Sunday, 2 June 2019

One for the Amnesiacs.

Batley 38 - Hornets 18

In 10 years' time, the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup will be the answer to a trivia question alongside the Captain Morgan Trophy, the Amoco Cup and the Buddies Cup as another half-forgotten Rugby League knock-out competition that got ditched because it got in the way of the real business of league football.

History will show Hornets' involvement to have been brief. Sunday afternoon at Mount Pleasant saw Hornets and Batley spar their way through a low-octane affair in which pretty much everyone involved looks like they could have found something more useful to do. Except Referee Mr Pearson, who joyfully whistled his way through a 9-6 penalty count that, at times, threatened to drag an already slow game to a standstill.

From a Hornets point of view, the damage was done in the third quarter of the game when Batley plodded four tries up the hill in just 15 minutes to leave Hornets chasing the shadow of the ghost of a game that wasn't really there any more.

Batley opened proceedings after just 4 minutes. Hornets had fumbled the ball in their first set, compounded it by conceding a penalty and, off the last tackle, the Bulldogs fed 'The Hardest Working Man In Rugby League' James Brown in for a close range try.

After a scrappy period of knock-ons, cheap penalties and some freestyle interpretations of the laws, Hornets' cogs clicked on a rare foray into Batley territory: Oscar Thomas producing a neat flat-pass to send in his half-back partner Zac Baker. Dan Abram slotted the extras and Hornets had an uphill lead at 4-6.

Hornets responded with a first tackle knock-on.

On the quarter-mark, Batley got their noses back in front when Galbraith picked his way through a retreating defence; Jouffret the conversion for 10-6.

Hornets responded well: a Zac Baker bomb fumbled by Brambani, a little concerted pressure, and Brandon Wood scrambling through defenders to plonk the ball over the line. Dan Abram with the two off the whitewash to regain the lead at 10-12.

Hornets responded by cocking-up the kick-off to concede a drop-out. Luckily Batley couldn't capitalise. And, just when it looked like Hornets would take a lead into the break, Brambani hoisted a speculative kick into the in-goal, where Downs found no challenge forthcoming to score an easy try. Jouffret with the conversion to give the home side a 16-12 lead.

The first 15 minutes after the break were a bit of a disaster, as Batley produced a four-shot combination that effectively sealed the game. On 45 minutes: gifted a fortunate possession at a scrum after having appeared to knock-on, Bulldogs' Hooker Leak sneaked in from acting-half. On 49 minutes: simple interposing was enough to send Brambani skating in. On 54 minutes - having conceded a penalty in possession - Hornets backed-off Manning all the way to the goal-line (32-12). And, finally, Jouffret scoring off a loose-ball after Mr Pearson saw a Hornets defensive knock-on in the build-up. 20 minutes to play: 38-12.

Hornets responded briefly: Shaun Ainscough in at the corner after good hands going right; Dan Abram - again - off the touchline. Consolation: just.

The last 20 minutes played out like an obligation being fulfilled; the game over as a contest and both sides with looking like they wanted out. To add insult to injury, the heavens opened too. A metaphor for the mood.

Having played almost the ideal first-half up the slope, Hornets squandered a great platform for progress in one sloppy quarter - the positive being that we can now focus on the league.

All-up an afternoon to forget.