Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Sunday's Coming: Barrow Raiders

In March, Anthony Murray, stepped down after just five months in charge at Barrow. The Raiders' board appointed Bobbie Goulding to replace him.

Bobbie signs up for his new conservatory
Here at TLCRF80mins we knew then that this preview was coming - and that it'd be a tough one to write. Having been - particularly in his first spell - quite possibly Hornets most 'emotionally engaged' coach, he walked his usual thin line between enigmatic genius and timebomb.

Having come to a club on its knees, Bobbie gave us a team hewn in his own image: big on passion and energy, never knowingly beaten and a bloody rollercoaster of emotions.

Whatever your view of Bobbie - and he's possibly the most 'marmite' of rugby league personalities - he gave us the unforgettable win at Leigh, the home win against Halifax with the last play of the game and a famous victory against a Castleford side that considered it its divine right to beat all before it.

But - if a star burns brightest before it explodes - it was clear to see that both club and coach were on a terminal trajectory. While 'old' Hornets went on to shovel unthinkably large sums of money into contracts with mediocre players en-route to 2009's administrative implosion, Goulding departed - twice - and hit the self destruct button. The full details laid bare in this hard to read article from the Daily Mail

After losing the French national job in 2011 -  and almost his life in a 50mph crash in which his car left the road and overturned and hit a tree - he was persuaded by the Rugby Football League to undergo treatment for alcohol and drug misuse at the Sporting Chance rehab clinic in Hampshire.

Speaking on Talksport back in March, Bobbie said he owed his life to the RFL. "Without that call from the RFL I don't think I would be here now, I think I would be dead. I'm 10 months sober now and I'll never touch another drink or drug again. I've had a lot of chances and I've let people down, and I'm not going to let anyone else down."

And so, to Barrow, where the first bombshell Bobbie dropped was his intention to coax his 42 year-old body back into playing contention. I’ve signed a playing contract,” he said at the time. And he's serious.

“I’m serious. It’s not a mess about – I wouldn’t have done it if I thought it was, I’m serious in every thing I do."

But don't let Barrow's position at the foot of the table fool you. With two wins so far this season (away at a fast-fading Sheffield and at home to Batley) the Raiders have been competitive in pretty much every game and have four bonus points to prove it.

And even though Barrow have lost eight from the last nine games, we should know better than most how dangerous a Bobbie Goulding team given no chance can be. Thus far, he hasn't had to pull on his boots, but with Barrow slow to gain momentum this term the possibility might still be there.

Trevor Baxter, writing in the North West Evening Mail after Barrow went down 27-18 at Keighley wrote: "Bobbie Goulding could be edging closer to a playing return after seeing his side slip to defeat at Challenge Cup quarter-finalists Keighley. The Raiders coach must be sorely tempted to come out of retirement and add his vast experience to a side that came up short again at the crucial time."

"Having overcome a poor start to get within one point of their in-form hosts with little more than a quarter of the game to go, Barrow pressed the self-destruct button and conceded three further tries."

As always, life with Bobbie Goulding is never less than interesting - and he'll have his charges especially fired up on Sunday.  But - whichever side of the marmite divide you sit - Hornets really need to spoil his weekend.

Let's face it - Bobbie wouldn't want it any other way.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Patched-Up Hornets Pay The Penalty

Shorn of the presence of Davies, Ratu, Langley and Suffolk due to injury, this always looked like a big ask for a patched-up Hornets. And the clear lack of bite from this fearsome foursome proved too big an obstacle, as Doncaster rode a wave of penalties to take full advantage.

Hornets set the tone pretty much the first whistle. James Tilley conceded a penalty for holding down in the first set. Donny were piggy-backed straight downfield where Scott bounced off a series of tackles to send in Kesik off a short ball for a soft try. Scott converted 6-nil.

On 11 minutes, Hornets set up camp in the Dons half, but the pressure was relieved by a soft offside penalty. Doncaster again yomped straight down the far end where quick hands sent bookies' favourite Leaf in untouched. Scott the two for 12-nil.

