Monday, 20 August 2012

Hornets Cheer - As Barrow Choke

Hornets 24 Barrow 18

It was a robust and clinical Hornets that finally torpedoed Barrow's chances of winning CC1. Hornets were as inventive, determined and enthusiastic as Barrow were, frankly, soft - and, with the scoreline flattering a flaccid Raiders, Hornets turned in a supremely cohesive performance.

Not once in 80 minutes did title-chokers Barrow breach the Hornets defence under their own steam. Of their four tries, three came directly from Hornets errors and the scrappy fourth from a last-tackle kick. Indeed, under a relentless pounding from the Hornets pack and a dual aeriel bombardment from Crook and Hough, Barrow spent most of the afternoon going backwards.

With the early exchanges played in the visitors' half, Wayne English's wriggling run on 7 minutes mesmerised the defenders sufficiently to create space for Dayne Donoghue to crash through and score. And within minutes, Donoghue was again tormenting the Raiders - this time unzipping the defence for Paul Crook to sail through for a well-crafted try.

With Barrow going nowhere, Hornets set-up camp in the Raiders' 40, causing havoc in the ranks and forcing repeat sets with a series of teasing in-goal kicks. But it was Barrow who got the lucky break: a ball squirming from a Hornets hand, a freakish bounce and two tries in quick succession from Ballard and Larkin to give the visitors an undeserved lead.

But Hornets didn't panic. Working the ball back downfield, Steve Roper found Wayne English on a looping crossfield run, the defence bammboozled as he ghosted through a huge gap to score. Hornets in front at the break by 14 to 10.

Hornets began the second half playing high-tempo, high impact football and it took Barrow just six minutes to succumb.  English again scampering across the face of a panicking defence, hitting Jonny Leather at pace for him to scoot in at the flag. Fantastic stuff. For good measure Paul Crook slotted the extras from the touchline.

Barrow again capitalised on a Hornets error for Shaw to score and, eventually, scored a try of their own making when a kick hit more in hope than expectation pinballed through a crowd of bodies for Larkin to find himself in the in-goal with the ball. 

But it was Barrow's last hurrah. In the final 20 minutes Hornets gave no quarter, repeatedly compelling Barrow to start under their own posts; their only hope a stream of lead-footed hoofs downfield. And with a punch-drunk Barrow desperately flailing, Hornets ended strongly: Crooky's dink into the in-goal causing the pre-requisite panic; Dayne Donoghue keeping his head to plunge through and touch down.

Ultimately, this was a commanding performance and a terrific win - demonstrating just what this Hornets side is capable of. Indeed, on yesterday's evidence, there was only one side on show that looked capable of competing at a higher level. And it wasn't Barrow.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Look Out, Here Come: Barrow

And now, the end is near and so we face the final… er… home game of 2012. How time flies…

It's been a long, frustrating, circuitous road and, having looked nailed on to gain promotion from Champonship 1 as champions, Barrow seem to have a dose of the yips. A 48-34 defeat to Workington at Derwent Park last week has pulled both Town and Doncaster right back into contention with two games running - and Worky have a game in hand!

With Town left with Oldham, Gateshead and Hornets to play, there's a palpable swing of momentum away from Craven Park - which will make Darren Holt's side even more desperate for a win at Spotland.

In fact it's a bit of a Cumbrian exodus on Sunday - Barrow at Hornets, Town at Oldham - so the A627M axis could play a major role in deciding which of these two Cumbrian clubs gets the £50k prize money for winning the league - if only by influencing their respective points differences.

But Holty's being philosphical about the possibility of Barrow chucking away the title.
“To be honest we’ve been a bit down in the dumps. It was a bad result, but also it was a disappointing performance. It was a game we could have won, never mind got a bonus point from. It was one of those days when nothing went right for us and it wasn’t a great performance."
Ah, it happens to the best of us, Darren. But he does appreciate that his strategy of recruiting the very best of local talent has turned Barrow around: 
“We’ve looked back to where we were at the start of the season and how far we have come since. Expectations have risen as we have gone on, and to be honest, the game against Workington was the first time where the players haven’t done themselves justice, as they have done through the course of the season."
But, while Holt talks up his team's chances, between the lines you sense that Barrow's ship has sailed: “… in the whole scheme of things it has been a very successful season and we are not out of it yet. There is a still a chance. It’s out of our hands now … we need to look forward and just hope that someone else does us a favour, and that if we look after ourselves, things will take care of themselves.”
On the home front, we heard last night that ten players from Hornets and South Wales Scorpions have been charged following the… er… frank exchange of views just before half time last Sunday.
Gary Middlehurst, Phil Braddish and Chris Hough have been charged with Grade C fighting offences while Steve Bannister and Dayne Donaghue have been charged with Grade B fighting offences.
But South Wales' fighting, it seems, is considered less serious - Luke Kell and Nathan Mossop charged with Grade B fighting offences from the same incident while Joe Bullock has been charged with a Grade A fighting offence.
South Wales’s  'Mr Angry' Dom Crosby has also been charged with a Grade B head-butt head-butt on John Cookson while substitute Jason Howells has been charged with a Grade C offence for entering the field of play to punch Houghy in the back of the head.
In a strange way, the end of the season can't come quickly enough - and for us it does come a week early. After Monday's Barrow report, TLCRF80mins will be pulling down the shutters on the 2012 season. We'll miss the Workington game because we'll be somewhere else next week - great planning on our part :D
Hope you've enjoyed the resurrection of TLCRF80mins, we'll be open for business through the close season with our proudly biased view of all the news that's fit to blog. Cheers.

