Monday, 29 May 2017

Hornets Rock on Blackpool Debut

Oldham 28 - Hornets 38

Hornets made their debut at the Summer Bash with a performance that was as astonishing as it was welcome. Much like the rides on the Pleasure Beach it was a game of ups and downs, where you felt queasy at times, but afterwards wanted to go back and do it again.

In an archetypal game of two halves, Hornets produced a flawless second half display of poise, control and absolute domination, as Oldham ran out of steam to blow a 20 point lead for the second year running.

The early exchanges were pretty even, though.

On 8 minutes Turner followed a grubber into the in-goal to give Oldham the lead.  Leatherbarrow the extras: 6-nil

Oldham’s Clay coughed the kick-off and, from the drop-out possesssion, Hornets went wide right where Jake Eccleston slipped the ball out of the tackle for Miles Greenwood to score in the corner .

The game erupted into a flurry of blows on the 15 minute mark, Jo Taira and Oldham’s Lepori sent to cool off for 10 minutes. Oldham happy to take the penalty to stretch their lead to 8-4.

Hornets were the first to settle into a 12-man shape, going back to the right channel where, this time Lewis Palfrey found Jake Ecclestone who crashed through to score. Danny Yates wide with his second conversion attempt of the afternoon to tie the game up at 8-all.

On 25 minutes, Oldham got a lucky break when Langtree’s ‘chip and hope’ into the in-goal evaded defenders and attackers alike, Matty Hadden’s fluffed clearance attempt letting Oldham’s in-house irrirtant Tyson to sneak in and score. Leatherbarrow added his third goal for 14-8, Tyson blew kisses to the Hornets fans. How that would come back to haunt him…

Having conceded a sloppy try, Hornets seemed to fall apart: First Spencer up the guts of the defence to put Lepori in, then Langtree the provider to give Lepori a carbon-copy second and - out of nowhere, Oldham led 26-6 with half-time approaching.

Hornets offered their fans a chink of hope when Lewis Palfrey again exploited Oldham’s soft left centre channel, timing his pass perfectly to slip Jake Eccleston through a gap to send his side in trailing 26-12 at the break.

During the extended TV break, the mood amongst Hornets’ noisy following was one of frustration. But, whilst most clung to their optimism, what happened in the next 40 minutes would confound, amaze and delight the Hornets contingent - and ruin the weekend of all those associated with Oldham.

Whatever was said in the sheds at half time, it worked brilliantly. Yes, Oldham took an early penalty to stretch their lead to 28-12, but Hornets looked in determined mood.

On 48 minutes, Hornets changed the direction of attack - this time targeting Tyson up the left edge, Lewis Galbraith laying on a peach of a pass for Rob Massam to finish brilliantly by the flag: 28-16.

Hornets were now piling on the pressure and, after Jono Smith and Lee Mitchell had gone close, Ben Moores hit Oldham with a classic sucker-punch from dummy-half : Danny Yates on target to close the deficit to six points. Hornets now with the momentum - the Blackpool tide having turned.

With the hour approaching, Hornets moved the ball with menace deep in Oldham territory and, when Chris Riley smuggled the ball out of the back of a tackle, Lewis Palfrey produced a millimetre-perfect kick across field where Jordan Case gathered and twisted between defenders to score a top quality try. Yatesey Yates added the two to tie the scores at 28-all. Oldham now clinging to the ropes.

A rare Oldham attack saw them gain a repeat set off a charge-down, but almost immediately Leatherbarrow coughed the ball into in the arms of Lewis Galbraith, who hit the gas to score a spectacular 80 metre try that brought Bloomfield Road to its feet. Danny Yates added the two and -
following a chat with the video referee - Hornets were awarded an eight-point try, Yatesey adding the penalty from in-front to lead by 28-36. Astonishing stuff.

The last 15 minutes saw an increasingly impotent Oldham jab flaccidly at the Hornets defence with little sign of any meaningful intent. A late tackle on Yatesey was penalised and he happily took the two to extend Hornets lead to ten points. Oldham were placed on a team warning, their fans streaming for the exits. Beautiful.

As the Hornets supporters sang the clock-down, the game ended in yet another scuffle, Oldham’s Gee shown the red card to put the lid on a pretty lousy afternoon for the Roughyeds, Yatesey sin-binned, leaving the field to a hero’s ovation.

The hooter heralded ecstatic celebrations on and off the pitch as this result hoisted Hornets above Oldham in the Championship on points difference. And, whilst the Hornets contingent were put through the emotional wringer at Bloomfield Road, it was, ultimately, a truly amazing day to remember. Certainly there would have been some bad heads and some sore throats on Sunday morning.

From a playing point of view, this was a vital confidence booster. It showed that, when this team clicks, it’s capable of competing with anyone in the Championship and, looking at the quality of some of the other games, we’re the equal of any side in this league. We just need to believe that we are.

Onwards and upwards.