Monday, 28 May 2018

Summer Bashed

Hornets 12 - Swinton 38

BATTERED: Philosophy is a dish
best served with chips
Philosophy finds you in the strangest of places - and if ever a Hornets performance required you to be philosophical it was this car-crash at the Summer Bash.

Queuing in the rather excellent C-Fresh chip-shop post game, the guy behind the counter revealed himself to be a perspicacious philosopher with a deep insight into the human condition.

“What happens in Blackpool,” he said whilst counting out the mushy-pea fritters, “stays in Blackpool”.

And in the aftermath of Hornets’ clunking collapse under the gaze of the world’s TV cameras (yes, we received a couple of texts from exiled Hornets in the Antipodes asking “WTF happened there?”), it’s advice that we could all do well to heed.

Though in this context, it’s a big ask. The roller-coaster of being a Hornets fan demands that you suffer the lows of, say,  Whitehaven so that you may enjoy the modest heights of winning at Dewsbury - but those points on a season’s map go mostly unnoticed. The Summer Bash, however, shoves clubs used to playing beneath the cloak of anonymity blinking into a global media spotlight - an unforgiving Sauron’s Eye that reveals you to the world for extreme scrutiny.

And it’s that level of brutal exposure that makes leaving this ‘happening’ in Blackpool a bit of a struggle.

The first half gave little indication of what was to come. Swinton hit the front when Waterworth mugged a switched-off defence after 8 minutes, then Hansen coughed the kick-off to give Hornets possession deep in Lions territory; Lepori slotted in at the corner with some neat passing 90 seconds later.

Six-all after 10 minutes; all very tight.

From here, though, both sides struggled to find any real rhythm as the game became a scrappy shambles in which completed sets came at a premium: Hornets probably just shading it on ‘artistic interpretation’, looking more keen to at least move the ball around before dropping it.

With both sides looking desperate for half-time, Swinton conjured up a moment of rare lucidity that launched Tyson through four sloppy tackles to score. Swinton ahead at the break by 12-6. Shrugs all-round - Hornets fans thinking aloud that they’d seen their side come back from a greater deficit last year.

What they hadn’t reckoned on was that, by the time Hornets next troubled the scoreboard, Swinton would have slammed 26 unanswered points through an increasingly fragmented defence.

Swinton began the second half with noticeably greater purpose - and when Barlow slipped a neat ball for Hope to score just two minutes after the restart, hearts sank.

The next half hour was hard to watch. On 47 minutes Tyson slumped in from a metre - the video referee convinced he got the ball down despite no real evident to prove that.

On 53 minutes Paisley returned an awful grubber kick fully 95 metres before being reeled in and hauled down by Richard Lepori - only for Woods to score on the next play after Deon Cross’ attempted interception slipped agonisingly from his fingertips.

Then just past the hour Hankinson fed Paisley into a hole to score from close range and Swinton racked the cue at 38-6.

For the remaining 20 minutes Hornets crashed around in search of a break: Dave Allen producing a very similar effort to Tyson’s ‘doubtful’ try earlier, only this time the Video Ref seeing something entirely different.

By the time Jonah Cunningham dropped in for a 75th minute no-consolation-at-all try, Hornets fans were already contemplating the lure of a chippy tea in the last of the afternoon’s sun, another lovely weekend ruined by a wretched result.

And it was wretched - reflecting poorly on the team, the club and its fans. Not only was this a chance to get this challenging season back on some sort of track, it was a rare chance for Rochdale Hornets to make a good impression with the eyes of the sporting world on us.

In the face of such disappointment, just about the best anyone can do is act on the words of the Sage of the C-Fresh Chip-shop.  Put this one down to a terrible mistake, move on - and never speak of it again.

If you’re feeling particularly masochistic , you can watch the highlights here.
Sky Sports Highlights