Monday, 13 August 2012

'neath Contempt

Hornets 42 Scorpions 12

I don't know what it is about Welsh Rugby League teams but, having now seen both North and South varieties in quick succession, it seems pretty clear that they come to scrap. Quite literally in this case.

Whilst Hornets had completely bossed the first 40, a couple of 'interesting' decisions from the officials had tempered their dominance and kept the Scorpions in the game.

Hornets opened the scoring on 13 minutes off the back of a booming Paul Crook 40/20, Crooky adding the extras. Then Hornets had two tries struck off within a minute: Middlehurst for obstruction, English for a dubious forward pass.

Scorpions took played their 'get out of jail' card, working the ball back upfield where Gilbert was first to react to a Davies kick through.

But Hornets hit back almost immediately, Middlehurst's skittling run setting up Roper to score under the black dot from 30 metres.

Again Hornets were denied an almost immediate score, a flowing break up the left flank led by Chris Hough slotted Roper under the posts - only for the touch-judge to inform referee Merrick that Houghy had entered the field of play as subsititute in an offside position. Bedlam in the stands. From the resulting penalty Scorpions sent James crashing in, Hawkes converted and - astonishingly, we found the scores locked at 12-all coming into the final seconds of the half. 

With the ball going nowhere, Gary Middlehurst was goaded into throwing a punch and all hell broke loose. As all 26 players slugged it out in a series of rolling brawls, it was clear from the glee in the Scorpions directors area that this was all part of the plan.

In the wash-up, Middlehurst was sent-off for punching, Phil Braddish for running in to protect Steve Roper who was being kicked on the floor; Roper dispatched to hospital with a suspected concussion. On the Welsh side Mossop displayed all the traits of 'small-man' syndrome, yapping and snapping all the way to the dressing room, whilst sub Howells was red-carded for rushing off the bench to hit Chris Hough from behind. Nasty.

Referee Merrick finally restored order - commanding the teams from the field separately to avoid re-ignition. But with the teams starting the second half 11 v 12 (Scorpions having lost an unused sub), it was clear that there would be some major re-shaping required.

And it was Hornets who regained shape and composure most effectively, beginning the half with a well-taken Bloomfield try. As the Scorpions frustration began to leach into every tackle, Hornets kept their cool, overcoming their numercial disadvantage as Crook sent Jonny Leather in at the corner. On the next possession in the Scorpions half, Hornets worked a similar trick up the opposite wing only for Andy Taylor to be bundled into the corner flag. Hornets now completely on top: South Wales looking to stem the tide by any means necessary - a penalty count of 13-5 indicative of their growing desperation.

As it was, when John Cookson steamed the ball in just past the hour mark, Scorpions' Crosby finally succumbed to his anger-management issues - a flailing arm, followed by a headbutt, followed by a red card - followed by a hail of boos from a now incensed home crowd. Now with momentum and parity, Hornets went in search of the coup de grace.

From the resulting penalty Stephen Bannister blasted through for Hornets fifth try of the afternoon, followed three minutes later by Dale Bloomfield's hat-trick - slicing through to score.

Three minutes later, Hornets went ripping through a flailing Scorpions defence, Bloomfield turning provider to send Andy Taylor in by the flag. And, with South Wales now visibly punch-drunk, Hornets lifted for a big finish - Jonny Leather providing the knock-out punch in the 79th minute. Crooky cool under pressure to slot the extras from wide out.

So - with yet another ugly win over a Welsh side devoid of any real footballing capability, Hornets deserve credit for finding the wherewithal to play some tidy rugby under such difficult circumstances. To nil the Scorpions in the second half - 20 minutes of which were played at a numerical disadvantage - shows great attitude and commitment.

