Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Sunday's Coming: St Helens

In the words of Richard Jobson (and, assuming that the weather doesn't throw the same curveball as it did in 2013), this week: The Saints Are Coming - in the shape of a St Helens Select XIII.

Having forged a successful dual registration relationship over the last 12 months - the game should have an internecene feel to it. And, given Oldhan's reticence to defend the Law Cup, St Helens should provide a high quality pre-season contest against 'those who know us best'.

Given that Saints play Wigan in the James Roby testimonial game on Friday evening, it's likely that their  line-up will have a somewhat 'experimental' feel to it. But  as a club, Saints have signed some serious fire-power for the upcoming Super League arms race.

Up-front, they've augmented quite possibly the biggest and most mobile pack in Super League with the World-Cup's bluntest-weapon - Samoan battering ram Mose Masoe.
Mose Masoe and Luke Walsh - all the best NRL players
graduate via Henson Park

The ex-Sydney Roosters, ex-Penrith Panthers forward comes into a pack that includes Sia Solomona, Anthony Laffranchi, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Willie Manu, John Wilkin, James Roby and last season's gun SL rookie Alex Walmesley.

But an armoured division of such raw power needs a general, and - again - Nathan Brown has raided Penrith to bring the Panthers' scrum-half Luke Walsh to Langtree Park.

Honed in six years of NRL experience (starting with home-town club Newcastle), Walsh will be one to watch this year - and it'd be great if he got some game-time at Spotland. It looks increasingly likely that Nathan Brown will run former Hull three-quarter Jordan Turner at stand-off, handing the adaptable Lance Hohaia a more roving utility role.

Out wide, Brown faces a 'three-into-two-won't-go' situation: Tommy Makinson and Adam Swift - both of whom appeared for Hornets last year on Dual Reg - occupy the box seats for the wing berths, leaving experienced try-machine Ade Gardner the third man in the equation.

Regardless, it'll be another good test for Ian Talbot's squad as he looks to build momentum on the back of the win v Leigh U20s a couple of weeks ago.

While Talbot will likely use the game to start shaping his first 17 ahead of the new season, Saints will give valuable game time to those first team players who don't play in the James Roby testimonial alongside a selection of academy players.

And, as it's our first game at Spotland this year, it'll be a great opportunity for supporters to  renew acquaintances, run the rule over our new guys and start our own pre-season warm up for the Championship season ahead.

See you there - and bring a friend.

St Helens 2014 squad is:

1. Jonny Lomax
2. Tom Makinson
3. Jordan Turner
4. Josh Jones
5. Adam Swift
6. Lance Hohaia
7. Luke Walsh
8. Mose Masoe
9. James Roby
10. Louis McCarthy Scarsbrook
11. Sia Soliola
12. Jon Wilkin
13. Willie Manu
14. Anthony Laffranchi
15. Mark Flanagan
16. Kyle Amor
17. Paul Wellens
18. Alex Walmsley
19. Paul Clough
20. Richard Beaumont
21. Ade Gardner
22. Mark Percival
23. Joe Greenwood
24. Gary Wheeler
25. Anthony Walker
26. Matty Dawson
27. Greg Richards
28. Luke Thompson
29. Jordan Hand
30. Carl Forster
31. James Tilley
32. Lewis Charnock
33. Andre Savelio
34. Connor Dwyer
35. Alex Clare
- Jack Ashworth
- Lewis Galbraith

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Half backs the difference as Hornets Leigh-ve with a win

Leigh U20s 24 - Hornets 28

Ian Talbot and the Hornets supporters in the crowd of around 450 at Leigh East would have been much happier than they were at 4.40 last Sunday.

Casting off the rust and sluggishness that beset a constantly changing side at Keighley, Hornets took on a big, skilful Leigh XIII at a discernibly higher tempo and greater intensity.
Teamsheet from the Leigh Game

With Steve Roper and Paul Crook looking sharper, Hornets went on the front-foot from the off. Indeed, The former ran off the latter after just five minutes only to see the try struck-off for a forward pass.