The next set, James Tilley was again the victim of referee Hewer's hawkeye - snagged for offside. Doncaster marched downfield, only to be pulled back over the line for a double movement.

See the pattern here?

Having been deluged by penalties, Hornets finally came up for air on 21 minutes when a steepling bomb from Paul Crook was gathered by a soaring Shaun Robinson for a well taken try. But, for all its beauty, it offered a false hope.

on 26 minutes a dubious high penalty again long-hauled the home side 50 metres down field, where big-lad Castle rumbled onto a short ball from a foot out to crunch his way in for a disappointing last tackle try.

Almost immediately Hornets were punished with an even more dubious penalty for ripping the ball, compounded with an extra ten metres for talking back. but - this time - Doncaster coughed up a penalty of their own, to let Hornets off the hook.

Now it was Doncaster's turn to incur the ire of Mr Hewer. Two consecutive head tackles gave Hornets repeat sets deep in Dons territory, but the last kick was an over-hit bobbling mess and the moment was gone.

Doncaster took full advantage, Cooke given acres of space to pick a pass and put winger Hodson in by the flag.

Half time 22-6 - and Hornets struggling to find any real cohesion.

Dons player-coach Paul Cooke began the second half playing in an 'exclusion zone' - allowed all the space he needed to spray passes around at will. And it took just four minutes for him to find Hodson in space wide out for a simple, but effective try. 26-6.

Hornets dug in, but chasing the game led to forced passes and, when Crooky dumped an uncharacteristically shocker of a pass to ground, Cooke capitalised, launching a 70 metre attack before releasing a peach of a pass to Wilkinson to score outside a frayed defence. 30-6

Cooke showed his less impressive side on 61 minutes, bleating to the ref for a penalty, which Mr Hewer duly gave. A basic 'run and carry' set was enough to send in Spaven from a yard. 36-6.

His work done for the day, Cooke subbed himself and Hornets began to make inroads. On 72 minutes tidy hands in a moment of lucid football saw James Dandy lunge in for 36-10.

Over-excited, Hornets immediately threw a loose pass and a grateful Scott sprinted 80 metres to score. The try was most notable for Scott successfully rounding the redoubtable Wayne English in the process. On their next attack, Doncaster found normal service resumed as Wayne chopped down the ball carrier to save a certain try.

And that was pretty much it. A scrappy mess of a penalty-riddled game that spluttered, but never really sparked.

One to forget. So let's park it and move on...

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Sunday's Coming: Doncaster

Cookie Confusion: One of these chaps teaches
Rugby *nion backs to run and pass.
Rugby League coaches can be a taciturn bunch. Finding quotes and opinions can be like finding a needle in Giant Haystacks sometimes  - but Doncaster coach Paul Cooke is surprisingly voluble and gives great interview. At first we were a little concerned because a message on their website asked if we wanted to 'Accept Cookies'. 'Cookie's what?' we wondered...

Having trailed by just 22-14 at half time the Dons tanked by 50-20 at Leigh last week.  Speaking on Cooke was philosophical: “We rode our luck at times with last ditch efforts in defence, but they are a good side, they are not where they are by accident and, whilst it is disappointing to concede as many points as we have, we probably have more winnable battles over the next few weeks.”

He described shipping a half century against a Leigh team that's stuggled to overcome Hornets in two games so far this year as: "… (not) a defining moment in our top eight aim for the season.”  However, Cooke also said: “It’s tough to take, when you concede 50 points, it is not acceptable." No biggie? Or a biggie? Or Biggie Smalls?

Biggie or not, Donny sit fourth with seven wins and a couple of bonus points, demonstrating the level you have to aspire to, to be competing at the right end of the Championship.

"We move on to a really tough game next week against Rochdale who are ever improving and winning some games…" said Cooke. "…  we ran out of steam in the second half (at Leigh) and conceded some poor tries. We will review it but we have to move on quickly, we have a really big fixture at home to Rochdale."