And that in itself is a firm base to build on for next year.

Friday, 10 August 2012

RFL Ban Stanky from RL. Thanks a lot, Red Hall.

An RFL Operational Rules Tribunal has banned John Stankevitch from all involvement in Rugby League matches or the business of Rugby League with member clubs.

Stankevitch was deemed to have committed blatant and deliberate misconduct in his wilful disregard for RFL Operational Rules in his failure to pay fines imposed by two earlier RFL Tribunals.

Stankevitch was fined £1,000, £500 of which was suspended, after being found guilty of misconduct for abusing a match official following a Northern Rail Cup tie between Rochdale Hornets and Keighley Cougars. The Tribunal also ordered Stankevitch to forfeit a further £250 which had been suspended from a previous misconduct charge.

Stankevitch failed to pay the fines by the given deadline and did not exercise his right to  appeal and have a full re-hearing.

In handing down their decision, the RFL Tribunal ruled that under Operational Rule D1.12 (b) (v), Stankevitch is banned from the following activity:

-        Involvement in matches;
-        Attendance at Rugby League grounds on matchday;
-        Involvement in the business of any member club.

Involvement in this context includes both paid and voluntary involvement. Though I'm not sure they could impose this legally, surely it's a restriction of trade.

The penalty will remain in force until full payment of the fines due is made. Stankevitch has also been informed that he has the right to appeal this decision pursuant to Operational Rule D1.33.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Look Out, Boyo - Here Come South Wales Scorpions

Something different this week, in that our match preview comes to you from sunny Amsterdam! 

So, whilst I avoid being offered bizzare sexual acts from 18 stone Latvian women, South Wales Scorpions coach Dave Clark remains a chipper chap after Sunday's 36-24 defeat in the Welsh derby against North Wales Crusaders. "I took a lot of positives out of the game," he said - which nicely balances the wheelbarrowful of negatives we took away from London Skolars.

He singled out Irish prop Tom McKeown  for praise, alongside former Welsh Student player Thomas Morgan. Clark has also blooded a raft of youngsters including 18 year-olds Alex Jones, Luke Kell and Osian Phillips.

But the defeat looks likely to condemn the Scorpions to a 9th place finish, so Clark will be using the last few games to help prepare for 2013.

On this Sunday's game, he said: "It will be a tough trip for us as Rochdale are still looking to get into the play-offs and they'll want to bounce back after losing at London Skolars last week. They're a bit up and down this year, but I watched their game against Crusaders and they dominated that from start to finish.
"They play very well at home and it'll be a big challenge for us. We'll have to be at our best to get a result."

As for Hornets, we need a win to wash away the ghastly aftertaste of last week's awful defeat.
Other than Dale Bloomfield, who took a knock to the knee, there are likely to be a few other changes to this week's squad  - mostly due to performance rather than injury.

Stanky  said: "I was bitterly disappointed with some of the lads' performances last week. I got the sense some of them have made their minds up that we're not going to get promoted and that they didn't put in 100 per cent. That's just not good enough… there have got to be changes, because we can't allow performances like that.

"There's plenty to play for in terms of contracts for next year, and we want to finish the season on a high.
We've got a tough game on Sunday, and two more after that against Barrow and Workington, but there are no excuses."

Monday, 6 August 2012

Shambles Squared

Skolars 56 Hornets 36

To misquote TS Eliot: so this is how the 2012 season ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper?

On a weekend when Team GB cleaned up a raft of golds at London 2012, Hornets travelled to the capital only to deliver a 24 carat omnishambles. On previous showings, you know what to expect from the Skolars: given the opportunity (and a referee with no control over the ruck area) they'll suck you into a spoiling battle of perpetual niggling and, once your frustration reaches boiling point, your discipline cracks and your shape goes, they'll bludgeon you with their blunt-instrument approach.

And so it was in this pig-ugly, messy affair that saw Hornets on the wrong end of a ridiculous 16-8 penalty count. But, despite the fact that, at times, this barely resembled Rugby League, Hornets contrbuted to their own downfall with some shoddy defence.

Hornets were caught napping after just 45 seconds as Bryan cruised through a static defence to give Skolars the lead. But Hornets shook themselves down and edged in front with well worked tries from Stephen Bannister and Dayne Donoghue.

