Monday, 5 August 2019

Bye-Bye-ee Five-O

Hornets 26 - Batley 50

Poor James Barran. Through no fault of his own, the tyro Wigan halfback made his debut for Hornets to become the fiftieth player to have pulled on the shirt this season. And in celebration, Hornets shipped yet another half century of points to fade out of the Championship with barely a whimper.

And the pattern was eerily familiar: a strong, controlled first half followed by a soft, shambolic second half in which Batley scored 32 points.

There was hope amongst the long-suffering Hornets faithful that this game just might yield the last opportunity for a win this season, but - again - they had to stoically swallow what little faith they have remaining and make do with applauding a 'brave effort'. But at this level, it has to me more the just 'the taking part' that matters.

Having conceded the first penalty of the game, Hornets got settled and played some nicely constructed football: sets completed, kicks to corners - if you squinted a bit, it was just like the old days of three years ago.

On 6 minutes, Batley were split by a big Zac Baker break, the visitors only response, a last tackle penalty. Hornets went wide with a big cut-out pass where Batley's Pound Shop Vin Diesel™ Reittie managed to tip the ball dead.

Hornets continued to press and, on 10 minutes, shuttled wide on the right where Kyle Shelford proved too strong for Galbraith to score. Dan Abram hit the upright with the kick.

The score seemed to jab Batley into life. On a rare foray into Hornets territory, Jouffret took advantage of James Barran's enthusiasm to get off the line to step through and score from 10 metres. Jouffret the extras for 4-6.

Hornets' response was immediate: pressure built in the Batley half, Izaac Farrell the teasing kick and, this time, Daley Williams too quick and too strong for Galbraith to gather and score. Hornets edged ahead 8-6.

On the quarter mark, Batley were gifted good field position after a shoddy carry by Zac Baker and had a brief spell of pressure. But just when it looked like the Bulldogs were completely out of ideas, the Hornets defence switched off on the last tackle to let Reittie score a trade-mark pile-in try. Jouffret stroked home the kick for 8-12.

Hornets, again, hit back. This time a jinking break from Dan Abram set-up Lewis Sheridan who planted the ball under the black dot with virtually his first touch of the ball. Abram slammed home the extras to put Hornets back in front.

But the joy was short lived.

Within two minutes Batley were camped on the Hornets line, where Yates hit a fast-approaching Brearley with a flat ball for the most rudimentary of tries. Jouffret on target to edge Batley ahead.

Hornets were then snagged offside at the kick-off. Just awful. Thankfully some good scrambling defence took Hornets to the break just four points adrift.

Any optimism of a good outcome evaporated within five minutes of the restart. Hornets coughed a cheap penalty within 90 seconds, Batley scoring two tries in just two minutes: firstly Broadbent in at the flag of a cut-out pass not so much telegraphed as sent by pigeon. Then Broadben turning provider - nice break, topped off by a neat inside ball to Jouffret for his second. Hornets now chasing down a 14 point deficit with 35 minutes remaining.

Having regathered the kick-off, Hornets did get the ball over the Batley goal-line, where a pack of Bulldogs showed smart-thinking to keep Ben Kilner on his feet and simply walk him over the dead-ball line to get a 20m restart.

For a spell, Hornets looked to have steadied the ship. Good defensive shape held Batley at bay and  James Barran even unfurled a pinpoint kick behind a flat-footed Batley defence for Isaac Farrel to touch down and temporarily reignite hope.

It was extinguished immediately: the usually redoubtable Lee Mitchell with an uncharacteristic fumble from the kick-off possession; Batley working a quick shift right straight from the scrum for Broadbent to score. You had to watch it through your fingers.  Wood the extras for 20-34.

Now with the momentum, Batley produced another three-minute two-punch combination. The first came from a frankly awful decision by referee Mr Mannifield. Batley knocked on coming out of yardage, the gathering Hornets player hauled into the in-goal. Batley given the scrum. As bad a decision as we've seen this season.

Batley didn't care though, working the ball wide for Reittie's second. Wood on target with the kick.

The second came courtesy of some slack, sloppy defence: Hornets napping one step left of the ruck where 'The Hardest Working Man In Rugby League™' James Brown got on up to walk the ball over untouched. Too, too easy...

On 70 minutes, Dan Abram did grab a deserved try and adding the extras but it felt like cold consolation.

At the death, Batley brought up the big Five-O as Reittie strolled in for his hat-trick after Hornets had knocked on. Hornets' lousy season in microcosm right there, folks.

And that's that. Hornets wave a limp bye-bye to the Championship with four games to go having conceded over a thousand points.

With Leigh, Toronto, Halifax and Bradford to come, the prospect of an average points against of 50 is now a real possibility.