Thursday, 18 January 2018

Sunday's Coming. And Hornets Lose a Legend.

Sunday sees North Wales Crusaders come to Spotland, for a game that will play with your mind.

Coached by former Hornet - and all-round RL nice guy Mike Grady - and… er… former Hornet Jonny Leather, the Crusaders squad has an eerily familiar look to it.

With a Cru’ team containing former Hornets Steve Roper, Dale Bloomfield, Ryan Smith, James Dandy, Joe Bate, Jordan Case, Alex Trumper and Woz Thompson, it promises to be an interesting ‘reunion’ for Grady’s new-look North Wales.

Speaking on this week, Grady said of what will be his side’s first hit-out of the year: “I’m expecting a really tough test – but that’s just what you want. Whilst it is a friendly, there’s a few lads on either side who have switched clubs, and there’s also a bit of a rivalry between the two sides, so that adds to what promises to be a great match.”

Indeed, previous encounters with Crusaders have been a bit on the feisty side - the last ditch win at Cefn Druids a couple of years ago a particularly spicy favourite of ours. The winning try that day was scored by Dale Bloomfield, who on Sunday lines up for North Wales against his opponent from that game Rob Massam.

Ray Myers - forever a champion: “I am still on cloud nine,
who said dreams don't come true? It was a perfect day”
Whilst Sunday’s game promises to be interesting on lots of fronts, there really is only one story this week - and that’s the passing of one of the club’s senior statesmen, Ray Myers.

Ray first went to the Athletic Grounds aged eight - and by his own admission he wasn’t impressed. Five years later - in 1953 - he was persuaded to try again - on the promise of seeing  “a player so fast he could catch pigeons” - Wally McArthur.

This time Ray was impressed enough to stay - for 65 years: spending 36 of those as club timekeeper, retiring after our Grand Final win in 2013. In recognition of his service, Ray was awarded honorary life membership of the club and in 2013 was inducted into the ‘Heroes of Hornets’.

Respected throughout the game as a true ambassador for Rochdale Hornets, Ray’s commitment to the cause was revealed early on, when he quit his first job at Bateson’s Hardware shop in Rochdale because he had to work on Saturdays - which clashed with Hornets matches.

A Hornet to his core,  Ray will be remembered by all who met him for the love of his club, his encyclopaedic knowledge of Rugby League, the warmth of his handshake and his seemingly bottomless repertoire of jokes.

Our thoughts are with Ena, family and friends.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Hard-Working Hornets take Wolves to the Wire

Hornets 10 - Warrington 24

It’s a long way from Caringbah to Spotland, but in the last six months that’s the journey taken by Warrington’s new coach Steve Price. Bumping into the former Illawarra St George Dragons coach before the game did require a bit of a double-take (last time we saw him was at WIN Stadium) - and his debut in the British game saw his Super League Wolves eventually overhaul a much improved Hornets in a close and combative contest.

Hornets started with real intent. An early ‘bump and break’ from Jo Taira saw him feed his fellow prop Matty Hadden through a flat-footed Wire defence from close range. Yatesey the extras, Hornets ahead of the clock and a decent Wolves following left shaking heads.

The visitors finally entered the fray after 8 minutes when a Lineham break and a no-look speculator was deemed to have hit a Hornets hand in flight. From the resulting scrum Johnson hit a short ball at pace to score. Ex- Sharks, ‘Dogs and Souths three-quarter Goodwin hit the spot to tie the scores.

With both sides exchanging frequent knock-ons, the game became a scrappy arm-wrestle.

On the quarter mark, Livett was forced into a last-tackle fumble by some determined defence. The Wire then gave away a sloppy penalty as Hornets turned up the heat, but Yatesey’s let tackle kick was just too long for Rob Massam.

In the next set a moment of old-stool slapstick as an Earl Hurst tackle shredded the shirt from Moran’s back, leaving the warrington player temporarily exposed.

An increasingly frustrated Warrington side began shipping penalties to give Hornets the momentum. On 25 minutes a shift to the left edge was only halted when Lineham knocked down the pass; then Hughes was shown the yellow card for a late shoulder on Danny Yates. Before he’d reached the bench, his side had coughed another penalty for interference 10 metres out. 12-man Warrington clearly rattled.

The recrimination for their behaviour was immediate: Hornets took the ball close to the line, where Ryan Maneely exposed some lazy marking to burrow in from acting half. 10-6.

Warrington got lucky from the kick-off, a swirling kick and a wicked bounce gave them good position in the Hornets half. Then a penalty gave them a strong attacking platform. Just past the half hour a grubber going nowhere was fumbled by Dec Kay and Livett snaffled the loose ball to grab a fortuitous try. Goodwin on target to edge Warrington ahead 10-12.

With the half running on fumes, former England prop Ben Westwood had a spectacular brain-fart: penalised for a clear double movement, he was then yellow-carded for dissent. We’re pretty certain that a sin-binning for back-chat in a pre-season game in Rochdale won’t make it into his career highlights.

Westwood’s act of extreme dumb-assery brought the half to a close: Hornets trailing by just the two points.

Warrington started the second-half with noticeably more intent; going wide to both edges early-doors to test a Hornets defence that scrambled well. But the pressure told on 50 minutes when King arrived at pace into space off an inside ball to bisect the defence and score. No mistake from Goodwin; 10-18.

On 54 minutes Ben Moores was snagged for one of the more bizarre penalties we’ve seen: interference with the tackler whilst in the act of playing the ball. We know - us neither…

As the game settled into a midfield struggle, Hornets found space to produce some tidy football: first some concerted pressure where makeshift stand-off Ben Moores’ last tackle dink was well handled by the Wolves defence. Then a mazy 60 metre break by Danny Yates  off a loose Wire pass - twisting and turning defenders en-route upfield, where Warrington gave away yet another soft penalty. Hornets turned the screw with some direct forward running, but  - again - the defence had the measure of Ben Moores’ kick.

Having matched their Super League opponents for long periods, the visitors full-time class and fitness finally told: a 75th minute shift to an edge for Prell to score by the flag. Goodwin with his fourth from four to give Warrington a 10-24 win.

In the wash-up, this was a fiercely contested, no-nonsense workout for both sides. Hornets looking much more cohesive and showing some mice touches; Warrington relying on their nous and class to pull then through.  In his post-match comments, Alan Kilshaw was pleased with the progress made this week.

As for Steve Price, he starts his UK venture with a win - and we can promise that it’ll get warmer. Eventually.