Sunday, 11 August 2019

Half Measures

Hornets 18 - Leigh 50

If games lasted 40 minutes, Hornets would be looking forward to another season in the Championship next year. But they don't. And we're not.

In a Jekyll and Hyde performance of contrasting character, Hornets delivered one of their most durable, intense and hard-working halves of the season. That it came on the back of a frighteningly bad first 40 minutes makes it even harder to swallow.

Shipping seven increasingly soft tries in a whirlwind first 30 minutes, Hornets made Leigh look like the Harlem Globetrotters as the Centurions either broke from distance up the guts of a flimsy defence, or handed their three-quarters walk-ins out on the edges.

Reynolds opened the scoring backing up Paterson after just three minutes, followed a similar period later by Higson with ample space to score out wide. A carbon-copy double from Cator and Brierley stretched the lead and, at 28-0, Leigh were running at almost two points a minute.

It got worse up Hornets' flaky right edge when Sa'u handed Marsh a walk-in, and you know things are really bad when Toby Adamson gets on the scoresheet.

With the half-hour ticking round, Thompson showed good pace for his try. Ridyard's conversion brought up the 40. It was hard to watch.

The only respite in the first 30 minutes came when Shaun Ainscough and Mickey Higham were sin-binned for a frank exchange of views that ended in a fraternal hug.

Hornets eventually managed a brief period of concerted, error-free football in Leigh's half, Dan Abram capitalising to step through a retreating Centurions defence to score. He added the extras too to send a shellshocked Hornets to the sheds at 6-40.

Hornets began the second half with noticeably more purpose. A couple of solid defensive sets became 10 minutes of stern resistance, became 20 minutes run which they frustrated Leigh and slowly crawled back into the contest.

Indeed, it was past the hour mark before Leigh found a way through - Ridyard hitting Adamson up Hornets' right centre channel for his second. The Centurions brought up the now customary half-century on 69 minutes - a peach of a delayed pass from Reynolds finding Paterson who showed a good turn of pace for a big man to romp home from 30 metres.

Unlike the first half, Hornets had a response: Aidy Gleeeson piling in for his maiden try from close range on 75 minutes. Dan Abram the extras.

Then, at the death, what is likely to be Hornets' try of the season: A Sa'u error, Shaun Ainscough stepping into space on his own 30 metre line and outpacing/out-stepping the chasing Leigh defence to score a screamer that had the Hornets' fans on their feet. Dan Abram hit the two: Hornets winning the second half 12-10. A rare positive.

In the wash-up, Leigh's lightning start did all the damage: too big, too fast, too strong and too smart. In Brierley, Ridyard and Reynolds they have three quick-thinking playmakers and, with all three firing, they effectively won the game with a half to spare.

Some shoots of optimism, though for Hornets. And with Toronto to come at the weekend (they battered second-placed York by 56 to 6 on Sunday), the fans making the trip will need every drop of positivity they can get their hands on.