Sunday, 21 July 2019

They Think It's All (R)Over

Fev 50 - Hornets 6

Only the most delusional optimist could cling to the mathematical possibility of Hornets staying up after this run-of-the-mill defeat to a pretty ordinary Featherstone Rovers.

At Post Office Road in front of a muted crowd, Hornets' hardy knot of loyal followers were treated to a display that captured this stinking year in microcosm: a brief flurry of hope that descended into a meme of Homer Simpson backing into a hedge.

The hope came courtesy of a high-tempo start that had Featherstone going backwards. Determined defence laid the platform and, when Shaun Ainscough piled through Dagger to score on 10 minutes, you could hear a pin drop. Dan Abram added the extras, the Hornets fans sang, an old guy in a Fev shirt made the 'wankers' gesture at us - all was well in the world. For four minutes.

Typically, Hornets spilled the kick-off possession, Fev built some pressure and Makatoa piled in. Chisholm added the extras and 'wanky grand-dad' gave us a loose handed wave. Then came the familiar second quarter collapse that saw Featherstone score three decidedly soft tries in 15 minutes.

Firstly King sped out of acting half on the last tackle to score; then Hornets right edge was caught napping for Briscoe to capitalise. Then on 35 minutes, replacement hooker Connor Jones took a leaf out of King's book: slipping out of the back of the ruck to mug a static defence.

Having started brightly, Hornets went to the sheds 20-6 down.

The first five minutes of the second half effectively decided the game. Pierre Bourrel looked to have scored for Hornets after just three minutes, but his effort was ruled out after referee Aaron Moore consulted his Guide Dog. As a Hornets fan near us said: 'if it weren't for bad luck, we'd have no luck at all'.

Off the hook, Featherstone marched straight back upfield where Harrison was slotted into open field to score. Chisholm on target and Rovers with the momentum at 26-6.

Within four minutes the home side were in again. This time Golding (who, for most of this game seemed mostly concerned about ruining his ridiculous man-bun than getting stuck in) found the wherewithal to get on the end of a break and score.

Hornets did briefly hang on to the tailgate of this rapidly departing game, but finally succumbed to the inevitable, conceding three tries in the last 12 minutes (Day, a brace: Walters the other) to take Featherstone past the 45 point average.

Adding insult to injury, pedant-in-chief Mr Moore gave Featherstone their 14th penalty on the hooter (Hornets received just four in 80 minutes). Chisholm slammed it home from near half-way to bring up the 50.

The Hornets faithful applauded and headed for the car-park: partly disappointed in another defeat, partly relieved that this soul-sapping season is pretty much all over.


Let's Do Maths!

- With six games remaining, the maximum number of points available is 14.
- Dewsbury and Widnes are already on 12, Batley on 13. Hornets have a -664 points difference.
- If Dewsbury win at Spotland next Sunday, they'll go onto 14 points. Hornets would then be unable to catch Dewsbury, leaving Widnes and Batley the only teams we could catch (13 &12 pts respectively).
- If Hornets beat Dewsbury, we stay alive for another week, when we face Batley. If Batley win (15pts) and Widnes get a win at Sheffield on the same day (14pts) Hornets are relegated.

Having taken 1 win from 21 games, Hornets would have to produce a run of six straight wins, including Leigh at Home, Toronto away, Halifax away and Bradford at home. 

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Sunday's Coming: Featherstone Rovers

Our match previews involve a trawl of our opponents' local news outlets for snippets of interest that you wouldn't ordinarily come across (yes, we read The Pontefract & Castleford Express so you don't have to) - but this week's sweep of the news-scape yielded an unusually high level of news that RL fans will find disturbing.

Featherstone fans have always been known for the robust and passionate support of their team. Indeed, that's what makes watching Rugby league at Post Office Road such a unique experience (we were at the Good Friday Super League Merger protest game against Castleford in 1995 and it was one of the most electrifying atmospheres we've ever experienced).