The loss of Dons' influential second rower Lee Waterman to injury at Leigh will likely be offset by the inclusion of newly signed ex-Super League utility forward Steve Snitch who racked up over 200 appearances for Wakefield, Castleford and Huddersfield - including the 2006 Challenge Cup Final. Of late he's been playing at Intrust Super Cup Premiers Northern Pride (That's the 'Queensland Cup' in old money).

Also back in Cooke's side are Cooke Mike Kelly and Shaun Leaf (you may recall that Leaf was banned for 18 months in 2011 after placing a £200 bet on the opposition in a Challenge Cup fourth-round game between Doncaster and Wakefield. He was also  found guilty by a Rugby Football League tribunal of  betting against his team in a Championship One match against Toulouse in 2009 and of gambling on other games in 2011).

But whatever side he puts out on Sunday, we all know that Cooke is the key (Cookies the key? Accept Cookies?). His pinpoint distribution and crafty kicking game can punish unwary sides and he's our man-to-watch this week.

Having become something of an enigma on Humberside (Cooke played over 200 times for Hull FC before crossing the river to Hull KR), he has lived an equally interesting double life at the Keepmoat as Head coach of the Dons - and Skills & Backs Coach for  *nion plodders Doncaster Knights under Head Coach Clive Griffiths. Yes - THAT Clive Griffiths, who clearly doesn't mind 'dual-registering' himself and his backs coach from an altogether superior sport.

And Finally… On Sunday, Doncaster are offering a programme and parking for a special price of just £5 The offer gives you parking on the Keepmoat Stadium car park along with the matchday programme. Regular matchday parking on the Stadium is £4 per car.

RFL Match Preview
Doncaster’s Lee Waterman is facing three months on the sidelines with a dislocated shoulder, forcing coach Paul Cooke into a reshuffle ahead of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Rochdale Hornets.
Cooke said: “A lot of the teams that have been promoted this year are now finding their feet in the Championship.
“It takes time – 12 months ago we were bottom of the league – but Rochdale are in some good form.
“We’re not taking this as a given, absolutely not. We need to make improvements on our last three games, although last week we did take some strides forward from the previous two.”
Dave Llewellyn is a major doubt for Rochdale after his ankle reacted badly to last week’s match against Halifax.
Gareth Langley and Danny Davies are also set to miss out, but Alex Trumper should return for the Hornets.
Coach Ian Talbot said: “I don’t read too much into Doncaster’s loss last week – they were away at Leigh, who’ve been doing that to everybody.
“We know Doncaster are a quality team, and when you’ve got experienced players like Paul Cooke you’re always going to ask questions.”

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Hornets Get Harsh Lesson in the Fax of Life

Hornets 12 Halifax 28

Think back to the start of the season: when every gobshite and doom-monger was happy to predict that we'd never win a game all year. Back then if you'd said that we'd lose to Halifax - a club with ambitions almost as big as their budget - by just 16 points, most people would have taken that. Even you. You would. I know you would.

But in the heat of May, having grabbed four wins, expectations are suddenly raised. But Expectation is a cruel mistress: teasing you with what could possibly be, if only things were perfect and reality had no real role in proceedings.

Whilst we at TLCRF80mins believe that there might well be five clubs in this division worse than Hornets, we're pretty certain that there are five that are better. And Halifax is one of them.

Last week against Workington Tony Suffolk pulled an astonishing 50+ tackles. Having broken his ribs in the process, Hornets were shorn of his Herculean workrate. Also lacking the added attack-dog snap of Gaz Langley and the cultured punch of Mike Ratu, this was going to be a tough one for Hornets. And so it proved.

But Hornets gave Halifax every opportunity to impose themselves on the game. In a first half strewn with dropped ball and soft penalties, Hornets spent long tracts on the back-foot, while the visitors barely had to work for possession or field position.

Halifax began proceedings by slamming the kick-off into the Peal Street end. Hornets went stright onto the attack, the first set taking them close to the visitors' line. Hornets had the opportunity to build some momentum when a Fax sortie up the left flank ended with Hornets handed possession - but a first tackle knock-on gave the ball straight back to Halifax and they forced a drop-out after some sustained pressure.

