Monday, 5 June 2017

This is a Lo.

Sheffield 38 - Hornets 14

In Garry Lo, Sheffield have one of the most potent attacking weapons in the Championship - and his five try performance proved to be the unbridgeable difference between a well-drilled, but unspectacular Eagles and a Hornets side that worked hard and strove to play what little lucid football was on offer in this ugly pan-Yorkshire grind-fest.

Hornets started brightly, Rob Massam held just short after a looping run by Lewis Galbraith after just two minutes. But when the Hornets defence let Sheffield move the ball  - standing off Menzie Yere’s crabbing run - Lo stepped inside to open his account. Brown hoofed the conversion attempt wide.

Both sides exchanged aerial attacks - Rob Massam held up just short on the last tackle, Lo beaten by the pace of the ball - but it was a last tackle dink & hope into the in-goal that caused the damage: Miles Greenwood making a meal of the bouncing ball, Lo following up to touch down for his second. Awful.

The remainder of the half became an arm-wrestle, Sheffield repeatedly fed easy possession from a stream of Hornets errors and some peculiar decisions from referee Mr Roberts. But the defence held firm as Sheffield looked light on ideas beyond five drives and a kick into the in-goal.

Hornets’ persistence paid off with a minute of the half remaining: Danny Yates the provider, Jono Smith straight through the Sheffield defence to score; Lewis Palfrey with the extras on the hooter and Hornets back in the contest at 8-6.

The second half was an unpleasant contrast - and began as it meant to continue: Hornets knocking on on the 2nd tackle, then Yere playing the referee to gain a penalty: the Eagles producing a ridiculous cut-out-pass to Lo who blitzed through to score. Brown finding his range for 14-6.

On 49 minutes came the sixty seconds that effectively ended the game as a contest. Sheffield worked a simple overlap wide on the left for Yere to stroll in. Lo returning the kick-off from 65 metres for his hat-trick try.

On the hour, Sheffield got lucky: another punt and pray kick into the in-goal was heading nowhere and - when Minchella threw a flailing arm in the ball’s direction only to bounce it dead - Mr Roberts stunned the 351 present by giving the try.

Hornets hit back immediately: Jono Smith regathering the klick-off, slotting Rob Massam into space for him too outpace Flynn and score by the flag for 30-10. And he was in again soon after, booming in off a Jono Smith short pass for 30-14. Lewis Palfrey wide with the kick from pretty much bang in front.

On 75 minutes, Sheffield capped an agricultural performance with one of the ugliest tries you’ll ever see. With Jordan Case down in back-play, Sheffield broke downfield, Jake Eccleston tracking back to halt progress. And as the ruck descended into a melee, Lo snuck up the blind-side to score in the corner. Scrappy, horrible - but the whole Sheffield experience in microcosm.

With the last gasps of air wheezing out of the game, Sheffield went, one last time, to their only real strike option, and Lo obliged with his fifth try. Having said that it’s their only real option, it does seem to work every time. Indeed, it was said on the way back to the car that if we’d stiffed Lo after his first try, we might’ve won it with 12.

In summary, Sheffield are ugly to watch, but effective in a kind of blunt-instrument way. Their Championship experience gives them the smarts to know how to win - and Hornets are still on that learning curve. Indeed, the residual vestiges of Sheffield’s full-time experiment and a trio of Kumul internationals gives them a tough-to-beat edge.

Off the field, the Hornets fans put in a noisy shift - matching Sheffield in both volume and numbers. Indeed, with Sheffield’s future supposedly hanging in the balance, you have to wonder how much longer they can afford to invest in three clearly talented PNG internationals on crowds of 350. And, whilst they may beat Hornets now, our long-term future looks somewhat more certain than theirs.