Sunday, 3 June 2018

Hornets Turn Up The Heat As Swinton Set The Bar Low

Swinton 18 - Hornets 25

On a hot day at Heywood Road, Hornets stepped off the bottom of the Championship with this battling win against a Swinton side that had come to scrap. This was an ill-tempered encounter - instigated mostly by Lions’ walking anger-issue Josh Barlow -  the bearded barmpot who not only spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin for running into a fracas, but who also talked himself into a red-card for dissent late in the game.

Indeed, Barlow set the tone for the game. As Hornets strove to play football around Swinton’s histrionics, the home side niggled, griped and left something in pretty much every tackle. Jonah Cunningham and Gary Middlehurst’s blood-soaked head injuries evidence of some fairly agricultural treatment.

Swinton pressed hard in the early stages, repelled by some tough Hornets defence. But when Tyler Whittaker stepped into daylight on half way after 15 minutes with a mercurial break, he found Danny Yates on his inside to give Hornets the lead. Whittaker the extras for a 0-6 lead.

But it was short-lived. Hornets loose-carried the kick-off, Swinton worked the ball to Lloyd and he found space to score. 4-6.

Hornets went straight back on the attack. Some tasty approach allowed them to build some pressure on the Swinton line, and when Ben Moores took a sideways step to create some space on the quarter-mark, his neat pass found Gary Middlehurst who reached through a tangle of defenders to score. Whittaker no mistake, 4-12.

Hornets were in again on the half hour after Tyler Whittaker had been deemed held-up in the in-goal. The ball was shipped to Rob Massam who piled through three defenders to score out wide. Whittaker a great conversion from the touchline and Hornets in complete charge at 4-18.

The introduction of Barlow saw the game take a turn for the worse - and when he went steaming into a brawl just after the half-hour he was given ten minutes to consider his actions. To say that Stuart Littler wasn’t pleased is a bit of an understatement.

As it was the 12-man Lions bickered and battered their way to the break: Hornets ahead and good value for their lead.

Hornets began the second half in comedic fashion - retrieving the kick-off Chuckle-Brothers style “to me, to you” as the ball bobbled around. Mr Grant decided someone was offside, but Swinton couldn’t capitalise.

Instead Hornets marched straight downfield where Tyler Whittaker, Danny Yates and Dec Kay ran a sublime line to feed Deon Cross into space to score. Whittaker with the two. Hornets Looking good at 24-4 - Hankinson’s try for the home side on 55 minutes looking like consolation at 24-8.

The game then locked-up. Swinton steadying the ship, Hornets forced into multiple changes now struggling for rhythm. Indeed, when Hornets elected to take the two on 65 minutes it looked like sensible shout, but Whittaker under-hit his effort for his only miss of the afternoon.

On 73 minutes Swinton produced their one moment of innovation: Hankinson’s kick from the base of the scrum, the gathering Tyson reeled in by a terrific tackle by Richard Lepori, but the home side first to react - Lloyd scoring a sitter through a stretched, retreating defence: 12-24.

Tails-up, Swinton sniffed an opportunity, but when Barlow barrelled his way to the corner-flag only to be bundled dead-in-goal, he opened a fire-hose of profanity at the touch-judge. Mr Grant showed him the red card and Barlow got an early shower and a five minute start on the buffet.

Hornets’ response was to put the game to bed. The pack piled the ball downfield, Yatesey feigned left, the ball shipped right and Tyler Whittaker there coolest head on the field to slot home the drop goal.

There was just enough time for Hankinson to score a late one for the Lions - his dink into the in-goal pinballing twixt legs and post, before he touched down amongst the mayhem.

But it mattered not. Despite two late tries giving this the veneer of a contest, Hornets were by some distance the better side. The improvement on the previous week was vast - the returning Ben Moores providing a solid anchor at the ruck.

In game where several players caught the eye (debutant Jack ‘the’ Fox looking very useful with ball in hand), we chose Tyler Whittaker as our man of the match. In the end, his contribution proved the difference on the scoreboard, though he was ably supported by a gutsy team performance.

We wrote last week that a win at all costs was imperative - and the lads delivered. The bar is set: and we move on to Barrow.