Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Blue Monday

Swinton 23 - Hornets 22

There was to be no miraculous resurrection for Hornets on this horrible Easter Monday. Sucked into a shit-fight by a Swinton side desperate for only its second win of the season, Hornets' discipline crumbled to leave 12 men clinging to the wreckage of a draw as late as the 73rd minute.

Having ticked their way through the ‘I-Spy Book of Dumb Penalties’; having had Jordan Hand sin-binned after being targetted all afternoon; having had Jo Taira shown a red card after the use of an elbow long after the tackle was complete; having endured all of that, somehow Hornets had clawed their way back to the brink of a scruffy, scrapping game that would have tested the patience of the most ardent Rugby League saint.

Hornets started in unconvincing fashion: Miles Greenwood dropping a kick at the end of Swinton’s very first set to give Butt a walk-in try. Atkin the extras: Swinton 6-nil up before many had left the bar.

Hornets then succeeded in conceding a penalty from the kick-off possession, Swinton knocking on to let Hornets off the hook. But things got worse. Jordan Case bundled into touch was unfortunate, followed by a sloppy high-shot from Jordan Hand kept Swinton camped in the Hornets half. On 8 minutes, the intervention of a touch-judge saw a supposed lifting offence put on report: Atkin took the two for 8-nil.

Hornets’ poor start continued when Greenwood carried an aimless kick into touch, then Rob Massam uncharacteristically dropped a bomb under pressure: thankfully deemed tackled in-flight, the referee ruled no try.

Hornets did stutter into life briefly: but a poor pass from Lewis Palfrey went to ground with the Swinton defence in retreat. The error was compounded less than a minute later when Lewis Galbraith was pinged for holding down. Atkin took the 2: 10-nil.

Swinton dropped the kick-off: Hornets capitalised. A neat double-pump pass from Danny Yates sent Lewis Galbraith through tacklers to score. Lewis Palfrey on target and Hornets back in the contest at 10-6. Hornets closed the gap to 10-8 when Palfrey took the two after a high shot on Gary Middlehurst.

The remainder of the half became locked in a stasis of penalties and niggle: Hornets with the only clear chance when Rob Massam had a try struck off for a forward pass. On the hooter Hornets were gifted a penalty 30m from the posts. Lewis Palfrey hooking his kick-wide to send Hornets in 10-8 down at the break.

Hornets began the second-half brightly: Matty Hadden carrying deep into Swinton territory, a great break from Lewis Galbraith releasing Rob Massam, Yatesey’s pass put down by Lewis Palfrey. Hornets continued to press, but Lee Mitchell unable to reel in the ball in traffic.

On 48 minutes, Swinton’s Murphy went down horribly in a tackle and the game was delayed for 10 minutes while he received careful attention.

On resumption, Hornets recovered swiftest: Lewis Galbraith finding a miracle offload in the in-goal for Rob Massam to touch-down. Hornets in front 10-12.

Hornets went straight back on the attack, but whern Jordan Hand carried the ball into a tackle, the Swinton tackler hit the deck awkwardly (couldn’t see who it was from our vantage point). After another lengthy break for treatment, Hand was shown a yellow card. Swinton’s response was instant, shipping the ball left for Dwyer to score out wide. Atkins the extras and Hornets 16-12 and one man down.

Now with the momentum, Swinton went forward with purpose and when Bracek strolled onto a pass from 5 metres, he sauntered past some very ordinary goal-line defence to stretch the Lions’ lead. Atkin made no mistake, Swinton looking comfortable at 22-12.

Direct from the kick-off, Hornets’ job got even harder: Jo Taira dropping into a tackle with an elbow, the referee going to the back pocket, Hornets down to 11 men.

On 68 minutes Hornets finally opted to play some football, ball shipped wide for Rob Massam to score by the flag. Palfrey wide with the kick 22-16. Four minutes later we had a game on our hands when Samir Tahraoui was first to react to a loose ball in the Swinton in-goal. 22-20. Palfrey wide with the kick, but given a chance to redeem himself with a penalty after the conversion following a foul on Samir after grounding the ball. Palfrey on target from in front and - with 10 minutes remaining, 12-man Hornets had the game locked-up at 22-all.

But when Jordan Hand digged a Swinton player in the tackle, Alan Kilshaw removed him from the game before the referee did. From the resulting penalty Swinton were piggy-backed into drop-goal range where Atkin obliged to give Swinton the win.

To the neutral, this was a fiery, feisty local derby taken to the wire by two committed teams, but to those with an emotional investment it was a coach-killing tsunami of niggle, penalties and poor discipline.

Indeed, the week-off can’t come soon enough for Hornets. There’s a clear need to go back to the drawing board and rethink some key areas. Post match Alan Kilshaw said that there are some serious questions to be asked of both players and coaching staff. And, yes - just like Easter itself -  this is a real test of everyone’s faith and fortitude.