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.