Saturday, 17 March 2018

Hornets Take Cold Comfort from Cup Win

Normanton Knights 8 - Hornets 20

It’s hard to win in games like these: in every sense. The underdog chucks the kitchen sink at you and will always come out of the contest with all the credit. In arctic conditions that numbed the senses, this was a game that singularly failed to spark  - and which froze to a near standstill as the weather (like the game) deteriorated into a swirling, icy mess.

It’s also a cup challenge to bear the relentless barracking of the community side’s fans - and, boy, do the Normanton crowd really love a moan and a swear. Every pass is forward, every tackle is high, every player is offside. And god forbid that you go down with an injury - you’ll just be called a ‘soft c*nt’ by the local crew of man-children who think that touch-judges are called ‘linos’ and that they can ‘flag’ for offside.

Hornets started with a bang as Rob Massam broke the defence direct from a scrum and sprinted 60 metres to score up the guts of the Knights. Lewis Palfrey knocked over the extras and Hornets’ 2018 Cup was up and running.

After just 6 minutes, though Gary Middlehurst was slow getting out of a tackle, removed from the fray with what looked like an eye injury. Fijian triallist Seta Tala was introduced for his Hornets debut.

Normanton then offered 15 minutes of stern resistance before Hornets carved a neat break up the left edge: Rob Massam eating up the metres before dropping off a tidy inside ball to send Danny Yates scampering home from 40 metres.

From the kick-off, Jo Taira’s fumble was compounded by a penalty for a Hornets hand in the ruck to give Normanton their first decent attacking platform, but a knock-on on the 2nd tackle enabled Hornets to stride downfield, where Dec Kay came chiming into the line as the extra man to score off a well executed last-tackle play. Lewis Palfrey the two and Hornets looking comfortable at 16-nil.

Around the quarter mark, the game entered a scrappy period, Hornets forcing passes, coughing up easy possession, helping Normanton build some pressure. And, when Hornets shipped a last-tackle penalty on the half hour, the home side went close: held-up on the 4th tackle. Needless to say, when Knights full-back Connor Wilson popped up in the right place at the right time to score on the half hour, the home fans were more than happy.

Hornets’ response was swift. A direct approach set took play close to the Normanton line; Dec Kay drawing defenders to the right edge. Hornets whipped the ball left, where Rob Massam raced through to score by the flag to put Hornets in control at 4-20.

But all the hard work was almost undone. Awarded a penalty as the hooter sounded for the break, Lewis Palfrey’s kick for touch went seriously awry; Hornets compelled to scramble and back-pedal to prevent what looked like a certain score. A poor end to a decent half.

In contrast, the second half was an ice-cold non-event.  Interspersed with horrendous snow flurries, in plummeting temperatures both sides struggled to make any meaningful progress, And as the game disappeared into the descending blizzard, Hornets error count began to mount. In a forgettable three minutes Lewis Palfrey produced a shocker of a last tackle kick, failed to make touch with a penalty for the second time and coughed up a penalty for obstruction.

With razor-sharp horizontal snow now slicing across Post Office Road Jo Taira gave up a soft penalty in possession, Lewis Palfrey hoofed a last tackle kick directly into touch and Normanton full-back Wilson followed a 70th minute kick into the in-goal for the only score of a wretched second half.

Being positive, this was a banana-skin avoided. Yes it was a poor game played in awful conditions, but the truth is that Normanton never looked like winning it and Hornets never looked like losing it. And as the fans headed home to defrost their extremities, Normanton took the plaudits for a game effort - but it’s Hornets in the hat for the Round Five draw.