Sunday, 31 July 2016

Hornets kill-off Haringey Hoodoo

Skolars 28 - Hornets 38

New River Stadum has been a graveyard for a succession of Hornets teams: good, bad and indifferent, so it’s good to finally break the North London hoodoo. As predicted, this was a sprawling, spoiling penalty-fest in which the home side tried pretty much every trick in the book to suck the light out of the game.

Indeed, the game begam with an exchange of penalties and, when a high Danny Yates kick was fumbled dead by a flapping Skolars defence after five minutes, the noisy travelling support were amazed to see the home side given the 20 metre restart.

Up the other end of the field, the game sparked into a brawl when Lewis Galbraith was upended in the tackle, Skolars yapping pug Small repeatedly dragged out.

Hornets response was clinical. A great high-tempo approach set - Jo Taira involved twice - then  Woz Thompson hitting a short ball at pace on the last tackle to score. Danny Yates the extras for 0-6.

Hornets were immediately back on the attack courtesy of another Skolars penalty: a teasing dink from Yatesey forcing the drop-out.

On the quarter-mark another swift, direct set took Hornets close; Jono Smith dummying and stepping inside to score. Yatesey on-target for 0-12.

With London struggling to play any meaningful football, it took a poor Hornets pass on the 20 metre line to give them an attacking platform. And when the ball was lofted into the in-goal it was superbly gathered by Corey Lee, who then set off on a blistering 40 metre touchline break, only to be hauled down by Skolars’ scrambling defence.

No matter. On the half hour Skolars shipped a dumb last-tackle penalty. Danny Yates produced his own teasing kick into the Skolars’ in-goal. With the defence more interested in picking fights than picking-up runners, Jono Smith ghosted in to touch down. Yatesey the extras 0-18.

Skolars did come up with one moment of lucidity, courtesy of their impressive fullback Thomas who produced a neat chip & chase to score aganst the run of play. Thomas converting his own try: 6-18.

Hornets ended the half with a quickfire double. On 38 minutes Jono Smith grabbed a first-half hat-trick when he bludgeoned through some tired tackles to score. Then makeshift stand-off James Tilley combining with Jordan Case to score out wide. Yatesey good for both: 6-30.

In the midst of all this, Skolars resident irritant Small was sin-binned as the referee ran out of patience with his pentulant histrionics.

Half-time 6-30.

Skolars’ start to the second period set the tone for the half. Shipping a penalty in the first set; then winnng a spurious penalty; then a pig-ugly push-over try fron Driver. Thomas the two and the home side with the early momentum at 12-30.

Hornets strove to break their roll when Yatesey opted to take the two after back-to-back penalties (12-32), and no sooner had Small returned from the sin-bin, when their prop David Williams was sent to warm the bench for ten minutes after a team warning.

Approachng the hour, injuries to Woz Thompson and Lewis Galbraith (the latter carried from the field) forced a reshuffle, as Hornets shaped to enter the last quarter with forwards deputising in key positions across the field. Skolars capitalised whrn they sent Paxton up the left flank to score (16-32).

Hornets hit back with a fortuitous, but stunning try from Wayne English: blocking a kick, he gathered tha ball and pinned back his ears, outpacing the Skolars cover to score from 80 metres. Yatesey off the whitewash for 16-38.

A patched-up Hornets went into the last ten minutes facing a Skolars determined to niggle and spoil to the very last. Indeed, the home side fashioned two late, late tries to Paxton, and Dollapi to give this game the veneer of a contest, but in the end it was objective achieved by hard-working Hornets.

In the wash-up, this was a game in which Hornets had to find a way - any way - to win. And it was the archetypal game of two halves: Hornets playing all the football in the first half to look a class-apart, the game finally breaking under the weight of a mounting penalty count, grinding to a pace where Skolars were able to compete.

But a win IS a rare thing at the New River, so it’d be churlish to complain. Three-try Jono Smith was our man of the match, edging out Danny Yates who put in his most composed, controlled and mature performance in a Hornets shirt. With Crooky absent, the burden of Hornets’ ’tactical control’ fell to him and he rose to the occasion. Mention too for debutant Harry Cartwright: returning to the game after a long break he looked combative, capable and looks like a useful acquisition.

Finally - a mention for the hardy bunch of around 20 Hornets fans who made the long-trip. They outsang the frankly miserable home fans and brought what little atmosphere there was.

Hornets’ line-up was:
Wayne English, Corey Lee, Mike Ratu, Lewis Gailbraith, Dale Bloomfield, James Tilley, Danny Yates, Jo Taira, Ben Moores, Warren Thompson, Jono Smith, Jordan Case, Alex Trumper. Replacements:, Ryan Maneely, Matty Hadden, Harry Cartwright, Samir Tahraoui