Monday, 5 September 2016

Don All Trumped

Hornets 38 - Doncaster 22

It’s anyone’s guess how Doncaster have crept into the League 1 playoffs. Gary Thornton has assembled an ugly pugnacious outfit that strove manfully to strip every last bit of daylight out of this game - aided and abetted by referee Mr Grant’s freestyle jazz interpretation of the laws.

Hornets produced a lightning start: Lewis Galbraith scooping the kick off from the sky, the ball worked swiftly right and Dave Cookson hitting a space at pace to give Hornets a 4-nil lead with just 26 seconds on the clock. From the resulting kick-off, Hornets went straight back on the attack: Jono Smith with a skittering last-tackle break, Donny’s defence scrambling to hold out.

Hornets continued to press - Samir Tahraoui going close, Corey Lee bundled into touch by the flag - but as Mr Grant began to chop the game into a jigsaw of penalties, Doncaster took advantage. On 15 minutes Foggin-Johnson outjumped Corey Lee in the in-goal to touch down. And when a Doncaster last-tackle kick was launched in  hope into a forest of defenders’ legs, it pinballed free for Sherriffe to score. Somehow, Doncaster in front 4-10 on the quarter mark.

With the penalty count escalating and the game becoming increasingly niggly, Paul Crook was hit high and late as he released a last-tackle kick. Mr Grant grudgingly held-up play while Crooky received treatment and took no action on the perpetrator to the disbelief of the home supporters.

With Doncaster now happy to feed off Mr Grant’s gullibility, they were gifted 50 metres from where they worked a tidy blind-side cut-out move to hit Hornets with an old-skool sucker try. Carr the extras and Donny comfortable at 16-4 as the game fell apart around them.

On the half hour a shuddering tackle from Matt Hadden knocked the ball loose - and sparked a 26-man affray under the visitors posts. Hornets were first to recover their composure to produce a double whammy combination that would take the sides in level at the break.

Firstly the ball worked around to send Dave Cookson in for his second. Then, with the hooter imminent, there was some confusion around whether Hornets had nominated to kick or run a penalty. Regardless, Hornets took the tap and found Chris Riley making the extra man to scoot in for his career 150th try. Crooky cool as you like as the hooter sounded: 16-all.

Hornets began the second half with visible purpose, forcing a drop-out after Chris Riley had gone close. On the resulting possession,  Jono Smith sucked in defenders and, as the last gasp of air was squeeezed from the tackle, smuggled a peach of a ball out the back for Lewis Galbraith to score. Hornets in front 20-16.

And it was Galbraith that brought the stand to its feet again four minutes later - this time tracking a 90 metre break by Welham from the opposite side of the pitch, dumping the Doncaster wing into row E metres short of the flag. Exceptional stuff.

This gave Hornets a visible lift. On 55 minutes Samir went crashing through a stretched defence to score. Then Woz Thompson hauling defenders 30 metres before slipping the ball out the back to the suporting Samir Tahraoui. Quality.

On the hour James Tilley drove the ball to the line and, with defenders flapping around him, he dropped off a neat pass for Ben Moores to score. Crooky the extras and Hornets 32-16 to the good.

Having failed to find touch with a lazy penalty, Doncaster did flicker briefly - the ball hacked into space for Jones Bishop to score in the 75th minute.

But Hornets weren’t finished. Right on the hooter Paul Crook stepped his way through a tired defence to plant the ball by the posts. His conversion giving Hornets a convincing 38-22 victory.

Whilst the first half was a scratchy mess, Hornets delivered as good a 40 minutes in the second as they have all season. Fewer penalties starved Doncaster of the ball and a much improved completion rate provided the platform for playing some incisive football.

The result guarantees Hornets at least third spot - with Barrow travelling to Toulouse next weekend the decisive fixture in determining who gets to go to the South of France later in the month for the promotion final and who gets a week off before embarking on a two game promotion bid.

And whether there’s actually an advantage to finishing third… well, that really is anyone’s guess.