Monday, 20 February 2017

Hornets the real deal as million-pound Robins sneak it.

Hornets 18 - Hull KR 28

Forget the disparity in budget. Forget the pedigree of the Hull KR Coach. Forget the travelling hoardes who bayed their displeasure at every refereeing decision. Look at this coldly as a contest between the top two sides in the championship and the casual observer could never tell that one of these sides is a defacto-Super league outfit slumming it in the Championship.

For long periods, Hornets bossed their big-spending full-time visitors. And with the Robins clinging desperately to a two point lead with 5 minutes to go, Hornets were in the hunt for the win - their frankly stunning performance busting the myth that the top-end of Championship is somehow a legitimate stepping stone to the nirvana of Super League.

In the end it took a late, late try by Rovers’ best player Lunt to save their blushes - and a needless penalty after the hooter giving the scoreline the somewhat tarnished sheen of comfort.

But it was Hornets who started from the gun. A huge bust up the guts of the visitors from Rob Massam took Hornets deep into Rovers terrotory. Hornets then forced an error close to the Robins’ line, Ben Moores showed his kicking credentials and Gaz Middlehurst pounced to score. Lewis Palfrey the extras - the visiting supporters in stunned silence.

Then a huge free-play hack downfield from a dropped Hull KR pass had defenders scrambling - but Lewis Galbraith’s pass found a Rovers hand and play was returned to the scrum.

After quarter of an hour, Rovers hit their straps with three quick-fire tries in five minutes: Moss going wide by the flag; then a Minns double - his first a carbon copy of Moss’ effort, the second a slutchy one after a Hull KR hand looked to have knocked on a speculative bomb. Ellis useless with all three conversion attempts: 6-12.

Hornets regathered their composure: huge hits from Rob Massam and Gaz Middlehurst lifting the defence. Hull KR now looking long on errors and short on ideas. Then a peculiar decision from referee Mr Campbell. What looked for all money like a Rovers knock-on was given the other way and from the resulting posession Heffernan found space of a short ball to score. 6-18 at the break, the visitors flattered.

Hornets began the second half with a couple of errors, but dusted themselves down to produce a try of the highest quality: Gaz Middlehurst the peach of a pass to unzip the Robins’ defence, Danny Bridge the break up the channel and Danny Yates outpacing the cover to bring the main stand to its feet. Palfrey the two and a palpable momentum shift at 12-18.

Jo Taira was let-off his fumble in the first play of the kick-off set when Lewis Palfrey came up with a big 60 metre intercept to take Hornets back up field. And you could sense that the visitors were rattled when Ellis hoofed an attempted 40/20 out on the full. Hornets pressed hard. On 50 minutes, Danny Yates’ produced a teasing kick into the corner, Rob Massam just outreached.

On the hour another punishing Gaz Middlehurst hit was deemed high: Rovers took the two. You could almost hear the sphincters squeak at 12-20.

Hornets’ response was immediate. A brutally direct set drove Rovers backwards. Samir Tahraoui slammed in to be held just short and, from acting half, Ben Moores exposed the Robins' soft underbelly, mugging them for a smart try from acting half. Palfrey the two. 18-20 with 19 minutes to play. Just stunning.

Hull KR now on the back foot - unforced errors, Hornets forcing a drop out, caught in possession on the last tackle. Hornets pushing hard. But a ‘get-out-of-jail’ penalty on 75 minutes relieved the pressure and it took a moment of individual initiative from Lunt to save the day. Ellis the two 18-26.

As mentioned, a pedantic penalty after the hooter stretched Hull KR’s winning margin to ten points. We make that 100 grand per point in the winning marging that Hull KR have spent to edge past huge-hearted Hornets. Money well spent? Well you couldn’t see the difference on the day.

Ultimately, this one was billed as a clash of the Championship’s early pace-setters - and it didn’t disappoint. This was a gargantuan struggle in which Hull Kingston Rovers hinted briefly at what they might be capable of. But more importantly, it sent a message to the Championship that Rochdale Hornets are the real deal.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Sunday's Coming 2: Hull KR

It’s that time of the week where we usually do a run down of the opposition’s squad. Unlike last season, it’s easier to get more detail on players, but our favourite run-down of the Hull KR side from last week’s narrow win at London Broncos comes courtesy of Hull Daily Mail reporter Gareth Westmorland - who was brutally honest in his summary of the Robins’ individual performances in that game

Adam Quinlan: “Came up with crucial tackles… unpredictable but very effective”
Kieren Moss: “… Poor defence in the second half… “
Thomas Minns: “Strong in the tackle…  but will seek to improve his defence…”
Andrew Heffernan: “Looks to be improving in confidence… despite the poor overall team performance”
Ryan Shaw: “Comfortable under the high ball and got KR out of trouble a few occasions”
Jordan Abdull: “Could prove to be crucial in his side's fortunes during 2017”
Jamie Ellis: Takes control of each match he plays in… did just about enough in the playmaking contest”
Nick Scruton: “Good in the hard yards within KR's pack”
Shaun Lunt: “One of a few praised by coach Tim Sheens after an abject showing from the squad… devastating from dummy-half”
Mitch Clark: “Made the crucial yards required for KR to get on the front foot …finding the extra yardage with increasing leg work”
Maurice Blair: “A quiet display… did just about enough to secure a win”
James Greenwood: “Guilty of uncharacteristic errors and missed tackles … has to improve to keep his spot”
Danny Addy:  “Could look to get more involved in the attack”

Replacements

Liam Salter: “Slotted into the second-row in a new position in the second-half”
Chris Clarkson: “Brought vigour from the bench when Scruton and Clark were substituted”
James Donaldson: “Another body to bring some power from the replacements”
George Lawler: “Got stuck in when brought onto the field”


Former Bradford prop Ben Kavanagh will be added to Tim Sheens' 19-man squad for Sunday's game. Having missed out on a full pre-season due to the collapse of the Bulls, Kavanagh is creeping back towards the form that saw him selected for Scotland in last year’s Four Nations.

Assistant coach James Webster told the Hull Daily Mail: "We still think he's a couple of weeks off from the standard which he played so well at for Scotland. He's in contention to play on Sunday for sure, like he has been the last few weeks.”

But Webster, like Head Coach Tim Sheens, has also questioned his players’ attitude given their leaky defence over the first couple of weeks.

According to the Hull Daily Mail: “…tricky wintry conditions will see (HKR’s) play adapted to more forward-based work. A war of attrition is expected in Manchester (sic - they clearly have no idea where Rochdale is) on Sunday and KR are hoping to adapt to the conditions quickly on their travels.

Webster said: “I’ve seen plenty of Championship teams win games without making a line break. We would love an open free-flowing game which suits us but at the moment, it's winter, the start of the year and there'll be plenty of stuff down the middle. However, Rochdale will look to throw the ball around, judging on their opening games."

On playing a part-time side, he’s quoted as saying: “I think people devalue a lot of teams in this competition, simply because they don't see them on TV. These players are as physically strong as Super League players. When I was at Wakefield and we trained with other clubs, the weights in the gym are the same – it's just the other factors, such as us training full-time, which gives us that advantage."

Which is, of course what Toulouse and Bradford thought.

See you Sunday.