giving quality locally based players an opportunity.”

Whales: in Wales, earlier today
Indeed, if you look at the Scorpions 2016 squad, it reads like a roadmap of the principality with players taken from Aberavon Wizards, Valley Cougars, Torfaen Tigers,  Bridgend Ravens RFC,  Merthyr RFC, Aber Valley Wolves, Conwy Celts, Cardiff City, Pontypool RFC, Risca RFC, Glynneath RFC, Newport Gwent Dragons, Rhydyfelin RFC,  South Wales Hornets, Rumney RFC, Bridgend Blue Bulls and Celtic/North Wales Crusaders.

Lovering & Williams’ first job was to appoint a coach who has Welsh RL in his veins - former Scorpions prop and Wales international Phil Carleton. He was hounoured at the opportunity: “I am obviously very honoured and feel it is a great privilege to be considered for such a role. My thanks go to Marc and Neil for the opportunity.” That word again…

Originally from Consett in the North East of England - argue amongst yourselves whether that makes him a Geordie or a Mackem -  Carleton moved to Wales to attend university in Cardiff, where he began playing League. He also also turned out for then Welsh Conference sides Rumney Rhinos and identity-conflicted Celtic RL hybrids Aberavon Fighting Irish. He played for Wales Students in the 2005 World Cup in Australia, and was also capped for Great Britain Students.

Having toyed with the ‘local game’ at Llanelli Scarlets, Carleton signed for Valley Cougars in 2011 and was the first player to "graduate" from their link-up with South Wales Scorpions. In 2014 he won a full Welsh international cap.

Phil Carleton: is now a bad time?
In amonst his Welsh experience, Carleton also returned to England’s top right-hand corner for a while - playing for Gateshead Thunder and cutting his coaching teeth at Sunderland RUFC.

His return to Wales saw him take up the reins at the emerging Cardiff City RL club. He says: “It was hard to leave Cardiff City RL as they have been very good to me but the role of head coach at a semi-professional club was too good to turn down.”

In addition to South Wales’ emerging talent, Carleton has augmented his squad of late with a clutch of dual registration players from Halifax - Jamie Stringer, Cian Timmins and Martyn Reilly - who should bring a bit of ‘street nous’ to a side that went down 44-4 last week against a Barrow side that had previously piled 50 points on York. Proof if any were needed that the expansion teams won’t just roll-over for the heartland clubs. Interestingly, Scorpions’ only win so far this season came against Oxford in their last game at Iffley Road,  a decent benchmark for what we might expect.

Scorpions: ... er... you sure this is right?
Hornets come back to Spotland off the back of an imperfect, but ultimately convincing win at Oxford. Roared home by a noisy following, the fans were the 18th man on the day and another top performance on and off the field will be required if we are to fend off the Scorpions challenge. It’s funny how being top of the league gets under people’s skins. Teams raise their game and make life hard for you, and expectations are lifted to the point where even convincing wins are scrutinised for signs of complacency or underachievement. If, back in February, someone had offered us 8 games unbeaten - regardless of the circumstanes - I think most Hornets fans would have ripped their arm off.

So let’s all stay grounded and focused. Let’s get through Sunday with the points and kick on from there.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Kilshaw In-'spires' Hornets to Oxford win.

Sometimes it needs a moment of inspiration to crack open an awkward game. Having dug in their heels for an hour - and trailing only 24-30 -  Oxford were proving somewhat difficult for a patched-up, re-shuffled Hornets side to shake off. Then an injury to Stuart Biscomb provided the opportunity for the one minute of insight and ingenuity that hauled the game out of Oxford’s reach.

As Biscomb lay spark-out being attended by the medical staff, Alan Kilshaw made his way to the nearside touchline and called his team over, where he delivered an impassioned impromptu team-talk that appeared to involve an awful lot of pointing.

Within 90 seconds of the resumption of play, Paul Crook stepped into space via a delicious show & go, to hit Michael Ratu with a neat reverse pass for the try that effectively ended Oxford’s resistance.

Up to that point, Oxford had been a bit of a tough nut to crack. It’s fair to say that being top of the table inspires teams to lift their game, but when Crooky hoisted a bomb on 7 minutes and Chris Riley recovered the ball to step through a flapping defence, it all looked pretty straightforward.

