Monday, 22 May 2017

Snooze And You Lose

Halifax 28 - Hornets 2

The word ‘meh’ is a useful, onomatopoeic tool. A verbal shrug that does what it says on the tin. Popularised by The Simpsons via its Yidddish roots, it became the definitive online shorthand for dismissal of something as uninteresting as far back as 1992. In November 2008, it made its way into the dictionary as ‘describing indifference and disapproval’.

And so to the Shay where a half asleep Hornets were undone by a half awake Halifax in a game that crawled by in an atmosphere of deep apathy.

Shipping two early penalties, Halifax were made to pay for their own indifferent start: Danny Yates taking the two to give Hornets a fifth minute lead. Talk about peaking too early.

From the kick-off DR Kevin Penny opted not to run the ball, but sent an old-skool hospital pass to Samir Tahraoui in the in-goal, where he was summarily clattered by the home pack to concede a drop out. The Hornets fans exhaled and looked skywards…

Hornets did show some flickers of early promise: kick-chasing Halifax into the corners - only to let them off the hook with a string of frustrating penalties.

Halifax capitalised when Grady broke up the guts of a flat-footed Hornets defence to send Johnston under the black dot. Tyrer on target and Fax ahead 6-2. Hornets put the kick-off out on the full. Just poor.

On the quarter mark it was another penalty that took Halifax under the Hornets posts, and when the home side went wide, Grady dropped off a neat pass out of the back of a flapping tackle for Tyrer to score a walk-in. 10-2 and the signs weren’t good. Hornets then snagged offside at the kick-off. Awful.

Hornets did flicker briefly: Danny Yates’ kick to the corner gathered by Rob Massam who was ruled to have knocked on whilst touching down; Gaz Middlehurst too knocking on as he stretched to score. But the second quarter of the game was fundamentally Hornets mounting a rear-guard defensive action against a Halifax side that repeatedly found new and inventive ways to squander scoring opportunities.

On 38 minutes, Grady again caused panic in the Hornets ranks as he broke the line, Chris Riley scrambling well to reel him in, but given ten minutes for holding on too long. Once again Halifax ran out of ideas long before the end of the set, but when they launched a haplessly over-cooked hoof into the in-goal, rather than let it go harmlessly dead, Kevin Penny went for the miracle catch over his shoulder and coughed the ball into the popular end. Schoolboy stuff, really.

The half ended with a flurry of handbags after a contested high-shot from Gaz Middlehurst and - somehow - Hornets had rope-a-doped themselves into a slim 8-point deficit at the break: Halifax having had the majority of possession.

The second half began in uninspiring fashion: Halifax knocking on, Hornets getting caught in possession on the last tackle.

This pattern of errors and general cluelessness continued, broken only by a very odd decision from referee Mr Hewer: a Halifax kick dead-in-goal under no attention, but as Hornets lined up for the 20m restart, they were taken back to take a drop out. No - us neither.

The torpor was broken in the 53rd minute when Halifax managed to smuggle the ball out of the back of a tackle that looked long dead: Sharp ducking in, Tyrer the extras and - at 16-2 - the game effectively moribund.

On the hour Murrell broke through some frankly sloppy tackling to send Tangata rumbling in from 20 metres. Hornets fans awoken by some distant half-hearted Halifax applause.

And then…stasis. 20 minutes of anti-rugby league; both sides flapping like headless chickens as the errors, poor passes, knock-ons and clueless last tackle plays sucked every last drop of energy out of The Shay. With the game in its death-rattle, Halifax summoned up one last break up the left, where Grix got on the end of a 40 metre break to put this shocker out of its misery. Tyrer hit the two for 28-2.

In conversation afterwards it was hard to find positives. The relentless prying of Gaz Middlehurst, and the fact that Chris Riley looks like he knows what he’s doing the only two saving graces of a game that struggled to stick in the memory as far as the car.

Meh, indeed.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Sunday's Coming: Halifax

A big fan of Halifax: Theresa May talks the Tory faithful
through her programme collection
The world took a weird turn this week when the Tory party chose Halifax as THE perfect place to launch its manifesto ahead of the General Election. You’d probably pin down Halifax as a Yorkshire bastion of blue-collar social conscience - but it’s not quite as clean cut. Having last returned a Tory in 1983 Halifax has since has been a Labour seat - but it’s now a frontline marginal: Labour candidate Holly Lynch this time defendng a majority of just 428.

So having had Theresa May in town avoiding a baying crowd, it’s Hornets’ turn to front-up in ‘Fax on Sunday, to try and put a cross in a very important box as Hornets seek to gain momentum ahead of the Summer Bash. (see what we did there?)

After a stop-start month in which Hornets showed signs of breaking our run of frustrating defeats, but only came frustratingly close, Alan Kilshaw’s side makes the short trip to the Shay in search of that elusive win.

Halifax come into sunday’s game having been hoofed out of the Challenge Cup, a going down 24-12 at Featherstone. League-wise, Halifax sit in the 5th on points difference - jointly on 18 points with London and Toulouse, a three club peloton in pursuit of Fev and Dull KR.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, Halifax have signed Brandon Douglas - a 20 year-old Cas Tigers prop, who’d been on dual reg at Dewsbury - for the remainder of the season. Also in the frame to feature in Richard Marshall’s side at the weekend are Salford dual reg. pair Dan Murray and Adam Walne.

Murray has already been farmed out to both Bradford and Warrington this term, Walne has previously done DR stints with Workington and Barrow. Fax also have second row Simon Grix back in contention for Sunday.

Having identified ‘a lack of discipline’ as the major contributory factor in his side’s cup loss at Featherstone, Marshall knows that a similar performance could open the door for Hornets. Speraking in the Halifax Courier this week he said: “Rochdale have been close to a lot of teams without quite getting results, but they play a fast, expansive game and they can rattle teams.”

Hornets will be looking for an improvement on February’s 20-6 reverse, though the stats sit in Fax’ favour: Halifax winning the last six encounters comfortably, scoring 24 tries to 8 in the process. Wearing our glass-half-full head, it loioks like we’re due for one - and you’d hate to miss it if you did.

Early indications are that the Hornets supporters will be getting together somewhere in the main stand, rather than see nowt behind the posts. So get yourself over, make some noise and give the lads a vital boost.