Monday, 5 March 2012

Persistence is Futile

Dewsbury 32 Hornets 10

As an exercise in futility, this game ticked all the boxes. Two teams with no chance of  qualification put out much-changed teams to scrap out 80 minutes of pointless football on a quagmire of a pitch in dreadful conditions. Is it any wonder that the Northern Rail Cup lackes either attraction or credibility amongst the majority of Championship clubs.

Stanky gave debuts to six players, played at least three regulars out of position and was left seething when a rush of injuries left him with no subs in the last quarter of the game.

So far, so bad, then. 

As for the game, it was a low-key mudfest in which Dewsbury played the tight pitch and deteriorating conditions better. Indeed, they were off the mark in the first minute when a stalling Hornets defence allowed Walker to catch a hopeful bomb and smuggle the ball wide for Faal to score.

The Rams next attack seemed to be going nowhere until Spaven hoisted a kick more in hope than expectation. With all players following its flight into the in-goal, the ball bounced back off the upright into the hands of prop Crossley who gratefully grounded it at his feet. Freakish. 12-nil.

For the next 20 minutes Hornets clawed their way into the game, forcing repeat sets on two occasions and testing a stern Derwsbury defence for little reward.

Having held-firm, Dewsbury schlepped their way downfield and two quick tries courtesy of slick hands in the threequarters (from Esders and Akaidere), sent the home side in 22-nil up at the break, though they never looked particularly comfortable.

But the Rams began the second half with real pace and purpose. Direct running, smart offloads and clinical finishing saw Akaidere and Craven stretch their lead to 32-nil by the 50th minute, but then - they simply stopped! Hornets seized the opportunity and took the game to Dewsbury. 

With the game compressed in the middle third, the home side looked out of ideas - and Hornets the more likely to create an opening. It came in the 63rd minute when Jonny Leather capped his debut with a well taken try wide on the left.

This heralded Hornets' most cohesive phase of the game, sub John Cookson causing havoc with some blockbusting runs and debutant Paul Brearley ripping in on defence. Too enthusiastically for referee Mr Kidd, who dispatched him to the sin-bin for a chicken-wing tackle at the behest of his intervening touch-judge. 700 people shook their heads in bemusement.

Going down to 12 didn't halt Hornets' progress. And when Steve McDermott hounded a bobbling ball 30 metres through a flapping Rams defence to touch down after 75 minutes, we had a second half of 10-all and Hornets dogged pride restored.

And so we look for the positives from this year's 'No-one Cares Cup' odyssey.

With other teams going shit or bust to get out of CC1 this year, any sliver of advantage should be gratefully received. Having played three games against higher-division opposition, Hornets should hit the ground in good shape to compete with teams of similar status. And London Skolars at Spotland next week, will provide a more accurate benchmark.

Beyond that, we have quite possibly the ultimate exercise in pointlessness when the RFL compels South Wales Scorpions to travel the length of the country to play a dead-rubber in front of 200 people on a Wednesday night. There is a precedent in this competition for a game between two teams with nothing to play for being discreetly voided. Indeed, one might argue that forcing both teams to incur cost and the risk of injuries in a game that means nothing will damage the credibility of the competition greater than drawing a line under this phase of the competition.