But Oxford’s response was direct and immediate.Testing the right hand channel policed by Hornets debutant Jake Shoel, Siddons slipped Nathaniel through the tightest of gaps, Burnett added the extras and at 6-all it felt like a blip. And when Burnett dodged through Crooky’s tackle to give the home side the lead on 20 minutes, the sizeable Hornets contingent in the crowd looked skywards through raised eyebrows.

Thankfully it proved to be the cue for Hornets to lift the tempo. Ben Moores’ charge-down on 25 minutes took Hornets deep into Oxford territory, where Dale Bloomfield backed-up to go close. Then straightforward ‘ball-through-hands’ found Jono Smith barrelling in to score. Crooky the two for 12-all.

On the half-hour Hornets stretched their lead when Jono Smith bumped off a tackler to send Ben Moores under the black-dot. Crooky from bang in front to send Hornets in at the break 12-18 to the good.

Hornets began the second half with intent: Samir Tahraoui snaffling a tidy pop-up ball to score after Wayne English had gone teasingly close. Crooky the extras for 12-24.

But like a wasp at a picnic, Oxford just refused to go away. And when Siddon hit a peach of a flat ball on 46 minutes to score, Allan slotted the two to close the gap to just one score.

The sides then traded quick-fire tries (Matt Hadden off a short-range crash-ball, Canterbury stepping through some very ordinary defence) to haul the scoreline to 24-30 and with the last quarter looming Stuart Biscomb piled into a tackle, only to remain motionless on the floor as the ruck cleared.

Kilshaw saw his chance and made his way to the nearside touchline…

Within 90 seconds of the resumption of play, Paul Crook stepped into space via a delicious show & go, to hit Michael Ratu with a neat reverse pass for a try that belied the quality of the game. Crooky banged over the two and suddenly Hornets looked like a different proposition.

On 68 minutes a Jono Smith effort was struck-off for a dubious offside, then Oxford’s short-fused wing Nathaniel was sin-binned. Hornets immediately went left where Chris Riley chimed in from close range.

On 74 minutes Jono Smith tunnelled in after Lewis Galbraith had gone close and when Alex Trumper was launched off a sweet flat-ball on 78 minutes,  Hornets looked comfortably home and hosed.

Having rejoined the game in time for the last play, Nathaniel ended the game exchanging punches with Ben Moores, the two pointlessly yellow-carded after the hooter.

In the end this was a tricky banana skin of a game well negotiated. Oxford gave it a real dig for an hour - but it was Alan Kilshaw’s intervention that shifted Hornets up a gear. Indeed, it’d be churlish to complain too much about travelling to the other end of the country and scoring 52 points.

Our Man of the Match sits somewhere between Jono Smith and Samir Tahraoui - both of whom provided the home defence with plenty to think about. Mention too of Hornets’ ’18th man’ - the hardy bunch of fans who coughed up 8 hours on the motorway to provide the game’s noise and atmosphere - which, in itself, was pretty inspirational.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Sunday's Coming: Oxford

Oxford Rugby League club are bit like the Loch Ness Monster. There have been some occasional sightings in your peripheral vision that provide fleeting proof that there is Rugby League life in the city of the Dreaming Spires, but when you focus hard, you get the echo of a ghost of a myth that might not have been there in the first place.

When we first encountered Oxford, Tony Benson was delivering the flat-pack ‘Biffs on a Bus’ model that shipped in a team every two weeks to be poiltely applauded by family and friends.

Then under Tim Rumford we were promised a more substantial foundation in Oxford. But when we played them last year at Hemel, the 26 Hornets fans in attendance out-numbered the home fans, the curious and the Hemel fans with nothing to do that day. All a bit hollow.

This year their will-o’the wisp semi existence has taken a new and interesting twist. Amongst rumours that Oxford persist with training in the North, they’ve upped sticks and moved to Tilsley Park athletics stadium 10 miles south of Oxford in Abingdon. So now their only actual link to Oxford is the embroidery on their club badge. Echoes of Mansfield Marksman and Kent Invicta anyone?

Needless to say, the clutch of RL missionaries in the barren sporting desert that is Oxfordshire have been talking up the move as the foundation on which a sporting power will be built.

CEO Adrian Smith said of the move:  “The sustainability of the club is of paramount importance to the board and the prospects and potential for growth in Abingdon is there to build upon. Tilsley offers a new dynamic for playing and training on the state of the art 4G pitch, which will be great for the squad, while the general all round facilities are more contemporary with great access. The scope to develop and push the club’s progress to another level will be boosted by Tilsley Park. It was an easy decision for the board to take.”