Having basically run out of ideas, Halifax were piggy-backed upfield in the 14th miiutes by soft back-to-back penalties: the ball finally scrambled to Reittie who scored by the flag.

Thankfully Tyrer had left his kicking boots behind and he hoofed the conversion attempt wide.

On 19 minutes, with a Halifax set going nowhere, Murrell launched a hit and hope kick towards the in-goal. Its descent found Hornets' defence static and Tyrer gathered to score the softest of tries. Again, he slapped the conversion wide. 0-8.

An offside against Hornets (certainly not the worst of the first quarter) heralded their worst period of the game. Shaun Robinson's 2nd tackle fumble in playing the ball, followed by James Tilley's loose carry (also on the 2nd tackle) gave Halifax ample opportunity to gain easy ground - and on 28 minutes quick hands wide to Reittie gave him a carbon-copy try. Tyrer on target to stretch Fax's lead to 0-14.

On the half-hour another hoist and hope kick was snaffled unchallenged by Tyrer for 0-18 and five minutes later another Shaun Robinson knock-on gave Fax easy ball on the Hornets 20 metre line. Fax ran a basic extra-man play off the back of the scrum for full-back Fieldhouse to score untouched. 0-22.

Hornets did end the half on a positive note: Liam Gilchrist held up over the line after some tidy apprroach work, the resulting play from 10 metres yielding a teasing grubber that was guided harmlessly dead.

Half-time, Hornets 0-22 down: Halifax barely broken sweat.

Hornets did start the second-half with noticeably more purpose, forcing two quick-fire drop-outs from the Halifax defence. While Hornets puffed and pushed, they came up empty-handed - then conceded a soft penalty for holding down that marched Halifax back downfield. As it was, they knocked on and conceded an almost immediate penalty for offside. 

On 54 minutes, with the Halifax attack going aimlessly down a cul-de-sac, a fluffed, scuffed kick on the Hornets 10 metre line was allowed to scud into the in-goal. Fieldhouse was the first to react. Tyrer added the two and at 0-28 the visiting hordes awaited the floodgates.

But wait…

With the hour approaching, Halifax began to make mistakes and - given a more equitable share of the ball - Hornets began to make inroads.

On 61 minutes Sean Casey dinked the ball behind the Fax defence and - amidst a tangle of limbs - stretched his fingers to touch down. But Referee Woodhead puzzled pretty much everyone by giving Fax a penalty.

On 69 minutes Fax's resident fat-lad Tonks piled a third-man haymaker into Alex Clare's face, but the officials saw nothing. And when Jordan Case was poleaxed three minutes later the outcome was pretty similar.

But Hornets continued to press. On 76 minutes a dash up the right channel saw Hornets grab a repeat set courtesy of a Fax knock-on - and finally fashioned an attack of note when Lewis Galbraith hit a short pass to bully his way over. Chris Baines added the extras.

Hornets took the kick-off possession straigh back upfoeld where Wayne English played a beautiful give-go-and go back for the return to create space for Ryan Millard to skate through and score. Baines with the two and Hornets salvaging some pride. Final score 12-28 - Hornets winning the second half.

And that's what really rankles about this one. Once Hornets gave themselves a chance to play, they looked ok. But for too long they gave themselves way too much to do against a Halifax side desperate to get its championship challenge back on track.

Indeed, in a division fundamentally split into two, Halifax has ambitions in a - quite literal - different league. But consider this: we're just 16 points short of that level. 

And as facts go, that's not too bad.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Sunday's Coming: Halifax

Harrison invites his trainer to 'pull my finger'

Back in January when the restructure of the game was announced, Karl Harrison was in bullish mood. He said: “One day soon, I intend being back in Super League as a head coach. This is my aim with Halifax. The changes coming into operation finally provide me with a realistic opportunity of fulfilling this goal. I plan to take this opportunity. As a club, Halifax are just as big as Castleford…"

Fast forward to May and it's not been the most convincing of seasons for Halifax thus far. With only one win more than Hornets (their league position - bolstered by a surfeit of bonus points - keeps them just two points off second place), the last couple of weeks have seen a nadir: coughing up a draw at Workington then, last week, somehow contriving to lose embarassingly at home to a 'Big-Spending North Wales Crusaders™' side brutally dicked by Hornets on Good Friday.