Hornets fans didn't have long to wait, though. On 12 minutes winger Kyle Buckley-Mayall intercepted on his own 20 metre line, showing great pace to out-sprint the chasing cover and score. Crooky with the extras for 6-nil.

From the kick-off possession, Paul Crook launched a massive 40-20 and, from the scrum, Wayne English made the extra man on a looping run to put Ryan King in by the flag. Crooky just wide with the conversion atempt: 10-nil.

With Hornets happy to play the game in Leigh's half, strong defence on 24 minutes drove the home side back into the in-goal and, from the drop-out, Steve Roper's jinking, dummying run had defenders backing off all the way to the goal line for a well made solo try. Crooky added the two and at 16-nil it had the look of a parade.

Wholesale changes to the Hornets' line-up in the second quarter gave Leigh the opportunity to capitalise.

On the half hour a spiralling cross-field kick descended from the darkness for Spence to touch-down unopposed. Leigh's stand-out player, half-back Ward added the two and, at 16-6, the Centurions had the momentum. Indeed, a neat interchange of passes up the right channel had Hornets scrambling. We couldn't see the try-scorer in the gloom, but Ward banged over the two. Half time 16-12 to Hornets.

Hornets began the second half as they had the first. A period of concerted pressure, followed by a repeat set. But Leigh held firm and on 55 minutes launched a counter attack off the back of two penalties to grab a converted try and take the lead at 18-16.

Hornets were quick to respond. On the hour good approach work from the impressive BARLA international Ste Marsh created a hole just big enough for Ryan King to duck in and score. Crook with the two, Hornets back in front at 22-18.

On the next foray into Leigh's half, a lofted kick from Steve Roper had Leigh's winger in all sorts of trouble, the onrushing Matt Crow touching down. The referee consulted the touch judge 60 metres away who determined that Crow had been offside at the kick. No Try.

Let off the hook, Leigh marched straight back downfield where some direct running resulted in a try by the posts. Ward hit the target and Leigh edged back in front 24-22 with 10 mins remaining.

Fittingly, it was a Roper and Crook combination that unzipped the Leigh defence and good hands up the right found Matty Crow on the end of a sweeping move to score. Crooky slid the conversion through from the touchline. Hornets back in front , and holding out to win 28-24.

At the death, a seemingly innoucuous scuffle at a tackle was deemed serious enough for the referee to dismiss a Leigh player, but it was an anomaly in a game played in a good, competitve spirit.

Whilst this wasn't a perfect performance (constant changes don't help momentum), it was more cohesive and dynamic. When Hornets clicked, they looked fluid with the ball in hand. Elsewhere, Warren Thompson, Ste Marsh and Chris Baines were the pick of the forwards, none of the new faces looked out of place and, hopefully, by the time we get to Owlerton, Ian Talbot will have a few selection headaches.

Finally, credit to Leigh's U20s - they're a big, handy, well-drilled unit who gave a great account of themselves. But the next time we come back to Leigh Sports Village, it'll be a different proposition altogether. Can't wait.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Friday's Coming: Leigh Centurions

Having just about thawed out from Sunday's game, Hornets next friendly of our Championship pre-season campaign will be against a Leigh Centurions U20s side this Friday 17th January. The game will be played at Leigh East, with a 7.30pm Kick Off.

Leigh East ARLFC are based at Leigh Sports Village - the home of spectacular Grand Final victories - on the adjoining complex next to the main stadium.
Leigh East - bottom right in our picture

The Hornets line-up will combine the current trialists playing for a place in the squad, alongside a selection of first team players. Leigh will also play fringe first teamers alongside academy players.

Whilst there is some parking directly outside the Leigh East Clubhouse, this fills up quickly on game days. There is parking available on the Leigh Sports Village site (only a short walk). Parking on Ledgard Avenue is not recommended and parking on the residential spaces of the neighbouring Apartment Blocks is strictly prohibited.