Tilsley Park: Gail and Brian nowhere to be seen

Ryan Cousins, GM of Oxford Rugby League Inspire Foundation is also very excited: “We will be able to make a real home for the club and the foundation at Tilsley and gradually we will build a sense of belonging for fans, staff and players alike. We have plans underway to engage with the community of Abingdon. By that, we mean the local council, local businesses, local schools, the military, community groups….” and so on.

All we need to know is that it’s got a postage stamp of a pitch and one tiny stand from which the view across eight running lanes and the long-jump/triple jump pits sits you a fair distance from the action.

In relation to the pitch dimensions, we thought a bit of a comparison would be a constructive way to pretend to be working at our day job.

The white dotted line on the picture on the left is the over-all perimeter of Oxford’s former Iffley Road pitch determined by the touchlines and the dead ball lines (so including the in-goal areas). Noticeably bigger than Tilsley Park’s field. Indeed, by the time you remove 10 metres for two in-goals, and shave a couple of metres off the edges to accommodate touchlines, you’ve got a total Tilsley Park pitch area that’s marginally more narrow than Iffley road, but much shorter. This is shown by the blue line overlaid on both Tinsley Park and Ifflley Road. As you can see, the maximum playable area including in-goals fits almost exactly within the field of play area at Iffley road - excluding in-goals- with room to spare. Indeed, photos from Oxford’s first game at Tilsley Park v Hunslet suggest an 80m field of play. Handy for 40/20s, though.

Coming up short: View from the stand at Tilsley Park

Since their first season in 2013, Oxford look to have been sliding gradually backwards. Having finished 6th, 8th and 10th respectively in the last three seasons. So far this season, Oxford sit stone-cold last with a none from seven record, having shipped just short of 300 points on the way.

In their first game at Tilsley Park last month, Hunslet ran out 40-14 winners - which looks like standard fare for Oxford this season (but given that Hunslet play on a similarly-configured field at South Leeds Stadium, perhaps it suited their style of play?)

Having started the season with a clutch of narrow defeats (22-30 v Newcastle, 26-16 v Skolars and 38-20 v Scorpions), Keighley’s 70-10 thrashing heralded a run of heavier losses ( including 54-8 at Toulouse and 48-18 last weekend at North Wales).

As Hornets continue to top the table after last week’s comprehensive win over Skolars, it’s imperative that we don’t become the big story in Monday’s League Weakly (other publications are available). Indeed, as Alan Kilshaw pointed out, Oxford are due a win and we have to be absolutely sure it’s not us.

The good news is that - timewise- a trip to Abingdon is on a par with a trip to Whitehaven or Workington. And with the chance to tick off a new ground, make a bit of noise, fly the Hornets banners and have lovely day out, why wouldn’t you go and get behind the lads.

For your SatNav, Tilsley Park is on Dunmore Rd, Abingdon OX14 1PU

Take exit 9 off the M40 and take the 3rd exit off the following roundabout for the A34. Drive 14 miles and take the exit off the A34 signposted for Oxford Road and A4183. At the main road, turn left, following signs for Abingdon. After 1 mile, at the roundabout, take the 3rd exit for Dunmore Road. Finally, travel for another mile and Tilsley Park will be on your right hand side.

Journey time at the time of writing was just shy of the three hour mark.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Hornets Hand Skolars a Lesson in Patience

Hornets 40 - Skolars 12

Patience may well be a virtue, but for long tracts of this game, London Skolars' somewhat reductive approach to the game would have tested the resolve of the proverbial saint.

Fractious and obdurate, Skolars endeavoured to break-up play at every given opportunity - the penalty count of 14-7 in Hornets favour telling only part of the story - but in stopping sides playing, you can see how Skolars have found a way to keep themselves in games this season.

Rather than an archetypal game of two halves, this was a tale of four intriguing quarters, in which Hornets’ ability to play both round and through London’s ‘wall of brawl’ proved the difference.

The first quarter was an ugly arm wrestle - the patience of tyro ref. Mr Ansell tested to extremes as a series of penalties sucked any momentum out of the game. Given the state of play, it was hardly surprising when Juma took a peach of a reverse pass from Williams to give Skolars the lead. Bishay the extras. Shaking heads all-round at 0-6.

