Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Look out! Here come: Dewsbury

If you thought you were having a bad week, spare a thought for poor Warren Jowitt.

Previously battered by 36 to 6 by Halifax and 38 to 6 by Featherstone, the Northern Rail Cup's not been kind to the Rams. Winless and pointless until last week's horror-show, skin-of-their-teeth win at Oldham, they've now shipped over 100 points in three games with a minus 60 points difference.

And, not only do they look like a team struggling to gain momentum, last week they suffered a 2nd half collapse that would put even Keighley to shame. 

20 points to 4 up at the break  - and cruising at 30 points to 4 approaching the hour mark - they spectacularly imploded, shipping four tries and hanging on grimly for a two point win by 30 to 28.

Needless to say, coach Jowitt wasn't happy. Speaking in 'League Weekly' he said:  "To give away penalty after penalty and to drop the ball as much as we did in the second half is not acceptable…"

He wasn't happy in the Yorkshire Post either: “We fell in love with ourselves. After totally dominating the first half. We played some good football in the first 40, but what happened after that was not acceptable… with due respect to (Oldham) it was a case of what we didn’t do rather than what they did.”

Certainly one of the possible issues behind the Rams' inauspicious start could be the veritable tsunami of new signings. In preparation for the 2012 season Warren Jowitt has signed (deep breath…):

Craig Cook (hooker, played at Toulouse last season); Ben Jones (Prop, ex-Leeds Academy, played at York last year); Ryan Esders (Centre/Back Rower - also ex-York); Dwayne Barker (Utility forward - ex-Halifax, Leeds, Castleford, Hull KR & Harlequins); Scott Spaven - Half Back/Hooker (ex-Hull KR, at Doncaster last year); Danny Gaunt (hooker/half back from Stanley Rangers);  Derrell Olpherts (full-back - ex-Sharlston and Featherstone); Ed barber (half back - ex-Huddersfield, Castleford and Newcastle Wests in NSW) and George Flanagan (ex-Batley and Bradford Bulls hooker, who last year completed a 2 year ban after testing postive for cocaine).

Jowitt has also signed Bradford pair Steve Crossley (permanent deal) and Cain Southernwood (dual registration), plus Castleford's Billy Harris (12 month loan), John Davies & James Clare (both dual registration).

However, Dewsbury's marquee signing in the off season was ex-Saints/Cas forward Nick Fozzard - though of greater interest to Hornets fans is their acquisition of world-record try scorer Danny Samuel (without the 's').

It's clear that once this squad clicks it'll be more than competitive, but while they're all over the shop Hornets have a chance. In fact, if Hornets could nick this and beat South Wales convincingly, six points could give us a teeny-tiny, outside chance of qualification.

And that would be most acceptable.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Demetriou spanks the monkey

Time for our almost midweek look at the opposition coach's quotes on the previous weekend's game.
This week we looked at the 'Keighley News' where Jason Demetriou spake thus:
“Andy Shickell had a big game for us in the forwards…" - as is befitting of a… er… big lad.
Mixing his exotic animal metaphors, the Cougars coach also said: “We needed to get the monkey off our back a bit this week as well and finish a game off and I think we showed everyone what we are capable of this year.”

And that would be… conceding 16 points against a team that plays in a lower division and cost a tenth of Keighley's.

Keep up the good work.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Keighley Quantitatively Ease Past Hornets

Hornets 16 Cougars 40

Some economists argue that you need to spend your way out of a recession - and it's a theory that Keighley have embraced with relish. With last year's promotion-winning side gilded by the addition of a triumverate of ex-Wakefield Super League players and a NSW Cup starlet, the Cougars came to Spotland to wave their wad and get their wobbling start to the Northern Rail Cup back on the… er… rails.

Indeed, after just four minutes it was ex-Cronulla centre Parata who was first up to a Jones kick to the fringes to put the Cougars ahead. 

But Hornets struck back. After some concerted pressure and robust defence, a penalty took Hornets to the Keighley 20 metre line. Steve McDermott took the tap whilst the Cougars defence was still organising itself, burst through some frankly pitful tackling and found himself with four men in support approaching lone full-back Moss. A sharp pass sent Danny Pyke in for a great try, Crooky added the extras and the away fans fell silent as Hornets took a shock lead.

Keighley plugged away for the next quarter of an hour, but the Hornets defence worked hard, But as referee Mr Stokes descended into a fug of niggly penalties (22 in all), Keighley capitalised on a glut of posession with hooker Feather taking advantage of a tiring defence to slump in from acting half after three consecutive sets.

On their next foray into Hornets territory, a fruitless set of six culminated in a last tackle jab into the in-goal. Amongst a scramble of boots and bodies - in which Obst looked to have pushed the ball forwards along the gound - Referee Stokes somehow saw downward pressure and, without consulting either touch-judge, he pointed to the spot before the ball had stopped rolling. Not his finest moment.

A shell-shocked Hornets struggled to recover their shape and - with the hooter imminent - Keighley worked the ball to Coleman to give the half-time score a distinctly lop-sided look at 22-6.

The second-half began a much tighter contest, the third quarter a rugged forward struggle punctuated by an escalating penalty count. But on 59 minutes Mr Stokes handed the Cougars the key to unlocking the game - dispatching Dave Newton to the sin-bin for having the audacity to question his understanding of the laws.

Keighley sparked into life, two quick-fire tries for Lawton and Parata exploiting the numerical advantage and the game effectively over at 34-6.

