Monday, 24 February 2020

Hornets in the wars, but win the battle.

Hornets 54 - British Army 10

Hornets summary 50-point shoeing of the British Army to progress into the 5th Round of the Challenge Cup came at a hefty price. Hornets had wingers Dale Bloomfield and Shaun Ainscough taken to hospital with concerning injuries; the former for a scan on a neck injury, the latter for what looked like a nasty knee and ankle combination.

Forced into a backline reshuffle, Hornets stuck to their task, though. And as the penalty count crept towards the 30-mark, they remained resolutely professional to win the second half 34-nil.

But it started so very differently. Hornets coughed-up the kick-off possession, Scott dinked the ball into the in-goal and Holmes touched down. The Army ahead after just 90 seconds - but that was pretty much the last threat of a shock.

Hornets' response was pretty direct. On the back of two penalties Hornets produced a good approach set: Andy Lea slotted in after some nice work by Jordan Syme.

Hornets were in again just five minutes later - a swift shift wide for Ben Calland to score unopposed out wide (10-4).

Hornets looked to be in again on 15 minutes when Dale Bloomfield finished stylishly by the flag, only for the officials to spot a forward pass.

The game becoming disjointed due to the escalating penalty count suited the Army and they continued to plug away to no avail. So Hornets sent in the big guns: Sam Hopkins blasting through the guts of the Army's defence to score from 30 metres. San Freeman the extras for 16-4.

On the half hour, Referee Mr McMullen had had enough of the Army's spoiling tactics and put the visitors on a team warning for persistent infringements.

From the penalty, Hornets marched upfield where Andy Lea trickled a grubber into the in-goal for Shaun Ainscough to pounce. 20-4.

With the hooter looming, the Army gave it one last big push. A sloppy Hornets tackle gave them the penalty that took them close: Beevor barging in from close range to score, Roche the extras. Half time 20-10 - the game given the veneer of a contest.

The second half was a different story altogether. Hornets shot out of the blocks with Jamie Tracey on the spot to gather a Sam Freeman offload to score after less than a minute.

After a lengthy delay due to Ainy's injury, Hornets went straight back on the attack: good hands right for Ben Calland to grab his second. Sam Freeman the two for 32-10.

On the hour mark Hornets applied some sustained pressure on the Army line - working the ball o the left edge for Jack Higginson to shrug off defenders to score. Sam Freeman on target from the touchline for 38-10.

Then a rapid-fire Hornets double whammy: good hands wide for Ben Calland to grab his hat-trick, then Adam Hesketh too big, too fast and too strong for a flagging Army defence (48-10).

With the game ebbing away, Hornets once more drove the Army into retreat, where Jamie Tracey skated through for his second try of the day. Sam Freeman landed his seventh goal from ten attempts and Hornets were home and hosed at 54-10.

There's no doubt that this was a tricky banana skin. The Army side are big, fit and - obviously - combative. But once the game began to slip away, they reverted to survival mode and strove manfully to suck every last ounce of momentum out of the game.

While Hornets struggled at times to maintain their rhythm, they were patient and direct - Matt Calland's big pack setting a solid platform for victory.

So, as Hornets go into the hat for Round 5, it's clear to see that this team has points in it: another half-century putting the result up there with the best of the weekend. And with plenty of tougher battles to come, Hornets can progress with confidence.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Storm Sam blows Acorn's cup chances


Forced round the M60 by a high-tide at Spotland, Hornets comfortably avoided a Challenge Cup banana-skin, seeing off York Acorn by a 44 point margin.

Despite some moments of sloppy application, Hornets had way too much in the tank for the NCL Premier side: Sam Freeman leading the way, scoring more than half of Hornets points singlehandedly.
With two tries and a flawless nine goals from nine attempts in horrendous kicking conditions, his virtuoso performance began after just two minutes when a stepping run to the line left Acorn defenders mesmerised.

Hornets were over again just five minutes later when a fumble from a kick gave them good field position, and Jamie Tracey bumped off defenders to score. Hornets ahead of the clock.

Some desperate defence from Acorn kept Hornets at bay until the quarter mark, when Lewis Sheridan embarked on a scuttling dash through defenders to somehow get the ball down.

On the half hour, referee Mr Sweet sought advice from his touch-judge for a robust tackle, followed by a skirmish - Jamie Tracey shown a yellow card.

A man short, Hornets responded  by creating a huge overlap on the left edge for Dale Bloomfield to score. Sam Freeman's wind-adjusted conversion off the whitewash was exceptional stuff.

Hornets closed the half as they'd begun: Lewis Sheridan the teasing run, Sam Freeman the try. Half time 30-nil.

Hornets started the second half with intent. Sharp and direct up the right channel, Ben Calland extended his arm, but landed just short. Next play Shaun Ainscough proved too powerful from close range. This time, Sam Freeman slamming the ball hard and low over the bar into the teeth of the gale.

Five minutes later Ben Calland got his try after some nice approach-work, followed to the line three minutes later by Adam Hesketh - too big and too strong from close range. Hornets 48-nil to the good with 20 minutes to play.

Acorn then produced their best 10 minutes of the afternoon. Sustained pressure saw Gallacher drift wide and step back inside to score to the delight of the travelling fans. Hornets then made a hash of what looked like a poor kick going nowhere. From the resulting set, Acorn sent in Hardcastle from close range.

Hornets had the final word, though: a neat interchange of passes up the left flank saw Dale Bloomfield feed Jack Higginson in for the try that took Hornets over the 50. Sam Freeman landing his ninth from nine to take the man of the match plaudits.

All up, you'd have to try hard to complain about this one. In challenging conditions - and featuring more debutants - Hornets looked solid and efficient. Yes, there were a couple of shoddy moments and yes Hornets switched off for 10 minutes at 48-0 nil, but this was a case of getting the job done.

Hornets now face the British Army in the next round - they saw off Ince Rose Bridge in their previous tie and, with a handful of Fijians in their side, look like a handy outfit.

Pray for a dry week - and we might just get to play them at home.