But Hornets persevered, and when Danny Yates stepped into space only to stumble when he looked certain to round the full-back, you sensed a momentum shift. Indeed on the next play the ball was shipped swiftly to the right where Jordan Case showed good strength to reach through and score. Crooky produced a trick-shot conversion via the post and the crossbar to level the scores.

And it was the GInger General who cracked the game open just after the half hour, snaffling Matty Hadden’s speculator to score by the posts. The conversion a formality and Hornets on top at the break by 12-6.

If half time in tricky games is where good coaches earn their money, then Alan Kilshaw’s done a sterling job this week. From the whistle, Hornets played at a visibly higher tempo and intensity and Alex McClurg produced a moment of jinking magic on 45 minutes to mug Skolars from 5 metres - Crooky slotting the extras - to extend Hornets’ lead to 18-6.

But this Skolars side is pretty robust and, after Alex McClurg had been adjudged to have knocked on burrowing in on the goal-line, they marched straight back downfield where Faturoti hit BIshay’s line-ball at pace to haul London back into the game at 18-12.

Going into the final quarter, Hornets hit the gas.  A punishing break by Samir Tahraoui backed up by  Ben Moores and Chris Riley took Hornets deep into Skolars territory; Danny Yates’ teasing kick to the corner where Nash coughed the ball into the arms of the onrushing Jono Smith, who gratefully accepted the invitation to score.

Three minutes later, Smith was ‘Jono on the Spot’ again, when Crooky replayed the kick option to the same winger. Spooked by the presence of Wayne English, Nash again knocked the ball into Jono Smith’s hands for his second try to make it 30-12.

In a strange way, you have to admire Skolars’ bare-faced commitment to their style of play. On 75 minutes three London players insisted on scrambling the ball out of a tackle, but Crooky’s quick reactions and scampering 60 metre break drew defenders, and his cute flicked pass sent Wayne English somersaulting under the black dot. Crooky the two for 36-12.

Hornets brought up the forty as the hooter sounded, pressing the Skolars into making a needless error in their own half, Chris Riley happy to capitalise, rounding defenders out wide to score.

For the second week running, Hornets reaped the rewards of patience. Where last week was all about biding their time and taking their chances; this week was about holding steady until Skolars dug a hole too deep to climb out of.

Gifted 14 penalties, Hornets made the most of the possession - particularly in the second half - and, in keeping a cool head whilst the game teetered on the brink, they simpy had too much in the tank for a workmanlike, but one-dimensional Skolars.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Sunday's Coming. But Cookie's going!

London Skolars come to Spotland on the back of a narrow iPro semi-final defeat to Keighley. Indeed, Skolars are having a bit of a rennaissance this season under coach Jermaine Coleman.

Coleman’s signing of his brother - former Keighley and Hemel Stags halfback Jy-mel - looks to have been the final piece in the New River Stadium jigsaw as Skolars sit 6th on points difference with four wins and a solitary defeat to York.

Squad contans 8 former London Broncos, 8 former Hemel Stags - and, most eyecatching to us RL geeks, former Harlequins RL/Bradford Bulls/Leigh Centurions/Penrith Panthers/WindsorWolves second row Michael Worrincy (he’s also had a stint in ‘the other game’ at London Irish and was once selected to play for Harlequins Rugby Union side in the Middlesex Sevens). His huge experience will carry a lot of currency in League 1 and Skolars great start to the season reflects that.

In the league they’ve won four on the trot, having battered Coventry 52-20;  won 31-24 at Crusaders; flogged Hemel at Pennine Way and taken a functional 10 point win over Oxford.

In the iPro cup they turned over Doncaster at the Keepmoat by 24-12 and pummeled Scorpions by 44-6. The only real blip in their season was a shock 13-nil cup upset at Pilkongton Recs back in February. So - so far so impressive. Not a game to be taken lightly.

Hornets come into the weekend off the back of a good week.

Having had the barefaced temerity to dare to accuse the sainted Toulouse of adopting underhand tactics in our recent draw, Hornets concern for player welfare was vindicated this week when Toulouse centre Bastien Ader received a four game ban after being found guilty of biting Lewis Galbraith.

Olympique denied the incident, but after review by the RFL tribunal, Ader was found guilty of the Grade E charge.

Hornets CEO, Ryan Bradley, says the matter should now be put to bed after Ader was hit with the four-match ban. “We are glad that the case has been heard and feel appropriate action has been taken.”   We tried to call Luis Suarez for a comment, but we don’t have his number.

