In the Rugby League press, there's much been made of London Skolars rampage through the NRC's Pool B this season. Three wins from three, 100 points scored, only 16 conceded - the caasual RL fan could be forgiven for thinking that the capital's second team has somehow transformed into a lean, mean, red & green winning machine. But wait…
Closer examination shows that, unlike Pool B's 'Group of Death'-style inclusion of the three likely KPC1 promotion candidates, the Skolars have hardly been stretched thus far. A 26-4 home win over new-boys Hemel Stags, a 54-12 thumping of South Wales Scorpions at the Gnoll and an unconvincing 20-nill mudbath win over makeweight university side the All Golds (of whom coach Brad Hepi this week said "Most of them are writing dissertations at the moments, so their minds are elsewhere" - very professional) are hardly the stuff of legend.
Indeed, bar the win in Wales Skolars havent really been tested thus far. Something Joe Mbu recognises.
In this week's League Express he says: "I'm looking forward to how the team goes, because it will be another step up and we will need to raise our game. Hopefully we'l go there and do outselves justice because for ther last two years our trips to Rochdale have not been easy."
In this year's lop-sided NRC, Skolars only need a bonus point on Sunday to qualify for a flogging in the knockout stages and a likely pounding by North Wales in the Plate/Bowl/Saucer final at the Shay - though their massively superior points difference should see thenm through even if the Scorpions beat Oldham convincingly - which we hope they do.
By far Skolars' most interesting player is Michael Worrincy. Having played in Super League for both Harlequins RL and Bradford Bulls, and in the Championship for Leigh. In 2011, he also spent a year down-under, signed for Penrith Panthers, but playing for their partner club Windsor Wolves in the New South Wales Cup. Prior to joining Skolars he had a brief sabbatical from competitive rugby, playing *nion at London Irish.
As for Hornets, once again we bat out the NRC with a dead rubber. A shoddy second half at Wrexham leaves Ian Talbot's side trying to 'not finish third' in a four team group where Gateshead were provided as cannon-fodder.
In collating Ian talbot's thoughts on last week, one might surmise that he's not a happy chap. Hornets' head coach, said: "They took their chances and they had better ball control, so that told in the end… we were 50 per-cent overall (completion rate) and they were 75 per-cent in that second half… we made too many handling errors to come away with the win… we made some dumb decisions and let them off the hook."
None of which we disagree with here at TLCRF80mins Towers - but it's obvious that, once the team deviates from the starting 13 it looks less cohesive as a unit, and once we have to reshuffle players things go awry. So plenty to work on.
As it is, Sunday exists in order to provide the opportunity of a winning run-up at the serious business which begins back on the Elysian fields of Whitebank on Good Friday. Dead rubber or not, we NEED a win to get our spirits up, our confidence back and to bolster our belief that - even if we can't get out of the NRC group - we can get the hell out of Kingstone Press Championship one at the first time of asking.