Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Sunday's Coming: Sheffield

And then, as author Joshua Ferris so succinctly put it, We Came To The End.

Hornets 2014 Championship adventure terminates as it should've begun, against the Eagles of Sheffield.  And it's proven to be an interesting trip for all of us. 

Way back in February when the naysayers were predicting that we wouldn't win a game, 10 wins/30 points was predicted to be enough to stay up in this brutal restructuring season. 

However - on the last day - Workington, Keighley, Batley and Whitehaven could all still drop with 11 or 12 wins and up to 45 points. The fact that two teams comfortably in the play-off places could still go down only underlines how impossible the task of survival really is when you relegate 40% of a league.  For any of those clubs, relegation will be a disaster they didn't anticipate. With Worky at home to Dewsbury needing only a bonus point for safety and 'Haven needing a win at Swinton, we think that Batley (at Doncaster) and Keighley (at home to Fev) look the most vulnerable. And for those of you keen to do the maths, one of these clubs could go down on a combnation of a bonus point and points difference. Ouch.

For a benchmark on Hornets' performance,  the club formerly known as 'Big Spending North Wales Crusaders™' - who steamed up last season as convincing champions - looks set to end the season on the same number of wins as us, their position artificially buoyed by five bonus points.

More importantly, if Swinton lose to Whitehaven on Sunday it cements Hornets' position in what previously was the coveted 'third bottom' spot - what used to be that key 'survival stepping stone' to clubs establishing themselves in the Championship. In any other year, third bottom would've been deemed a major achievement - this year it constitutes the difference between receiving a £15,000 'compensation' payment from the RFL and getting nothing. So it remains vital that Hornets secure that position - if only so we can say that we were never relegated on the field of play.

And so to Sheffield - a club that's not often on TLCRF80mins' radar. We've always thought of them like a mirage: they happen somewhere else and you're never entirely sure whether they're real or not. 

They come to Spotland pumped from a huge win at Featherstone. And they blitzed Hornets at Bawtry Road a couple of weeks back (yes, we all know that if we'd've played them at Owlerton in the rain back in February when they hadn't had a pre-season and before they'd gained a bit of cohesion/momentum, we would have won) - and on close inspection their squad is packed with some real global quality.
Three Samoan internationals, a PNG international and the former captain of NSW Cup Balmain Tigers side gives their side a pretty impressive backbone.

But - as Featherstone found-out - Hornets are capable of springing a shock

It'd be a good way to end our Championship journey. Thank you for travelling with us.