Sunday, 31 March 2019

Rec'd: Hornets Shatter Haven Cup Dream At The Death

Whitehaven 21 - Hornets 22

A smash & grab raid. A get out of jail free card. A sting in the tail. Roll out the clichés for this one because this game had an extraordinary twist that not one of the 889 people present saw coming.

Hornets trailed to a pugnacious, obdurate 'Haven side for 79 minutes and 59 seconds of this slow-mo car-crash of a game - but Dan Abram's conversion of his own sucker-punch try as the siren sounded was enough to whisk this cup-tie from under Whitehaven's nose.

With an eerie sense of deja-vu, the home side were up and running after just six minutes when Phillips raced onto a kick, caught Dec Kay off balance and skated in to score. Moore added the extras and the travelling Hornets contingent looked skywards.

Hornets did hit back when Ben Morris showed good determination to crash in and score. Abram the two and, briefly, Hornets had parity.

Offered the opportunity to take points, Whitehaven gratefully accepted, Holliday adding a penalty to regain 'Haven's lead.

Just past the quarter-mark the home side were gifted another boost: Dam Abram pedantically sin-binned for throwing the ball away. Given some of Whitehaven's somewhat agricultural tactics in the tackle, it felt like a bit of an over-reaction from referee Mr Rossleigh.

Haven took immediate advantage; shifting the ball wide where Moore made the extra man. Holliday raised the flags and 'Haven looked set to go to the break with an 8-point advantage.

But Hornets weren't quite done, producing an early contender for try of the season as Brandon Wood, Ben Morris and Dec Kay inter-passed through a back-pedalling home defence, Kay finishing with a stepping flourish to rouse the travelling support. Dan Abram added the two and at 14-12 at the break we suddenly had a game one our hands.

The second half, though, became mired in a near-stasis: both sides locked in a pig-ugly wrestle, with fluid football at a premium. The only respite was a pair of somewhat dubious penalties to Whitehaven, both dispatched by Holliday to extend his side's lead to 18-12 on the hour mark. Hornets now needing two scores to win.

On 70 minutes 'Haven's Forrester took the inevitable drop goal (which didn't really change matters) and, when Moore added yet another penalty on 74 minutes it looked like a done deal at 21-12.

But wait...

With three minutes remaining, Hornets worked the ball close to the 'Haven line where Shaun Ainscough bullied his way over to score: Dan Abram unable to add the extras from out-wide.

21-16 with one minute left on the clock.

Hornets then produced the set of the season: big metres made on approach, Whitehaven finding themselves shunted down the hill onto their goal-line, their defence stretched just enough for Dan Abram to exploit a chink of daylight and slip through under the black dot. Disbelief all round. Abram then the coolest head in the ground to slam home the conversion as the hooter sounded to give Hornets the lead for the first time.

If you're looking for positives, the stats tell an interesting story. Hornets out-scored Whitehaven three tries to two and kept 'Haven tryless in the second-half. On the down-side, 'Haven took 8 points from sloppy penalties and it was nearly - though not quite - enough to see them through.

Ultimately, a win is a win - especially in knock-out football. And you have to credit Hornets for going the whole distance to find a way to drag victory from the maw of defeat.

For 79 minutes and 59 seconds of this game it looked like Hornets would - once again - fall foul of the Recre' hoodoo. But these lads CAN run for 80 minutes and it's Hornets in the hat for the next round.