Given their lofty Super League ambitions, its the sort of form that will undoubtedly have Harrison under pressure to improve. Quickly.

After the Workington game, Harrison identified the back of the scrum as his problem area: "We didn’t ask enough questions of Town when we had the ball," he said.

This was a recurring theme last week: “Our half backs didn’t click. We had ball movement, but it was slow and too many passes were going a bit high, a bit low or slightly behind the players they were intended for… we were way off the mark in that department; we never created any space.”

Given the problems at half back, Harrison, is considering recalling playmaker Simon Brown who is currently on loan at Batley (given their recent form, we think that's an excellent idea).

The Halifax Evening Courier seems to think Halifax's stumbling start is as much in the head as it is in their inability to run, pass and tackle. It said: "Karl Harrison’s side were crushingly dominant early on, but seemed to fall apart mentally as much as physically once the visitors had registered two opportunist scores to go 12-0 ahead…"

Interestingly, Crusaders didn't even carry the ball into the Halifax half until the 25th minute!

In writing our previews, we usually have to scratch around for an insight into Hornets forthcoming opponents, but it seems that in the wake of the Crusaders defeat, poor Karl Harrison has been using the press as a channel for catharsis.

“I think disappointing is an understatement, we were way off where we need to be,” said Harrison. “It was a slow, horrible pitch but that’s not an excuse."

“We didn’t create enough in their part of the field and when we did have them cut open, we didn’t take the opportunity. They got in our quarter twice in the first half and scored two tries…"

“We put substitutes on to change games on in that first half and they certainly did that. Luke Adamson’s first involvement was to force a pass, Ben Heaton’s first involvement was to concede a penalty and his second was to miss a tackle for a try.

“We trained well, we prepared well, but we couldn’t crack them. It seems to be the way we are this year, we just can’t find any consistency.”

“We have a small squad, because we have restrictions off the field that some other clubs in the competition do not, so our options are limited." 

Blimey - a litany of despair. But when you look at last week's 'Fax line-up, they're no mugs. What it does show is that with enthusiasm, application and the right attitude any team in this division is there for the taking. So let's take 'em while they're wobbling.

Last Week's Halifax side was:

Ryan Fieldhouse, Tommy Saxton, Steven Tyrer, Danny Cowling, Gareth Potts, Ben Kaye, Luke Ambler, Ben Johnston, Scott Murrell, Andy Bracek, Dane Manning, Ross Divorty, Tony Tonks. Luke Adamson, Ben Heaton, Keith Holden, Ben Davies

RFL Match Preview

Rochdale Hornets v Halifax (3.00pm)
Alex Trumper could return to action for Rochdale Hornets in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Halifax, but Gareth Langley is expected to miss out with an ongoing ankle injury.
Hornets could climb out of the bottom five with victory over Halifax, but coach Ian Talbot insists his side need to make major improvements from last week’s defeat against Workington Town.
Talbot said: “Some of the boys underestimated Workington and we got caught.
“This week it’s about sticking to the plan we lay out and working as a collective rather than individuals.
“Halifax have had a draw and a loss in their last two games, so I’m sure (coach) Karl Harrison will be winding them up to try to get a response.”
Halifax now face a run of four consecutive away games after last week’s home defeat against North Wales Crusaders.
Harrison said: “We were way off the mark. We couldn’t capitalise on the field position we got.
“People expect this club to be up there challenging, and that’s where want to be. We’ve just got to work harder than everybody else, and that’s what we intend to do.
“We need to create some confidence. We need to put our house in order.”

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Hornets Wrung-Out in a Downpour of Errors

Hornets 6 - Workington 10

In the toilets at half time - following 40 minutes in which neither team could conjure up the merest whiff of a point - Dave raised his eyebrows in faux exasperation and said, "One for the purists. eh?"

