Hornets vs Royals - 03/04/2017.
A beautiful day at Forest Park for the kickoff of the 2017 spring Cup season saw a top of the table clash between the league-leading undefeated Hornets and last years champs the St. Louis Royals. It was the Hornets first game after the winter break while the Royals have had some tune-up matches. The Hornets got off to a great start when Brad Bearden made a crunching tackle off a kick-chase and forced a penalty turnover. The Hornets found touch deep inside the Royals 22, but unfortunately squandered a great scoring opportunity with a lineout turnover – a recurring theme throughout the afternoon. The early wake-up call shocked the Royals into action as the methodically marched down the field with a great ability to win their own rucks, retain possession, and eventually catch the Hornets short-handed in scramble defense. After several minutes camped out inside the Hornets 22, the Royals eventually found some space off a quick tap penalty for the games first try. Conversion made it 7-0 to the Royals after 7 minutes. The Royals continued to pressure the Hornets with smart kicking and their ability to retain possession, and scored the second try after they stole a Hornets lineout and spun quick hands all the way across the field to score in the left hand corner. Conversion made it 14-0 to the Royals after 13 minutes. The theme continued with the Royals scoring another methodically-worked try and penalty conversion to stretch the gap to 24-0 after 25 minutes. After defending for about 90% of the first 35 minutes, the Hornets were finally able to string some possession together to close out the first half and build some momentum going into the second stanza. Despite that, the Royals were determined to keep their foot on the gas and scored an early try after the kickoff to extend the lead to 29-0 after 42 minutes. But the Hornets finally were able to get their hands on the pill, win some rucks and start changing the momentum. Some sustained build-up saw Nick Kalist crash over for the Hornets first try next to the goalposts, with Juice’s conversion making the score 29-7 after 46 minutes. The Royals answered back and scored another try down the right flank after a beautiful double cut-out pass from their #10 find the winger in open space to crash over in the corner despite the desperate Brad Christ cover defense. The Royals fly-half definitely brought his kicking boots with his sideline conversion extending the gap to 36-7 Royals after 59 minutes. But the Hornets showed their heart and never gave up, leading to tried from Brad Bearden and Matt Merrick in the next 10 minutes. But the boys in black and gold were just a little outclassed and not totally in game-shape this day. At Royals penalty at the death made the final score 39-17, the Hornets first defeat of the 2016/17 Cup season. Despite the score, the Hornets showed a lot of determination having to tackle for a lot of the match. I think this sent a message to the Royals that we should not be underestimated if we meet again. Man of the match was Nick Kalist who was a powerhouse all day with barreling runs and strong defense, with other standout performances from Tommy Bach and Brad Bearden. The Hornets will look to get back on track against Sunday morning at Forrest Park next Saturday
Score – Royals = 39, Hornets = 17 (Tries – Nick Kalist, Brad Bearden, Matt Merrick; Conversions – Juice 1/3).
Scrums – Hornets = 7/7 (100%), Royals = 3/3 (100%)
Lineouts – Hornets = 6/15 (40%), Royals = 3/6 (50%)
Penalties – Hornets = 13, Royals = 15.