Beyond that, Hornets fans were buoyant after last weekend’s clinically convincing win at Barrow maintained our position at the top of the League 1 table. A vociferous bunch of Hornets supporters made themselves heard on both sides of Craven Park - including inside and outside (it’s been a while since we had a proper sing).

So let’s go again on Sunday for this one. See you there.

Breaking News: John Cookson

John Cookson's note to friends and supporters
shared via Twitter
The news broke on Social Media today (Thursday) that club stalwart John Cookson is leaving the club after seven and a half seasons of sterling service in the red, white and blue.

After signing for Leigh from Adlington Juniors, he first came to Hornets for a loan spell. He went on to become the first player to reach 100 appearances for the supporter-owned Hornets.

Having made his debut on 14th March 2008 v Salford City Reds, Cookie played over 130 games and scored 27 tries  - including one in the Grand Final at Leigh in 2013 (where we couldn’t see who scored, awarded it to someone else, then got a call from his mum to put us right).

Voted a hero of Hornets by the Heritage Commitee and one of the all-time Heroes XIII by supporters, it’s fair to say that Cookie’s contribution has been legendary.

Heroic: Cookie centre stage at 2015's All-Time XIII presentation night.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Hornets Dig Deep to Upset Barrow

Barrow 4 - Hornets 18

Typical. You wait 10 years for a win at Barrow, then two come at once. Hornets secured a second win this season at Craven Park in a scrappy penalty-ridden game carved up by a rolling tableau of flare-ups.

That the game produced more penalties than points tells its own story, but while Barrow strove to break up the game’s rhythm, Hornets stuck to the task to produce what little lucid football was on. offer.

Indeed, Hornets received back-to-back penalties in the earliest exchanges to set the tone. On 7 minutes a huge Ben Moores break up the guts of the Barrow defence ended with a penalty for a high-shot. Paul Crook coolly slottting the kick to open the scoring: 0-2.

On 11 minutes tempers boiled over and Ben Moores and Barrow winger Haney were dispatched for ten minutes.

Within two minutes of his return to the field, Haney was yellow carded again for holding down in the tackle, after Dale Bloomfield had won the foot-race to regather a Crooky kick straight from the back of a scrum. Hornets were swift to capitalise on the numerical advantage.

Having forced a drop-out, Hornets shuttled the ball wide to the right where Dale Bloomfield squeezed in by the flag. Crooky off the touchline with the extras and Hornets on-top at 0-8 on the half hour.

Hornets continued to press hard, but progress was difficult as play repeatedly broke down. And it was in a scrappy phase that Hornets were given a penalty bang in front. Crooky happy to oblige, 0-10.

With the half running down Barrow produced their one moment of open play in 80 minutes; quick hands wide for Pitman to score on the hooter. Half-time 4-10.

The second half followed suit: this time Barrow with seemingly inexplicable penalties; Chris Riley compelled to mop up a kick into the in-goal. Then a Hornets penalty took them upfield where they forced a repeat set. From the ensuing possession a Paul Crook kick ricocheted into the hands of Jono Smith who stepped past defenders to score untouched. Paul Crook the two, Hornets stretching the lead to 4-16.

A misjudgement from Jack Francis saw the kick-off bounce dead, and Barrow seized the momentum: three consecutive sets tested the Hornets defence, but some gutsy resistance ultimately forced an error. Impressive stuff.

On 70 minutes, Paul Crook unzipped the Barrow defence, a clinical break through centre field. And as the Ginger General ended the set with a kick to the corner, he was hit late with a shoulder. Crooky climbed off the floor to bang over the penalty. A flawless five from five; Hornets pretty much home and hosed at 4-18.

Barrow spend the last ten minutes aimlessly hurling themselves onto a Hornets defence that was happy to dump them on their backsides: the game ending with trademark handbags.

In the wash-up, this was an ugly dog of a game: Barrow spectacularly clueless on attack, their half-back Dallimore displaying all the strategic attributes of a card-board cut-out, drawing the ire of the locals around us who branded him ‘clueless’: his side painfully reduced to breaking-up the game to the point of stasis. Conversely, Hornets displayed both graft and craft to find a way round this mire. With robust, resolute defence at the heart of this performance, Hornets were impressively relentless and march-on unbeaten at the top of League 1.