And, for those of you old enough to remember, life in the old Bullock Shed stand had a decidedly edgy frisson: though when we won there in a midweek game 20-odd years ago (the first win in decades) we sang our lungs out and the Fev fans were generous in defeat.

But of late, things seem to have taken a turn...

In June, Featherstone were fined after an RFL investigation into two incidents of spectator misbehaviour during their game at Spotland in May.

Having seen the club found guilty of breaching RFL operational rules -  and having received a warning over future misconduct -  CEO Davide Longo said: “Unexpected fines only impact on our spend and potential recruitment further down the line and I am sure no supporter wants this to be the case. We encourage fans to be vocal and supportive of the team, but this needs to be done in a respectful and family friendly manner.”

Then...

Earlier this month the club was hit with another fine - this time of £10,000 - following a Rugby Football League investigation, into complaints of unacceptable language by a section of Featherstone fans at a game with Bradford Bulls.

After the second fine, Longo said: “We are incurring fines that were never factored into our budgets and this will now impact on the club moving forward."

The club's response was to introduce their Crowd Care Text Service which enables supporters to report any misconduct or foul language anonymously to the head steward via a text to 07394950356. They then introduced precautionary crowd segregation for their game against Leigh.

Then...

Two weeks ago, Rovers banned three supporters from all future games after deeply distasteful comments were made online after their recent game at Halifax.

A statement from Featherstone said that the club is: "... in discussion with West Yorkshire Police around safeguarding and best practice as we look to move forward to better prevent anything more damaging the reputation of the club."


On the field, Featherstone sit 5th in the Betfred Championship - at the heart of a compacted pack chasing runaway leaders Toronto. Five points separate the 2nd to 7th place sides, with Fev just three points behind second-placed York.

Coach Ryan Carr has drawn some heat this season over what some think is an over-reliance on Leeds DR players. But Rovers' relationship with Leeds was deepened further this month, when Carr joined Richard Agar's backroom staff at Headingley, in parallel to his role at Post Office Rd.

Carr said on the appointment: “I am excited about the opportunity with the Rhinos. I know a number of the squad because of the dual registration arrangement we have between Featherstone and Leeds and undoubtedly there is a lot of talent here. I am looking forward to working with the coaching team and the players and helping out in any way I can.”

Eleven current Rhinos have played under Carr for Featherstone thus far this season.

Rhinos boss Richard Agar said that the role “... will not impinge on his duties with Featherstone and, if anything, he will get more one-on-one time with some of the guys who are playing for them on a weekend.”

Fev come into Sunday's game on the back of an impressive narrow defeat in Toronto last weekend.
Having trailed 14-0 at the break (conceding a try in the first minute), Rovers hit back to go down 22-18.

Coach Carr was fuming after the game, having lost stand-in hooker Jack Bussey to a compulsory concussion test following an attack by Toronto's former Manly grub Darcy Lussick (who once described a brawl with Melbourne Storm, that saw 10 players charged and both sides fined $50,000, as 'the best day of my life').

Rovers travelled last week minus first choice rake Cameron King (ankle injury), scrum-half Dane Chisholm (also ankle) and Ben Reynolds , whose wife was due to give birth. Reynolds will be available for Sunday’s game and Carr is hopeful Chisholm and King will also return.

Hornets come into Sunday's game on the back of an ignominious milestone. Last week's disappointing 68-nil flogging by Toulouse brought up 900 'points against' this season, giving us an average of 45 points conceded per game in 2019 (average for is 14).

Post Game Matt Calland said Hornets have to be "Harder to beat" - so if Featherstone score fewer than 45 points this weekend that, bizarrely, would be an improvement. So far this year, Fev have only scored more than 45 twice. Once against Halifax (46) and... er... against us (56). So there's your benchmark. The game against Hornets in May is also Featherstone's biggest winning margin this year.

We travel in hope. See you there.