Sunday, 12 May 2019

Hornets Put In A Knight-Shift

Hornets 18 - York 24

There's not doubt that the outcome of this game feels like a corner turned. Ignore the fact that York clung on for a win that served to underline their credentials as an unconvincing third-placed outfit - forced into scrapping and scrambling by a patched-up Hornets side with its cracks grouted by loanees, trialists and players filling-in out of position.

While the high-flying Knights foundered and flailed (held, yet again, to a single second half try), Hornets looked organised, energised and workmanlike.

Hornets started with a bang: two Dan Abram 40/20s in the opening exchanges putting the visitors under early pressure, but it was the Knights who took the lead against the early run of play: working the ball tidily around the middle of a retreating defence for Marsh to score under the black dot, then full-back Bass making the extra man on a looping run from the back of the scrum for 0-10 after 16 minutes. York now with some momentum.

They capitalised on the quarter mark when Whiteley broke up the guts of the Hornets defence to be reeled in by Jack Johnson. But Hornets coughed-up a sloppy penalty on next play and York smuggled the ball wide for the otherwise hapless Mazive to find space by the flag.

Hornets continued to drive forward and were rewarded for their persistence on the half hour mark when a neat dink into the in-goal caught defenders napping, Lewis Sheridan quickest to react and get a hand on the ball. 6-14.

Having clawed their way back into the game, Hornets switched off with seconds of the half remaining: Bass reprising his extra-man role to score a carbon copy try to send the visitors in 6-18 up at the break.

The second half began with a flurry: Hornets applying pressure from a steepling Sheridan bomb, York contributing a knock-on. From the resulting play Joe Ryan was forced dead-in-goal to let York off the hook. Jack Johnson was then held-up in goal, but Hornets cane up with a poor last tackle option.

After 10 minutes of one-way traffic the pressure finally told: Liam Carberry hitting a flat-pass from acting half to crash through defenders and score. Abram the two and Hornets back in the race at 12-18.

Almost immediately, York produced a response: Blagbrough in off a short-pass after Robinson had stepped his way through the middle of the Hornets defence. 12-24: Hornets now in a 20 minute run chase. York's response? Go where they're comfortable - suck the daylight out of the game and turn it into a scrappy mess; happy to concede penalties and knock-ons to dissipate any possible momentum.

But Hornets strove to play what little lucid football remained. As the game drew into its closing phase, Hornets shipped the ball wide to Brandon Wood who showed great strength and determination to bypass Mazive and - somehow - plant the ball in the corner. Dan Abram a quality kick from the touchline and Hornets within range of a point at 18-24.

With 10 minutes remaining Hornets threw the kitchen sink at a York side happy to rope-a-dope their way to the final hooter. Their desire to park the bus almost backfired on 75 minutes when Dan Abram chased his own 50 metre downtown kick into the in-goal where Slater took an age to make his mind up: Abram a finger-tip away from the touch-down. York happy to concede a drop-out and stagger to victory.

Indeed, Hornets were the better side for long tracts of this game: enthusiastic, hard-working - enterprising, even. Certainly they looked organised and committed to the cause, which is a noticeable improvement.

As for York, if this is how good you have to be to be third in this competition, we can go into the second half of the season with at least some optimism. And with Swinton - at Blackpool - just round the corner, we can at least travel in hope.