Sunday, 7 February 2016

Cookie Monsters Coventry

Hornets 60 - Coventry 10

On both fronts, this was a successful day for Hornets. Primarily, the game celebrated John Cookson’s sterling 10 years in the game: a fitting testimonial to an unassuming grafter who makes the hard yards week after week. Secondly, as a more accurate barometer of where they are in terms of readiness, Hornets had too much in the tank for a Coventry side who provided awkward opposition for half an hour, but faded as the game progressed.

Hornets seized the early initiative with two tries in the first 10 minutes: Samir Tahraoui off a short ball to crash in, then the ball whipped wide to Dale Bloomfield off a repeat set. 10-nil.

Cookie spectactularly fluffed the kick off (not one for the season’s highlight reel) to give the Bears good field position, but good defence defused the pressure. Hornets marched straight back downfield where the ball was shipped to Kieron Walpole who squeezed in at the corner. 14-nil, so far so rudimentary.

However, Coventry are no mugs. On 21 minutes a great kick from White bobbled teasingly into the space behind a stretching Bloomers, and Hunte was on hand to emulate his Uncle Henderson Gill’s pace to score out wide. And when Reid snaffled the ball in a scrappy play five minutes later, he found sufficient space in a napping Hornets defence to scoot through and score. 14-10 and the stirrings of a contest.

Not for long, though. Two darting tries from Danny Yates - the second off a mercurial break by Alex McClurg - saw Hornets head to the sheds 12-10 to the good.

Hornets started the second half with a visible increase in purpose. A whopping 40/20 from Paul Crook laid the platform for early pressure, and it was Crooky again three minutes later backing up a big line break by Alex Trumper, only to see the last pass go forward with Hornets streaming up in numbers.

No matter. Hornets hit the gas leaving Coventry to watch the game depart at a pace they couldn’t match.

50 minutes: Alex McClurg  try off a short-ball; 53 minutes Lewis Galbraith jinking in off the end of some Harlem Globetrotters-style handling; 58 minutes, Jordan Case skating in off a repeat set. Crooky and Yatesey splitting the kicking duties and Hornets a vanishing dot at 44-10.

Just past the hour Ben Moores crashed through a static defence to score - and up stepped John Cookson to coolly slot the ball between the uprights from 30 metres to the biggest cheer of the afternoon.

Hornets rounded the game out with two late tries: Lewis Galbraith a carbon copy of his earlier effort, then Corey Lee a lightning blur off a punishing Jordan Case break.

Final Score 60-10 and a job well done.

Yes, we know it was Coventry’s first proper hit-out of the season, but they are a benchmark for performance in what will be a properly testing League 1. Ahead of that is the prospect of a nice trip to Barrow in the iPro Cup in two weeks.

I don’t envy Alan Kilshaw having to pick a 17 out of what’s been a pretty good pre-season. Indeed, when was the last time a Hornets coach managed to get all of their winter pre-season games played?

Time now for the real thing.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Sunday's Coming: Coventry

Cookie models his testimonial jersey.
In the week when it’s been announced that Coventry’s Ricoh Arena is on the radar for a Rugby League Four Nations game, the Midlands’ highest profile club makes the trip up to League’s heartland for John Coookson’s testimonial game.

Despite celebrating their 18th anniversary this year, Coventry Bears are a bit like the village of Brigadoon - unless you’re actually there, they exist in a misty hinterland of the collective Rugby League consciousness. A fleeting glimpse in your peripheral vision and then…

Having made their semi-pro debut last year, they finished their first season in 12th place - and coach Tom Tsang has drafted in some heavy duty Antipodean experience to add a bit of grist to the Bears’ mill.

Prop James Guertjens and Second Row have Jono Milizewski have Quensland Cup experience with Norths Devils. Joining them from Autralia’s top right-hand cormer is former Sunshine coast Falcons utility half Jay Lobwein and Hooker James Redman from Townsville’s Central ASA Tigers.
Chuck in Second Row Liam Thompson from Canberra’s West Belconnen Warriors you have a pretty solid core to build around.

Augmented with players from Swnton, Salford, Sheffield, Halifax and NW Crusaders, this is suddenly less of a ‘development team’, but a unit with a decent RL pedigree. It’ll also be the second consecutive game that Hornets have faced a winger called Jamahl.  Now, that IS a stat.

Coventry are also set to create a bit of League history next month - starting their League 1 season proper with trip to France to face Toulouse Olympique XIII (interestingly, their second fixture is equally glamorous - its at Butts Park against us!).

Hornets come into this game off the back of a patchy Law Cup in which Oldham produced seven minutes of lucid first half football that effectively won the game. If you chose that seven minutes to go to the loo or grab yourself a cup of tea, you probably saw a tightly contested game. For the rest of us it was a timely reminder that the newly configured Hornets machine still needs a little fine tuning ready for the season ahead. Indeed, having beaten a poor Swinton and lost to a well-drilled if unspectacular Oldham, Sunday should give a clearer indication of where we’re at.

Finally, please do support John Cookson’s testimonial in as many ways as you can.

Having given the game 10 years service, this will be John’s eighth season in a Hornets jersey. After signing for Leigh from Adlington Juniors, he first came to Hornets for a loan spell. He went on to become the first player to reach 100 appearances for the supporter-owned Hornets.

He’s currently played 132 games and scored 27 tries  - including one in the Grand Final at Leigh in 2013.

His standing at the club is such that he has been awarded Hero of Hornets status - was voted by supporters into the Hornets all-time XIII alongside some legendary luminaries and has had the matchday lounge named in his honour.

And don’t forget that the special testimonial playing kit will be auctioned off after the game - so grab yourself a rarity. See you Sunday.