Drown and out
Leigh swim to victory as Hornets sink.
Poor ball control, an inability to exploit Spotland's new aquatic dimension
and an ineffective refereeing performance combined to cost Hornets dearly
in this close fought Challenge Cup tie.
In appalling conditions - worse even than in the league game at Hilton
park a few weeks ago - Hornets and Leigh slugged it out to settle matters
between the two sides once and for all.
The first half was messy and uncompromising, Leigh looking like the
conditions suited their 'blunt instrument' approach. Their sole tactic
in the opening quarter appeared to be 'wallop Paul Davidson until he retaliates'.
Under extreme provocation he resolutely refused to get drawn in, but he
was rattled - dropping the ball twice in his first two carries. Despite
Leigh's somewhat rudimentary approach, referee Silverwood was only shaken
into activity by a Hornets offside, which Turley dispatched to give Leigh
It was yet another innocuous Hornets offside - seen only by the referee
- that saw Dave Stephenson similarly dispatched to the sin-bin. Leigh saw
an opportunity and opened their try account - an astute McCully grubber
held up in the rising tide for Bretherton to dive in and score.
But Hornets dug in and - on 22 minutes - Tawhai worked a neat short
ball for Smith to hit at pace and stroll thorough a static Leigh defence
to score. Agar converted. But in typical fashion, Hornets threw away the
impetus - allowing the resulting kick off to scud into touch then standing
static at the scrum while Bristow threaded Willie Swann through to score.
Deficit restored in less than a minute. Shocking.
With the half - unlike the surface water - draining away, Paul Davidson
ran through the centre channel, finding James Bunyan with a neat cut-out
pass, the substitute winger crashing in to score. Agar repeated his touchline
feat from the game at Leigh to send Hornets in at 14-all at half time.
With the rain now relentless, Leigh began the second half in determined
fashion. Where Hornets seemed content to throw away posession under no
pressure, the Leythers played a tight safety first game that ground Hornets
back deep into their own territory. On 55 minutes the pressure told - Matautia
was allowed to get the bal away from the tackle, Turley made a rare attacking
contribution and his pass found Bristow who scored. Turley converted.
But Hornets couldn't really find a way back. Ball dropped early in the
tackle count plagued any attacking intentions, ref. Silverwood wrongly
penalised Brendan O'Meara on defence claiming that his sliding tackle that
took McCully into touch included a secondary effort and Leigh semed quite
happy to hoof the ball back to the Hornets 20 and defend the half way line.
Indeed it was a forced last tackle pass right on half way that saw Svabic
snaffle an interception and squelch 50 metres to effectively seal the game.
But there was still time for Mr Silverwood to deny Hornets a chink of hope.
With five minutes remaining the ball was worked to the non-stop Matt Calland
who steamed through his opposite number to plant the ball down. Silverwood
was happy, the touch judge 18 inches from the try was happy, but the referee
took the word of the touch judge 60 yards away that there had been the
slightest fumble in the previous play - unseen by anyone else in the ground
- and wrote the score off. Uproar. The ref. had been up with the whole
of the last play and had seen nothing. A scrum was planted and Leigh brought
the ball away unscathed.
With seconds remaining, Tawhai again put Smith through a huge hole;
he found Danny Wood in space enough to scoot round behind the posts and
score. Agar converted, but was too, too late.
Final score: Hornets 20 - Leigh 24.
So, over two swamp-based battles this season Leigh are proven to be
four points better than Hornets. But Martin Hall must be absolutely livid.
Hornets time and again handed over posession early in the tackle count
- the completion rate must be the lowest this season. And the side
brought nothing to the party at half back - fitting on such a damp day
that we couldn't muster a spark of creativity.
What this game does do is throw the credentials of both Leigh and Hornets
into sharp focus. Neither side played particularly well, but they are both
expected to make big waves in the NFP this term. And, with Doncaster stuffing
Shuddersfield, the team that gets its act together quickest and most consistently
should put itself in real contention.
As it is, Leigh go into the next round, Hally goes back to the drawing
board and Hornets fans go back to the league programme wondering precisely
when the potential in this team will actually be translated into