Monday, 10 September 2018

Hornets Succumb to the Weight of Numbers

Batley 26 - Hornets 12

“Hear the unforgiving sound of cold mathematics making its move on me now”
Mathematics, Cherry Ghost.

And so, the 2018 season’s equation is finally conjugated. With six points left to play for and Barrow seven points away, Hornets could no longer balance the weight of dropped balls, missed tackles, forced passes and daft penalties with an equivalent amount of ‘trying hard’.

In addition, any game at Batley is an act of trignometry - the sum of both sides pitted against the hypoteneuse of  Mount (un)Pleasant’s infamous slope - and, for 65 minutes, Hornets looked like they’d found a way to solve the problem, only for Batley to find enough muscle memory to wrest the game away in a late, late charge.

Playing uphill, Hornets began slowly: switching off after a dubious Batley scrum, allowing Rowe to come barreling in to score after just three minutes. Scott knocked over the extras - an inauspicious start.

On their next visit to the Hornets line, Batley were in again: this time Campbell out-jumping Deon Cross to score. 10-minutes: 10-nil - not great.

But as the heavens opened, Hornets crawled back on top of the game: forcing a drop-out off a Yatesey kick through, then a penalty for interference that gave them a chance to turn the screw - only for the set to end with a pretty ordinary kick caught on the full in the in-goal.

With the rain now pounding down, Richard Lepori showed his class under a steepling bomb, his crisp catch  multiplied by a great jinking break up the guts of the Batley defence. Hornets handing over on the Batley line. Better.

Now striving to extricate themselves from the arm-wrestle, Hornets went aerial for Jack Fox, but the kick fell too far from the goal-line to pose any real threat. And with the half hour approaching Hornets moved the ball swiftly only for Seta Tala to fumble. Frustrating.

With Batley now struggling to make any meaningful headway, they shipped back to back penalties. Hornets response was clinical. Lee Mitchell dropped a shoulder, Morgan Smith found a top-class cut-out pass and Jack Fox strolled in at the flag unopposed.

Half-time 10-4: the myth of Batley’s 12-point slope well and truly busted.

The third quarter became a grind: bothg sides struggling for fluidity. The only respite a Batley penalty hoisted wide, but as the hour mark approached Hornets produced some of their best football of the season. With Batley’s Manning sin-binned for a late-shot, Hornets made the numerical advantage count. On 60 minutes, Deon Cross picked-out with another great cut-out pass, stepping outside his opposite number to score in style.

Five minutes later, a quite sublime piece of skill and awareness from Toby Adamson - drawing every defender within 10 metres to him and, as they gathered, producing a delightful drop-off pass to the circling Deon Cross who stepped inside to score. Hornets ahead with 15 to play - maths in our favour as, elsewhere, Dewsbury were beating Barrow and Leigh were pounding Swinton.

900 seconds remaining for Hornets to stay alive for another week…

With the clock ticking down and the main-stand now bleating at every tackle, Batley finally found the wherewithall to force a drop-out, Their blunt-instrument response was direct and effective -  run a big-lad at a small lad: Gledhill trundling in from 10 metres. Walker the extras 16-12 - and a palpable momentum shift.

Four minutes later, Walker uncurled a kick into Jack Fox’s blind-spot, where pound-shop Vin Diesel Reittie gathered to score: 20-12.

With an exhausted Hornets now reeling from this late flurry, Batley went back to Plan-X - Smeaton hitting a flat-ball at pace to crash in. Walker the two for 26-12.

The sum completed.

Again - like so may times previously - this was a case of so close, yet so far. Hornets playing the perfect game for 65 minutes, only to lose the thread when it really mattered.

Indeed, the frustrations we’ve all experienced this season have, at times, been multiplied by the fact that this side can clearly play - but it’s the tiny percentages in the moments that matter that really cost us.

In the end, you can’t argue with the League Table. It’s a zero-sum game and the numbers don’t lie.