It was hard to disagree as this slippery, error-riddled squelchfest played in persistent rain harked back to days of slugging out ugly games against Cumbrian sides full of king-sized lumps who'd just pound you into submission on attack and defence until you could stand it no more.

Indeed, Workington came with a significant size/weight advantage, so the day's work was going to be difficult enough without Hornets giving them every opportunity to send the heavy-brigade trundling at an over-worked defence.

The visitors went off like a rocket: three back to back sets before Hornets had carried the ball. On their fourth set of punishing drives they conceded a penalty for obstruction, but Jordan Case coughed the ball on the second tackle; inviting Workington to pummel the Hornets defence some more. It was to become a familiar pattern.

Hornes did come up with a rare passage of lucid football on 12 minutes, when a great switch-pass exchange between Ryan Millard and Chris Baines laid the foundation for a repeat set, but the visitors' defence held firm.

On 17 minutes a neat Sean Casey kick through forced Workington into another drop out. The visitors this time smacked the ball a full 70 metres, finding touch on the Hornets 20 metre line as the ball skimmed and skidded past napping defenders. Workington fed the scrum but, unable to find a way through, put on a flapping last-tackle kick that was charged down by Alex Clare. Having regathered, the Town defence bundled him into touch to maintain the pressure. But the Cumbrians couldn't find anything resembling a threat and Hornets took the ball straight downfield where Lewis Sheridan was held-up over the line. By far the first-half's best chance.

With the clock ticking down, the only two moments of any note were Town's Phillips milking the merest touch from Chris Baines after a kick through to win a dubious penalty; then Workington conceding a penalty in possession for punching out.

Half time: nil-nil

Workington started the second half as they'd begun the first: this time producing two quickfire, carbon copy tries.

Having forced a 48th minute drop-out, a Lupton short-ball launched Phillips into space to score wide out. Forber converted. 0-6.

Five minutes later - having seen Wayne English bundled into touch after he fielded a long-kick - Lupton produced an identical pass, this time Phillips the beneficiary. Forber wide with the conversion attempt: 0-10.

With 25 minutes left to play, there was ample time for Hornets to play themselves back into the game, but forced passes and unforced errors early in the tackle count prevented them gaining any real momentum.

In the 76th minute, referee Bloem (who clearly stuggles with the zero tackle rule - four times permitting Workington seven tackles after the set had started in open play on tackle one) gave Hornets the first offside penalty of the day. A last tackle kick into the in-goal saw a scramble of bodies diving in. After consultation with the touch judge, Mr Bloem decided that Wayne Englsih had touched down and pointed to the spot. Crooky added the two and Hornets had four minutes to pull this soggy mess of a game out of the mire.

As it was, Workington were happy to play five-drives-and-a-big-boot, compelling Hornets to start under their own posts. Again, and again, and…

And that was it folks. Almost imperceptibly this game slid past the eyes - the disappointment in the Hornets camp palpable. The bigger disappointment is that Workington did nothing spectacular. They sent in the big-lads, completed their sets and chased big-kicks downfield.

In contrast, Hornets were put through the wringer: forced into way too much defensive work by a litany of errors that simply drained their energy and enthusiasm away. Positives? At least the bonus point didn't go down the pan.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Sunday's Coming: Workington Town

Workington come to… er… Town on Sunday with a big St Helens connection of their own. They're now coached by Phil Veivers - who scored 98 tries (and five drop goals) in 380 games over a stonking 13 year career at Knowsley Road. Legendary stuff.

Phil gives it to the Aussies
Last week the Cumbrians ended a run of five straight defeats, coming back from 14-6 down to snatch a shock draw with Championship pretenders Halifax. Town scored two quick-fire late tries topped by a last minute penalty from the influential Carl Forber to share the points, leaving Veivers in buoyant mood. 

Speaking in the News & Star (two paper for the price of one!), he said: “There were some individual brain-storms which cost us but generally I was pleased wth the intensity and I thought we could have won it.”

“We’ve worked on our defence and fitness levels, being able to see-out the 80 minutes and I’m satisfied with that aspect of our play against a well-drilled Halifax, one of the better teams in the competition.

