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.