Sunday, 14 January 2018

Hard-Working Hornets take Wolves to the Wire

Hornets 10 - Warrington 24

It’s a long way from Caringbah to Spotland, but in the last six months that’s the journey taken by Warrington’s new coach Steve Price. Bumping into the former Illawarra St George Dragons coach before the game did require a bit of a double-take (last time we saw him was at WIN Stadium) - and his debut in the British game saw his Super League Wolves eventually overhaul a much improved Hornets in a close and combative contest.

Hornets started with real intent. An early ‘bump and break’ from Jo Taira saw him feed his fellow prop Matty Hadden through a flat-footed Wire defence from close range. Yatesey the extras, Hornets ahead of the clock and a decent Wolves following left shaking heads.

The visitors finally entered the fray after 8 minutes when a Lineham break and a no-look speculator was deemed to have hit a Hornets hand in flight. From the resulting scrum Johnson hit a short ball at pace to score. Ex- Sharks, ‘Dogs and Souths three-quarter Goodwin hit the spot to tie the scores.

With both sides exchanging frequent knock-ons, the game became a scrappy arm-wrestle.

On the quarter mark, Livett was forced into a last-tackle fumble by some determined defence. The Wire then gave away a sloppy penalty as Hornets turned up the heat, but Yatesey’s let tackle kick was just too long for Rob Massam.

In the next set a moment of old-stool slapstick as an Earl Hurst tackle shredded the shirt from Moran’s back, leaving the warrington player temporarily exposed.

An increasingly frustrated Warrington side began shipping penalties to give Hornets the momentum. On 25 minutes a shift to the left edge was only halted when Lineham knocked down the pass; then Hughes was shown the yellow card for a late shoulder on Danny Yates. Before he’d reached the bench, his side had coughed another penalty for interference 10 metres out. 12-man Warrington clearly rattled.

The recrimination for their behaviour was immediate: Hornets took the ball close to the line, where Ryan Maneely exposed some lazy marking to burrow in from acting half. 10-6.

Warrington got lucky from the kick-off, a swirling kick and a wicked bounce gave them good position in the Hornets half. Then a penalty gave them a strong attacking platform. Just past the half hour a grubber going nowhere was fumbled by Dec Kay and Livett snaffled the loose ball to grab a fortuitous try. Goodwin on target to edge Warrington ahead 10-12.

With the half running on fumes, former England prop Ben Westwood had a spectacular brain-fart: penalised for a clear double movement, he was then yellow-carded for dissent. We’re pretty certain that a sin-binning for back-chat in a pre-season game in Rochdale won’t make it into his career highlights.

Westwood’s act of extreme dumb-assery brought the half to a close: Hornets trailing by just the two points.

Warrington started the second-half with noticeably more intent; going wide to both edges early-doors to test a Hornets defence that scrambled well. But the pressure told on 50 minutes when King arrived at pace into space off an inside ball to bisect the defence and score. No mistake from Goodwin; 10-18.

On 54 minutes Ben Moores was snagged for one of the more bizarre penalties we’ve seen: interference with the tackler whilst in the act of playing the ball. We know - us neither…

As the game settled into a midfield struggle, Hornets found space to produce some tidy football: first some concerted pressure where makeshift stand-off Ben Moores’ last tackle dink was well handled by the Wolves defence. Then a mazy 60 metre break by Danny Yates  off a loose Wire pass - twisting and turning defenders en-route upfield, where Warrington gave away yet another soft penalty. Hornets turned the screw with some direct forward running, but  - again - the defence had the measure of Ben Moores’ kick.

Having matched their Super League opponents for long periods, the visitors full-time class and fitness finally told: a 75th minute shift to an edge for Prell to score by the flag. Goodwin with his fourth from four to give Warrington a 10-24 win.

In the wash-up, this was a fiercely contested, no-nonsense workout for both sides. Hornets looking much more cohesive and showing some mice touches; Warrington relying on their nous and class to pull then through.  In his post-match comments, Alan Kilshaw was pleased with the progress made this week.

As for Steve Price, he starts his UK venture with a win - and we can promise that it’ll get warmer. Eventually.