Sunday, 10 June 2018

Being Boiled

Barrow 20 - Hornets 6

There’s an urban myth that claims if you put a frog into a pan of hot water it will jump out, but if the frog is put into cold water which is then brought to a boil by slowly increasing the heat, it will not perceive the danger and will allow itself be cooked to death.

And in the steaming heat of Craven Park, Barrow gradually turned up the second-half heat to leave Hornets realising far too late that the game as a contest was long dead.

Indeed in a locked-up, air-tight chess-game of a first half, there was no clue at all to just how this game would edge away from Hornets grasp.

With Dec Kay defusing an early aerial bombardment with aplomb, Hornets made rapid progress downfield where Seta Tala went close. Gifted a penalty for a late high shot on Danny Yates, Hornets worked the ball to Deon Cross who went over the line. After much debate, it was decided - we think -  that a double movement occurred: Referee Mr Smith somewhat light on clarity.

But Hornets continued to press - going wide on the last tackle only for the last pass to Rob Massam to be deemed forward.

With defences on top, flowing football was at a premium. Twice the home side had rare opportunities: the first ending with Rob Massam crash tackling his opposite number into touch, the second with Barrow knocking on with the line begging.

The first clear-cut chance of the half fell on 24 minutes to Barrow winger Toal, who coughed the ball into the in-goal when it looked easier to score. Dec Kay’s consequent break to half-way came to nought when he too knocked on.

Hornets were penalised for appearing to contest the resulting scrum and Barrow applied some concerted pressure: held-up over the line, then forcing a drop-out - then knocking on.

Both sides were now struggling to prise the game open: Deon Cross bundled into touch as he attempted a blind-side sneak; Barrow coughing the ball first tackle after Hornets had been snagged for obstruction playing an out-set in their own half.

In the end, it took Dallimore’s milking of a 35th minute penalty to break the deadlock: 2-nil.

As the half drained away, Rob Massam hit the defensive line with a punishing drive, Barrow’s Crellin got his body position all wrong and came reeling out of the tackle completely pole-axed. He was stretchered from the field after an extensive delay.

On resumption it was Barrow’s turn to get snagged for a ‘ghost obstruction’ - and there was just enough time left for Mr Smith to come up with a quite ridiculous penalty (Hornets exchange passes, Dallimore sticks a hand between and knocks on - Hornets penalised for obstruction. We know - us either…).

Dallimore banged over the penalty from in front and the teams retired to the sheds tryless at 4-nil.

A pretty good show all-round, we thought. a tight, combative contest…

The second half started with an error after just 40 seconds - a forward pass in the kick-off set, set the tone. Two minutes later Barrow pressed on the 20m line, but a Dec Kay intercept carried the ball clear - only for him to force a reckless pass to the lurking Smith. Barrow worked the ball wide where a three on-one on Rob Massam was enough for Hulme to score. 8-nil.

Hornets responded well with a direct set, but Deon Cross threw a crazy interception pass that Stack snaffled. Barrow’s set ended with Rob Massam knocking on under his own posts.

On 54 minutes Barrow hit Hornets with a real sucker-punch; Dallimore picking out Fieldhouse round the back of a scrum for a simple try. 12-nil.

On the hour, Barrow wunder-prop Bullock picked a path through the defence where Jo Taira had his back turned, aimed his not insignificant bulk at Danny Yates and Dec Kay and physics did the rest. 16-nil - and the game disappearing into the middle distance.

Hornets produced one moment of inspiration on 70 minutes: Tyler Whittaker with the break, dropping the ball onto his toe for Seta Tala to score (16-6).  Then Hornets dropped the kick-off…

After ten more minutes of Hornets ending good sets with poor options, there was just enough time left for Bullock to shove his way through four defenders to score the softest try of the day. The game, in the end won  - and lost - by a multitude of imperceptible incremental shifts.

The adjective most used after the game was ‘disappointing’. But we have to be careful that this game doesn’t become a metaphor for a season, where we’re slowly boiled but don’t notice until it’s too late. And where any chance of survival - like the frog - lies dead in the water.