But Hornets allowed Skolars back into the game, asleep again as Hopkins strode through to tie the scores at 12-all. Hornets then had their best spell of the game. A Paul Crook 40/20 provided the platform for Dale Bloomfield to score. Then Bloomers turned provider slipping the ball to Steve McDermott who jinked in. At 24-12 Hornets looked to have steadied the ship, but right on the hooter they nodded off just long enough to allow Skee in for a soft try. Half time Hornets up 24-18, but the momentum now with Skolars.

Hornets began the second half in similar fashion to the way they started the first; Anthony catching a last-tackle kick under his own posts, then given sufficient space to run the length of the field to score. 

Then came a spell of 'you score, we score' - two awful defences trading tries to stretch the scoreline out to 36-34 in Hornets' favour (Danny Ekis, then Adebesi, then Mclean, then Steve McDermott). And all the time, the game degenerating into a fragmented mess as the penalty count began to soar. Steve Roper was the first valve to blow, sin-binned for dissent on the hour.

Skolars took full advantage. With Hornets all over the place, McLean grabbed two tries in a minute for his hat-trick. And with Hornets shipping penalties every time they were asked to defend, Skee gleefully accepted, pushing the game further from Hornets' reach. Steve McDermott was next to feel the ire of referee Cobb, dispatched for persistent infringements in the ruck (risible under the circumstances), then Danny Price followed for dissent as Skolars were awarded a scrappy try after they appeared to knock on in the in-goal. A fitting end to such a shite afternoon.

The clutch of Hornets fans making the trip left the ground bemused and angry at such a feeble effort. Certainly this felt like a game of little consequence, of a team (barely) going through the motions and praying for the season to end.

The long-slow walk/tube/walk/train/drive home (and the bitter smell of a hundred quid burned) gives you ample time to ruminate on the reasons why this was so bloody awful.  A patched-up backline missing English and Leather? A front-row missing Cookson? A referee with no real grip of the game and whose 24 penalties indicates a total lack of control? Well, yes to all - but not nearly enough reasons for allowing Joe Mbu's unique brand of 'anti-football' to prevail.

Indeed, in every aspect, Rugby League doesn't get any worse than this - and it's those who suffered a long, expensive, disappointing day that deserve a medal.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Stanky News

Stanky takes charge! "I want to concentrate the majority of my time bringing money to the club. I want to bring in hospitality and sponsorship, and looking at ways of raising revenue, and crowds as well as getting kids through the gates."
Click here for latest

Stanky explains all to Jack Dearden
BBC Manchester interview Thursday evening
Click here to listen

Report from the BBC Sport site last night said:
John Stankevitch steps down as Rochdale Hornets coach"John Stankevitch has chosen to step down as coach of Rochdale Hornets but will remain at the club in a new role. BBC Radio Manchester reports his assistant, Chris Hough, will take charge on a temporary basis."

This follows yesterday's announcement here:
John Stankevitch steps down as Rochdale Hornets coach | Love Rugby League

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Look 'aht, 'ere comes Lahndan Skolahs

Formerly the whipping boys of CC1, London Skolars these days are a very different kettle of… er… jellied eels.

Robust, well organised and motivated by Skolars old boy Joe Mbu, they're on a bit of a roll - last week slamming SW Scorpions by 64 to 6 - the second successive match they'd hit the 60+ mark - after being 6-nil down. Warning signs there.

And with places in CC1's pointless end-of-season playoffs still up for grabs (just think of the revenue…) Sunday's game still carries some weight. Hard on Hornets' heels with 20 points, a win on sunday would catapult Skolars up the table. Given that Oldham are likely to get a nasty dry humping up at Barrow, this game looks like the battle for 5th. But with Whitehaven at home to high-flying Doncaster, a Cumbrian defeat and a Hornets win once again closes the gap to three points - Hornets with a marginally better points difference of just 2. So racking up the points would help - especially if Doncaster can deny 'Haven the bonus point. All very complicated.

As Lenny Kravitz once said "Baby it aint over til it's over" and Hornets need to keep their foot on the gas for when Whitehaven blow-up (for which we remain ever-hopeful)

But Mbu remains bullish: "It's wide open at the moment, with both the Welsh clubs and ourselves in with a real chance of dislodging Oldham and Rochdale", he said earlier in the week. And, given the opportunity to rub it in: "We've beaten (Hornets) down here in consecutive seasons and, with so much riding on the game we'll be looking for a hat-trick." Hopefully, he'll spend Sunday evening quetly reviewing those words while he begins his planning for next season.

As always, it'll be the hard-core Hornets who make the trip 'Sarf' - but hopefully there'll be enough of us to make a bit of noise and give the lads a lift.

John Stankevitch steps down as Rochdale Hornets coach

John Stankevitch steps down as Rochdale Hornets coach | Love Rugby League