Monday, 13 February 2017

Strong-arm Hornets Win The Battle With The Cattle

Bradford Bulls 14 Hornets 22

I met a traveller from an antique land, 
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone 
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, 
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, 
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, 
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; 
And on the pedestal, these words appear: 
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; 
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! 
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare 
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
Percy Bysshe Shelley -1818

Shelley wrote Ozymandias as a treatise on fallen empires: how even the most powerful of superpowers will eventually buckle under the weight of their own hubris and become ground to sand. It is a story of vainglorious arrogance brought low, of monuments toppled. Of pomposity, entitlement and failure.

Indeed, 4,000 Bradford fans will be waking this morning to look on the remnants of their once mighty Bulls - and despair is a fitting response.

Brought low by profligate conceit, this ‘new’ Bradford were handed a lesson in focused determination by a Rochdale Hornets side that patiently ground the Bulls down with a display of ruthless attrition.

Facing conditions akin to arctic tundra, this was never going to be a classic - but a stronger, smarter Hornets rope-a-doped their flailing opponents for an hour before pounding the life out of them in the last quarter.

Hornets gifted the large partisan crowd the start they’d wanted: a loose carry in the first set, back to back penalties in their own 20m zone and Leeds loanee Lilley dinking a kick into the in-goal. The ball squirmed free for Thomas to touch down to give the home side an early - if fortuitous - lead. The home fans in a frenzy. Thomas hoofing the conversion attempt comedically wide from in front: 4-nil.

As Hornets settled, it became increasingly apparent that  - pretty much everywhere else on the field - Bradford were bereft of ideas: Hornets stern defence driving back a series of one-out drives.

On 15 minutes, Hornets produced a moment of clinical football: Ball shipped left, Danny Yates the flat drop-off pass, Miles Greenwood slipping through a static defence to level the scores. Lewis Palfrey the extras and Hornets with their nose in front. at 4-6.

With Bradford now in retreat, they shipped a soft penalty which Lewis Palfrey dispatched to stretch Hornets’ lead to 4-8.

With the game now locked in an old-skool arm wrestle, Bradford got themselves a lucky break: Lilley again providing the grubber, the ball pin-balling through limbs in the in-goal and Bentley diving in to score. Thomas on target and, somehow, Bradford in front at 10-8.

And Lilley was involved again just past the half hour when an attempted Jo Taira chargedown was deemed to have involved a shoulder. Taira shown the yellow-card; Thomas the penalty and Bradford into the sheds 12-8 up at the break.

The second half began with a stutter: given another penalty at the behest of the crowd, Thomas extended Bradford’s lead to 14-8. Hornets visibly cranked up the intensity. A brutally direct approach-set on 52 minutes ended with Samir Tahraoui bullying his way under the posts with a crowd of defenders clinging to him. Palfrey the extras : 14-all.

Then five minutes later, more dominant power from the Hornets pack, defenders sucked in to the middle and the ball worked left for Danny Bridge to crash through and score. 14-18.

In the final quarter, Hornets’ exquisite game management choked the life out of the Bradford resistance. Lewis Palfrey forcing the Bulls back under their own posts; solid defence limiting Bradford’s sets to 30 metres gained. And when the home side got sloppy, Palfrey cheerfully slotting an easy penalty: 14-20.

As Hornets went for the kill, Danny Yates’ drop-goal attempt struck a post. And with Bradford snagged offside in the dying seconds, Lewis Palfrey used up his whole minute, banging over the two after the hooter to give Hornets their first win at Odsal since November 1971.

Given the awful conditions, this wasn’t a pretty win - but what a win it was. Don’t be fooled by the scoreline: Bradford didn’t break Hornets defensive line once in 80 minutes with ball in hand. And when Hornets took the ball forward they drove Bradford backwards throughout - indeed there were easy metres up the guts of the home side all afternoon. And the number of metres gained after the contact was phenomenal.

In the end, it was the Hornets fans in full voice as the Bulls contingent streamed for the gates long before the hooter.

But, Jesus what a bunch of moaning, whiny, petulant spoilt brats the Bradford fans are: every Hornets pass forward, every play-the-ball offside, every tackle high. And their knowledge of the laws is pitifully poor - this is clearly a generation weaned on shouting ‘gerrem onside’ and cheering when the music plays. To paraphrase Graham Taylor: ‘did they not like it’ one bit.

Ultimately, if mindfulness requires you to live in the moment , this was a moment to savour. Hornets remain top of the Championship and - with a 16-point differential - Bradford now need to win NINE more games than Hornets to finish above us.