But, given Keighley's habit of  clocking off in the last quarter of an hour, Hornets kept going and gained just reward. Firstly the ball was shipped wide to the left for Danny Pyke to score a second try; then a superb flat-pass from Chris Hough found Adam Bowman arriving at speed to score under the black dot untouched.

Keighley did conjure up another try for Parata who finished the day with four.

Once again Hornets showed that for long periods they are able to compete with teams from a higher division, with half-backs Crook and Roper chivvying and probing throughout and, up front, Dave Newton again put in a sterling shift.

But those lapses in concentration or discipline that you might just get away with against lesser opposition get you punished against well-drilled sides - and even I have to recognise that Keighley were supremely organised. But once teams work out their 'Five drives and a chip to the corner' gameplan, one does wonder if they have a plan-b.

Ultimately the result was an object example of economics at work, with returns proportional to the scale of the investment. Here, Hornets fiscal prudence demonstrating that a cautious approach will pay steady, sustainable dividends. As for Keighley? We shall watch. With interest.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Look out! Here come: Keighley

Having first thrown away a 14-6 lead to go down 22-16 against Batley, then last week having scraped a 24-all draw at Toulouse (having led 22-12 after an hour), there's a pattern emerging as the 'Manchester City of the Co-operative Championship' struggle to break their Northern Rail Cup duck.

Despite the signing of big names Michael Korkidas, Sam Obst and Semi Tadulala, plus 'Mad' Paul March, Richie Barnett. Danny Jones and ex-Cronulla, Wests Tigers and Junior Kiwi threequarter Matt Parata, Jason Demetriou's team of 65-minute wonders still need two wins from their remaining two games in order to qualify for the next stage of the competition.

Tadulala is in contention for a place in the 17, as is Jones - his chance depends on whether Demetriou sticks with Paul March and Sam Obst who filled the half-back berths last week. Leeds dual registration signing Jake Normington is also now available.

Having beaten Hornets in last year's playoff elimination final, Demetriou has a reasonable idea of what he's in for: “Rochdale are a good side and well coached by John Stankevitch," he said. 

But doesn't he love to rub it in? “We played them four times last year, but fortunately we got the right result in the play-off game and managed to go on and win promotion.” Yep, thanks for reminding us. We were shouting for Workington.

He went on: “I’m sure they will be looking to get off to winning ways before their season starts. They can score points and it will be a tough test. We are going to have to defend well."

Especially in that tricky last 15 minutes, Jason.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

TLCRF80mins 100% correct!

Halifax coach confirms they were a bit rubbish.

Quotes from the Halifax Evening Courier.

“With the ball in hand we weren’t fluent, we lacked a bit of penetration and the passing looked slow” 
“Our kicking in play was poor as well; compared to last week’s kicking game" 
“We keep saying we are a long way from the finished article, and yesterday proved that."
“We’ll need to improve massively to get anywhere near Featherstone though. They’re a smart, battle hardened team and we’ll need to be at our best if we want to compete with them.”
You read it here first!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Hornets get their Fax right

Halifax 38 Hornets 6

Einstein once said: "Spend an hour with a pretty girl and it feels like a minute; spend a minute sat on a hot stove, and it feels like an hour - that's relativity!" And so it is with the Northern Rail Cup.

Depending on which dugout you watched this game from, the result was relative. For Halifax, the Northern Rail cup is a benchmark for their season. One of the few clubs with a realistic chance of winning the competition, it's a chance of silverware and an opportunity to remind Superleague of their credentials for promotion.

For Hornets, it's a four game warm-up for the real business of the Co-operative Championship One season - a chance for Stanky to tune the machine before the games that really matter begin.

The preparation of both coaches going into this game was also relative: Halifax having played four games, Hornets having played two 'half' trial games against Mayfield and Crusaders.

Hence, it was a ring-rusty Hornets on show - but the early signs are positive.

Despite slipping behind to an early try from Fieldhouse, Hornets defence scrapped and scrambled well in the first quarter - aided by some frankly shocking wing-play from Fax's 'strike' players Worrincy and White.

It took until the 19th minute for Fax to stretch their lead when Thackeray was allowed to get an out-stretched hand out of the tackle to plonk the ball down from a metre.

But still Hornets strove to take the game to Halifax, the forwards driving hard and straight; Roper and Crook picking and probing at the Halifax defence.

Then came a wobble. A well-taken try from Gannon gave Halifax some momentum and they capitalised with two more quickfire tries in the last ten minutes of the half, to give the game a bit of a lop-sided feel at 26-nil.

The break came at just the right time for Stanky to pull his charges together and steady the ship. Indeed, Hornets came out champing the bit and, within two minutes of the restart, McDermott had burrowed under a napping Halifax defence to break Hornets' duck and give the travelling fans something to celebrate.

On the next foray into Halifax territory, Hornets could've been on the board again, but Dayne Donahue was considered held-up over the line and the chance was gone.

The remainder of the second half was a close-fought tussle. Hornets camped for long periods in the Fax 10 metre zone, but unable to find the killer pass or kick to unlock a stubborn defence; minor issues that will be resolved as timings and runs get honed.

As it was, Halifax were made to scrap for their two further tries (one for Ashall on 50 mins and one for Tyrer in the 75th), but Hornets emerged with real credibility from this first 'proper' run-out of the year.

Certainly, the Hornets dug-out would've been happy with the level of commitment and desire to move the ball at every opportunity. And with the forwards (particularly Cookson, Newton and Middlehurst) matching their opposite numbers for long periods, It's Stanky who will be relatively pleased with the performance.

Halifax on the other hand have the juggernaut of Featherstone heading their way - and you don't have to be Einstein to see they'll need to improve significantly to get anything out of that one.