Sunday, 23 September 2018

Gritty Hornets Go The Distance

Hornets 26 Dewsbury 22

“I realise a miracle is due, I dedicate this melody to you. But is this the stuff dreams are made of?”
Second Skin, The Chameleons

This last week people have spoken much about lifelines, last-chances and miracle escapes. Post match, interim Hornets chair Peter Rush spoke of ’two lifelines’ for staying in the Championship - but we’d like to hope that that’ll be one too many for our requirements.

A robust, gritty performance from a never-say-die Hornets pulled us level with a Swinton side who tossed away a half-time lead to ship a bagful of second-half points.

But things started awfully for Hornets: 10-nil down in as many minutes as Knowles made the extra man to exploit a stretched defence and then Delaney under the black dot off a Sykes break.

The Hornets cogs finally clicked when Rob Massam out-jumped Worrincy to tap the ball back to the prowling Seta Tala to score.

Dewsbury then produced a phase of shapeless, shoddy play - a series of knock-ons and penalties relieving what little pressure they applied. Hornets, however, strove to keep the ball alive - and when Richard Lepori’s neat break created space out-wide he fed Deon Cross in to score: 8-10.

With both sides now struggling to complete sets, fluid football was at a premium: Ben Moores held up from short range, Danny Yates’ attempted intercept slipping from his fingers…

On the half-hour Hornets struck lucky: a lazy Rams pass was scooped up by Deon Cross who hit the afterburners to blaze on from fully 70 metres, Hornets in front.

On 35 minutes, Dewsbury’s fullback spilled a straightforward pass, Hornets drove the ball to the line and, as defenders around him switched off, Dec Gregory produced the cheekiest of tries from half a metre, reaching round static defenders to plant the ball by the upright. Tyler Whittaker with the extras - and a late penalty for good measure to give Hornets an impressive half-time lead, courtesy of 20 unanswered points.

That became 26 just five minutes into the second half. More direct approach work from Hornets; Lewis Hatton arriving at pace onto a beautiful short-ball to score a try that was eye-catchingly elegant in its sheer simplicity. Tyler Whittaker slammed home the two  and Hornets looking comfortable at 26-10.

The next half hour became a war of attrition: Hornets delivering some committed defence as they ran out of substitutes (Joe Ryan and Dec Gregory with shoulder injuries; Joe Taira pressed back into late action despite a knee injury).

Meantime, Dewsbury threw the kitchen sink at a Hornets rearguard that refused to crack. Their only response a flukey 70m intercept from Worrincy, Sykes whittling the deficit to 10 points with 10 minutes to play.

Short on bodies, Hornets sucked in for a desperate finish, but when Delaney exploited an exhausted defence on 76 minutes (Sykes the extras) - from nowhere Dewsbury were within striking distance at 26-22.

It’s at times like this teams need to find a way to win. To refuse to lose.  Dewsbury with the momentum, Hornets throwing knackered bodies into tackles - this really was a case of ‘last man standing’.

With the clock showing 70 seconds remaining, Dewsbury took the ball to the heart of the Hornets defence - only for it to slip loose. Hornets played down the clock; Dewsbury conceding a penalty as the hooter sounded: Ben Moores running the tap into touch to give Rochdale Hornets a genuine shot at the impossible next week at Sheffield.

With 80 minutes of the 2018 season remaining, the maths are brutally simple: Hornets win or draw at Sheffield, and Swinton lose at Batley and we stay up. Any other permutation takes us all into the unknown of the RFL’s Riduculous Relegation Shithouse Playoff™.  Having been relegated once in a Championship reastructure (when the RFL sent five down in 2014) we’d like to think we’re owed a break.

If you’ve ever prayed, pray now. If you’ve never prayed, now’s a good time to start. A miracle is due…

Friday, 21 September 2018

Sunday's Coming: Dewsbury Rams

This week, Rugby League fans crawled blinking from their fallout shelters to watch the sun rise over a brave new world where Super League calls the shots and everyone else follows in line awaiting their share of the crumbs.

Ralph (‘the’) Rimmer has drawn a metaphorical ‘Line in the Sand’ over structural arguments in an attempt to halt the internecine squabbling that has blighted relationships within the game - but the game’s Yorkshire-led militant wing are still seething tnis week after nine Championship and League 1 clubs voted - turkey-style - for Xmas.

Thd most immediately visible impact on the game is in the structure:  a 12 team Super League, a 14 team Championship a 12 team League 1 - and the death knell for the Super 8s as Super League’s protectionist standpoint (why DOES everything in this game HAVE to have to be described as ’super’?), makes only one direct promotion place available

Unless you’ve been in a coma for a fortnight, you can’t fail to have been stunned by the almost unfathonmable stupidity of the systen the RFL has come up with to extend the Champioonship to 14 clubs. Rather than just stick with two up (as League one has played for all season) and suspend relegation for a year, the brains at Red Hall have come up with a convoluted playoff between the loser of the League 1 promotion playoff final and the bottom club in the Championship.

As things stand, that would see York promoted automatically, Bradford strong favourites to win the promotion playoff, leaving Doncaster, Workington or Whitehaven as potential opponents for the 12th placed championship club. If that’s not ridiculous enough for you, the game that no-one wants is scheduled to take place on the weekend of 13th/14th of October - when most players are extremely liklely to be on holidays booked since January.

And if none of that causes you to doubt the sanity of the RFL, the venue for this Ridiculous Relegation Shithouse Playoff™ will be decided by a coin toss. Risible.

What all this knavish chicanery does do is offer Hornets the slightest of lifelines. All we have to do is not finish bottom. And all we have to do to achieve that is win the last two games and hope Swinton don’t win again.

Worth noting that Swinton have a +82 points difference advantage over Hornets, so winning just one of the remaining games would require a) us to put on a big score and b) Swinton to ship a bagful - the alternative might be having to go to Whitehaven having failed on points difference. Imagine that…

Game one of Hornets’ series of two ‘cup finals’ arrives on Sunday when the Rams of Dewsbury heave into view. Comfortably ensconced in 4th place in the now redundant Championship Shield, Dewsbury have demonstrated that it is possible for a relatively small club to make a meaningful dent in the Championship.

The Rams come to Spotland on the back of a 40-28 defeat at Featherstone; a game which coach Neil Kelly saw as mistake-ridden. Speaking in the Dewsbury Reporter this week he said that he thought Dewsbury could have given a better account of themselves:  “ … I thought we could have given a better account of ourselves. If we had given a better account of ourselves, maybe we would have threatened to win the game instead of just making for a high-scoring game.”

Shipping three tries at the end of the first half left the Rams with too much to do, and Kelly recognises that his side has errors in them:  “We do enough wrong to take away from the massive amount of things that we do right. Moments like that, just before half time and moments like that in the second half are the reasons why we are not higher in the league this year.

It is typical of the Dewsbury season this year, you show a bit of promise and then you do something wrong.”

Key to Dewsbury’s effectiveness is wiry/wily veteran half Paul Sykes. Last week he racked up his 500th point for the Rams (now 515 points in 82 appearances). Impressive.

Meantime, Hornets remain frustratingly close to grabbing some much-needed points. An eight point defeat to Leigh reflected our season in microcosm: dazzling football, undeniable commitment - and a recurring raft of sloppy errors that simply place too much pressure on the defence in all the wrong bits of the field.

Whilst the league table doesn’t lie, it would be exasperating to exit the Championship as ‘nearly men’.  With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Hornets have 160 minutes of the 2018 season remaining to prove people wrong.

Time to be bold.

See you Sunday.