Monday, 6 January 2020

Positive Chemistry

Hornets 24 - Widnes 34

In contrast to the dreich conditions, Hornets hearts were warmed by a performance that hinted at better things to come for Hornets' long-suffering loyalists. Whilst it's hard to glean any sense of shape in a heavily rotated 25-man squad, there were flickers of real potential - not least in the fact that this 2020 model knows how to score points.

Hornets came up with four well-taken tries - interestingly, all from forwards - with new skipper Sean Penkywicz grabbing two proper poacher's tries from a total of three metres. Nice.

Indeed, Penky looked the part at the heart of the new-look Hornets, with a perpetual-motion performance that earned him the man-of-the-match award from the press benches. But it was far from a solo performance. He was ably supported by fellow forwards Andy Lea and Luke Fowden who took the side forward - and Sean Mulcahy who put himself about enthusiastically during his stint.

Widnes opened the scoring after just 7 minutes having forced an early drop-out: Cooper picking a line off a flat pass. But Hornets responded well.

A Sean Penkywicz break had the Widnes defence back-pedalling and Andy Lea capitalised to crash in under the black dot. Sam Freeman dinked over the extras to tie the scores after 15 minutes.

Parity lasted just two minutes: Widnes clinically punishing a rare first half error to send Buckley in by the flag.

Again Hornets' response was direct. The Lea/Penkywicz combination reversed this time: Penky ducking in from close range after Andy Lea had taken the ball to the goal-line. Sam Freeman with the two - and Hornets ahead just past the quarter mark.

The Vikings restored their lead on 25 minutes with a try from Dwyer and, as Hornets shuffled the backline to cover Ryan Bradbury's shoulder injury, they worked the ball right for Buckley to score a carbon copy try up the right edge. Edge added the two to send Widnes to the sheds 22-12 up.

As both coaches began to rotate their sizeable benches, the second half was a scrappier, more error-strewn affair. But Widnes settled the faster of the two sides: Wilde and Brookes with a quick-fire double to give the visitors an ominous 12-34 lead.

But as the game fragmented, Hornets took advantage. Just before the hour a teasing grubber bounced back off the foot of a post, where Sean Penkywicz was first to react and score (Matt Whitehead the two). In quick succession, another teasing kick was snaffled by Adam Hesketh to bring Hornets within 10 points.

Though the final quarter yielded no further points, it gave with coaches the opportunity to run the rule over more triallists - with the gathering gloom of a wet Pennine winter adding to the lack of fluidity.

In the end, a good blowout for Matt Calland's Hornets. Lots of effort on show from all involved - and some flickers of quality from what has the makings of a physical, mobile pack.

For us - result notwithstanding - as good an outcome as we could have expected (certainly, there looks to be a nascent gameplan - good last tackle options just one example) and this was reflected in the post-match positivity.

Next up is the Law Cup against an Oldham side that edged home in their pre-season opener at Barrow. We can't wait.