Monday, 20 February 2017

Hornets the real deal as million-pound Robins sneak it.

Hornets 18 - Hull KR 28

Forget the disparity in budget. Forget the pedigree of the Hull KR Coach. Forget the travelling hoardes who bayed their displeasure at every refereeing decision. Look at this coldly as a contest between the top two sides in the championship and the casual observer could never tell that one of these sides is a defacto-Super league outfit slumming it in the Championship.

For long periods, Hornets bossed their big-spending full-time visitors. And with the Robins clinging desperately to a two point lead with 5 minutes to go, Hornets were in the hunt for the win - their frankly stunning performance busting the myth that the top-end of Championship is somehow a legitimate stepping stone to the nirvana of Super League.

In the end it took a late, late try by Rovers’ best player Lunt to save their blushes - and a needless penalty after the hooter giving the scoreline the somewhat tarnished sheen of comfort.

But it was Hornets who started from the gun. A huge bust up the guts of the visitors from Rob Massam took Hornets deep into Rovers terrotory. Hornets then forced an error close to the Robins’ line, Ben Moores showed his kicking credentials and Gaz Middlehurst pounced to score. Lewis Palfrey the extras - the visiting supporters in stunned silence.

Then a huge free-play hack downfield from a dropped Hull KR pass had defenders scrambling - but Lewis Galbraith’s pass found a Rovers hand and play was returned to the scrum.

After quarter of an hour, Rovers hit their straps with three quick-fire tries in five minutes: Moss going wide by the flag; then a Minns double - his first a carbon copy of Moss’ effort, the second a slutchy one after a Hull KR hand looked to have knocked on a speculative bomb. Ellis useless with all three conversion attempts: 6-12.

Hornets regathered their composure: huge hits from Rob Massam and Gaz Middlehurst lifting the defence. Hull KR now looking long on errors and short on ideas. Then a peculiar decision from referee Mr Campbell. What looked for all money like a Rovers knock-on was given the other way and from the resulting posession Heffernan found space of a short ball to score. 6-18 at the break, the visitors flattered.

Hornets began the second half with a couple of errors, but dusted themselves down to produce a try of the highest quality: Gaz Middlehurst the peach of a pass to unzip the Robins’ defence, Danny Bridge the break up the channel and Danny Yates outpacing the cover to bring the main stand to its feet. Palfrey the two and a palpable momentum shift at 12-18.

Jo Taira was let-off his fumble in the first play of the kick-off set when Lewis Palfrey came up with a big 60 metre intercept to take Hornets back up field. And you could sense that the visitors were rattled when Ellis hoofed an attempted 40/20 out on the full. Hornets pressed hard. On 50 minutes, Danny Yates’ produced a teasing kick into the corner, Rob Massam just outreached.

On the hour another punishing Gaz Middlehurst hit was deemed high: Rovers took the two. You could almost hear the sphincters squeak at 12-20.

Hornets’ response was immediate. A brutally direct set drove Rovers backwards. Samir Tahraoui slammed in to be held just short and, from acting half, Ben Moores exposed the Robins' soft underbelly, mugging them for a smart try from acting half. Palfrey the two. 18-20 with 19 minutes to play. Just stunning.

Hull KR now on the back foot - unforced errors, Hornets forcing a drop out, caught in possession on the last tackle. Hornets pushing hard. But a ‘get-out-of-jail’ penalty on 75 minutes relieved the pressure and it took a moment of individual initiative from Lunt to save the day. Ellis the two 18-26.

As mentioned, a pedantic penalty after the hooter stretched Hull KR’s winning margin to ten points. We make that 100 grand per point in the winning marging that Hull KR have spent to edge past huge-hearted Hornets. Money well spent? Well you couldn’t see the difference on the day.

Ultimately, this one was billed as a clash of the Championship’s early pace-setters - and it didn’t disappoint. This was a gargantuan struggle in which Hull Kingston Rovers hinted briefly at what they might be capable of. But more importantly, it sent a message to the Championship that Rochdale Hornets are the real deal.