If you're using Sat-Nav, the details are:
Leigh East
Leigh Sports Village,
Ledgard Ave,
WN7 4

Hornets squad for tonight's game at Leigh is:

1 Wayne English
2 Gaz Langley
3 Dave Hull
4 Danny Davies
5 Ryan King 
6 Paul Crook
7 Steve Roper
8 John Cookson
23 James Dandy
10 Warren Thompson
11 Chris Baines
12 Alex Trumper
13 Jordan Case

15 Benji Lloyd
16 Liam Gilchrist
18 Matty Crow
19 Casey Mayberry
20 Joe Bate
22 Michael Ratu
24 Tony Suffolk
25 Ste marsh
26 Adam Bowman
27 Andy Ball
28 Kyle Buckley-Mayall
30 Danny Waddy

And - rather than do that thing where we spend the whole of the first four games pointing vaguely into the distance and asking: "Who's he again?" here's our FREE cut out and keep guide to the new faces in the Hornets squad. So, no excuses...

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

From Rockdale to Rochdale....

Ryan becomes the next chapter of Rochdale's Fijian adventure

Hornets continue Rochdale's long tradition of recognising Fijian talent by signing the Bati's 2013 World Cup squad half-back Ryan Millard. He has a very impressive Sydney league pedigree and we can't wait for him to arrive.
Ryan Millard -
from Henson Park
to Spotland.

Your cut out and keep guide to Ryan Millard:

- Ryan was born in 13 March 1987 in Hurstville, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Hurstville has lots of great chinese restaurants.
- He's a stand-off or or full-back, and can also play as a centre or winger.
- His dad is Shane Millard, coach of the Illawarra Cutters - and assistant coach of the Australian Fijian team.
- He played junior league for Renown United and both Jersey Flegg and SG Ball for the St. George Illawarra Dragons.
- He's played New South Wales Cup for the Wests Magpies and Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs. In 2009 he spent a season with the mighty Newtown Jets. Which enhances his reputation even further.
- He then moved to the Shellharbour City Dragons, who were the New South Wales Cup partners of St. George Illawarra Dragons.
- Last year he played for North Sydney Bears feeder club Burwood/North Ryde United in the Ron Massey Cup.
- He currentlly lives in Rockdale and joins an elite group of RL pilgrims to have been to both Rockdale and Rochdale.

Monday, 13 January 2014

And so it begins...

All journeys start with a single step - and we like to think it's a bit early in this one to get carried away. Pre-season friendlies are, primarily, steps up a learning curve - though the Bradford Telegraph & Argus went big on Keighley's well-drilled win like it meant significantly more than just a structured run-out under match conditions.

Hornets went to Cougar Park with an extended bench and it was inevitable that, in order for Ian Talbot to get a look at all of them in action, there'd be a lack of rhythm that comes with multiple changes.

To be fair to Keighley, they are the benchmark to aim for, for staying in the Championship - and their jumbo-sized pack made easy headway for 80 minutes against a ring-rusty Hornets.

Without star signing Paul Handforth in the line-up, Keighley fielded Paul March at half-back and - off the back of his forwards' dominance - he launched a first half aerial bombardment of Hornets left corner, where ex-superleague winger Richie Barnett capitalised on his significant height advantage over Ryan King to grab two tries from the skies. Elsewhere Hornets succumbed to a couple of slack close-range efforts from Feather and Cosgrove.

Hornets did look more comfortable with the ball in hand, and when they launched a 20th minute attack up the right flank, tidy hands from Paul Crook and Danny Davies slotted Benji Lloyd in for a well taken try. But the respite was brief; Cosgrove grabbing a second and Hesketh stepping through to give the Cougars a 36-4 half time lead.

The second-half was similarly disjointed as players came and went: Keighley keeping the scoreboard ticking over at regular intervals so that their overexcitable tannoy guy could treat us all to his somewhat unique style of delivery. For the record, Keighley scorers in the second half were Lee, Williams (2) and Lawton as Keighley ended the day with ten tries.

