Those bonus ponts are a bit of a bastard. With one win fewer than Hornets, Swinton got a leg-up off the bottom of the table following their excellent result at Big Spending North Wales Crusaders™ last week.
Speaking in the press this week, Ian Talbot recognised the importance of the dreaded bonus point to clubs' survival hopes.
“Not only do we need to win matches but we need to pick up bonus points too,” he said. We’re not finishing games how we should be and for that reason it means we miss out on a bonus point.
“Bonus points could be crucial in this league, at the moment the bottom three sides are all on the same number of points so that shows how important they can be. It again comes down to us not playing well in stages of the match. We need to keep our performances up for the full 80 minutes, not just for a brief period."
And 'Tal' recognises that Hornets are still on a learning curve when it comes to being savvy at this level: “We’re always learning with each new match so hopefully we’ll get back to winning ways against Swinton on Friday.”
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Indeed, it's all very tight round the bottom, where every point really counts. Workington sit in tenth with only three wins, but have 8 bonus points - at that rate they could lose by 11 every week and win the bloody title!
As every pundit would attest, Friday night at the Leigh Sports Village comes with an exciting double edge: a local derby that's an old-skool 6-pointer. As we all know, everything at Swinton (including possible the laundry and the pie-deliveries) goes through Ian Watson. As if proof were needed he weighed in last week with a try, though most notably the game saw the debut of Martin Aspinwall on loan from Leigh and saw Mick Nanyn back from injury. Add to that Swinton's 'line-up lottery' strategy that sees a weekly random inclusion of Warrington players and you have a tricky game to navigate.
Finally, as 'Tal' succinctly put it in the press this week, "They’re a good side but we just need to focus on our own efforts. The best Rochdale Hornets side beats the best Swinton Lions side in my opinion.”
Hornets are hoping to have hooker Alex McClurg and wing Ryan King back in contention, but Gaz Langley and Mike Ratu remain sidelined.
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Swinton Lions coach Ian Watson is aiming for back-to-back wins after last week’s morale-boosting 42-24 victory over North Wales Crusaders.
The Lions remain nine points behind ninth-placed Batley Bulldogs, but could narrow that gap by beating Rochdale Hornets on Friday.
However, Hornets look set to be boosted by the return of Tony Suffolk and Alex McClurg, although Gareth Langley and Mike Ratu are still ruled out.
Hornets coach Ian Talbot said: “This is a massive game for us, given the disappointment of finding ourselves at the bottom of the table.
“I’m not really a believer in classing games as must-win, but this one is massive if we’ve any ambition of getting off the bottom and then trying to climb up to ninth place.
“For 60 minutes we were good against Batley last week, but in the other 20 minutes we conceded five tries and that’s the game gone. We can’t afford to repeat those mistakes this week.”
Talbot has been dealt a further blow with confirmation that Sean Casey has suffered a broken jaw, despite an initial diagnosis of dislocation. Casey will see a specialist on Thursday about a possible reconstruction.