So what did we learn? Well, it was an unsubtle reminder of the size of the step up to compete at Championship standard: it enabled Ian Talbot to run the rule over his squad in match conditions to see how they rerspond and react to game pressures; and it allowed players to shake off the torpor of the winter break and get back into the groove. So, while it wasn't the prettiest of afternoons, it was a vital step in Hornets preparations for 2014.

And for those of you who opted to do something else with your Sunday afternoon, you did miss one of the coldest afternoons at a game that we can remember.
Yesterday's teamsheet

Friday, 10 January 2014

The last word on 2013...

Just to close the door on 2013, we have the final votes on the League Express Championship One (you know, that league we used to play in...Oldham's league...).

After a huge effort from the Hornets family, both Carl Forster and Ian Talbot came close seconds to representatives from Champions 'Big Spending North wales Crusaders™' (aka 'we don't agree with Dual reg. until it suits us' Crusaders™). 

Thanks to everyone who took the time to get involved and vote. Now - let's look forward - bring on 2014 (get yourself to Keighley and get behind the lads1)

The placings by % of votes cast were:

League Express CHAMPIONSHIP ONE Player of the year

Jono Smith 30.5%
Carl Forster 28%
Jon Ford 16%
Tyla Hepi 15%
Dylee Skee 10.5%

League Express CHAMPIONSHIP ONE Coach of the year
Clive Griffiths 43%
Ian Talbot 23%
Scott Naylor 14%
Joe Mbu 12%
Troy Perkins 8%

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Sunday's Coming: Keighley

Nearly there folks...

Keighley's pre-season preparation stumbled at the first hurdle last week when their game at Halifax was called off on Saturday morning due to a contentiously waterlogged Shay pitch.

Indeed, Cougars chairman Gary Fawcett found it odd that West Yorkshire how seems to have distinctly different climate zones. Speaking in the Telegraph & Argus he said: “In my view, Halifax must have had considerably more rain than Keighley… because certainly Cougar Park wasn’t waterlogged…"

So - freaky weathwer premitting -  Paul March has to wait a week to run the rule over his enhanced squad.

Having secured Keighley's Championship status on the final day of the 2013 campaign, 2014 will be a big year for March, who has announced that this season will bring down the curtain on  a 'colourful' playing career that began with a Challenge Cup appearance for at Wakefield in 1998.
Our artist's impression of how the revamped Cougar Park
might possibly look - in a parallel universe.
Rather than make wholesale changes, March has added a handful of players in key positions. Former Castleford and York hooker Jack Lee, Ex-Huddersfield utility back Lewis Graham, ex-Batley loose forward Ash Lindsay and ex-Dewsbury full-back James Craven have all made the trip across to Cougar Park, as has former Huddersfield Giants academy player Ross Peltier who's back in the UK after a stint in the Queensland Cup.

These apart, Keighley's key signing for the forthcoming season looks to be much travelled (Batley, Doncaster, Wakefield, Castleford, Fatherstone and Halifax) half-back Paul Handforth, who'll slot in alongside Danny Jones. That leaves the redoubtable March looking to "… utilise myself where I’m needed.”

But the really big off-season news from Keighley is their ambitious £5 million plan to develop Lawkholme Lane. With work planned over nine phases and scheduled to take five years, phase 1 includes a complete re-build of their venerable 1930s main stand to include seating for 870, with terracing in-front. Sounds like a great project.

For those of us who've been pacing the floor since the World Cup final, Sunday can't come quickly enough. See you all at Lawkholme Lane/Cougar Park - Hornets great 2014 Championship adventure begins here.

Hornets squad news for Sunday:

- New signings James Dandy, Sean Casey and Tony Suffolk are available for selection.
- Triallists available are: Sale Sharks Union convert Dan Waddy, BARLA international Ste Marsh, Lancashire amateur centre Andy Ball and former Catalan Dragon and Toulouse Olympique centre Julien Lasserre.
- Returning to Hornets are Adam Bowman and Casey Mayberry.

Not available:
 Liam Gilchrist (ankle) Chris Tyrer (groin), Tongan Sydney Havea (visa complications)