“It’s important now to take it on from there and we will be working hard again during the week getting it right for Rochdale. There is still improvement needed but I think we are getting there.”

Most interestingly, Forber finished the game with 100% from the boot, so worth considering that that any kicking opportunity conceded could yield the 2 points that makes the difference.

Having last year registered the whole Widnes squad on Dual Registration, Worky now have a shiny new DR deal with Wigan - and played four Wigan Dual Reg players in last week's game: 19 year-old pie-eating tyro Dominic Manfredi grabbing one of the crucial late tries. 

Another Wigan DR Lewis Tierney missed the Halifax game after suffering medial ligament damage to his knee in Town’s derby defeat at Whitehaven on Good Friday. He remains doubtful for Sunday's game. 

Also in doubt is Town's former Championship One Young Player of the Year, Elliot Miller. The winger tore his ACL back in February and, though the knee has imprioved, he continues to suffer from a prolapsed disc and will learn this week whether he'll need an operation that would end his season.

With Workington currently sitting 11th and a point behind Hornets, this is another crucial 'must win' game for both sides - and a win on Sunday would take Hornets halfway to the ten wins that Ian Talbot said pre-season would put us in the mix to stay up. With only just over a third of the season gone, that'd be a pretty major achievement.

Workington Town Team that drew with Halifax was:
Jack Murphy (DR)
Dominic Manfredi (DR)
Jason Mossop
Kayle Connor
Brett Carter
Graeme Mattinson
Kris Coward
Carl Forber
Sam Powell (DR)
Marc Shackley
Liam McAvoy
Jarrad Stack
Connor Farrell  (DR)
Peter Lupton
Callum Phillips
Brett Phillips
Daniel Rooney

RFL Match Preview

Hornets will be looking to make it four wins in a row when they host Workington Town. Hornets have beaten Whitehaven, North Wales Crusaders and Swinton Lions in recent weeks to climb above the relegation places.

But coach Ian Talbot insists they must be on their guard against a Town side that drew with Halifax on Sunday. Talbot said: “They’re an unpredictable team because they don’t always have the same players from Wigan week-in, week-out. They had Sam Powell last week who has a good relationship with Jack Murphy at full-back, as well as Dom Manfredi and Connor Farrell all down the same edge.”

Talbot will be without centre Mike Ratu after he picked up a potentially season-ending knee injury at weekend.

Workington coach Phil Veivers believes he is now starting to see the kind of progress in his side that he’s been looking for. Veivers said: “Last week was a massive improvement, although we do still have some issues on ball control. But there were lots of positives against Halifax for us."

“I’ve seen Rochdale’s game from the weekend, and they have a pretty big pack and some smart players in Ryan Millard and Paul Crook. They have plenty of threat and some speed on the edges, and we’ll need to be good across the park.”

Veivers’ only injury problem is long-term absentee Elliott Miller.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Hornets give Swinton the Blues

Hornets 31 Swinton 16

The Championship's second biggest crowd of the day was treated to an archetypal game of two halves - a full-blooded derby described before the game by both captains as a 'must win'.  And on Wayne English's 100th game in Hornets colours he and his his team-mates produced a whirlwind first half that effectively sealed the win.

Hornets went off like a house on fire. A huge 4th minute 40/20 from Paul Crook and Mike Ratu crashing in close to the line, only for Ratu to suffer an injury that saw him carried from the field.

It necessitated a shuffle of the threequarters to accommodate Lewis Sheridan and it took a further ten minutes before Hornets regained their rhythm. Hornets hit the front when a teasing Paul Crook lob into the corner was touched down by the flag by Sheridan.

And just two minutes later, Anthony Walker smuggled a pass out of the back of a three-man tackle to find Sean Casey arriving like lightning to gather and dash under the black dot. Crook with the conversion for 10-0.

Hornets now had all the momentum and when Swinton conceded a penalty in possession on 24 minutes for pushing Tony Suffolk over, it was really only going to end one way. Indeed, a repeat set and Jordan Case lunged in from acting half after Paul Crook had dummied his way through four tackles. Crooky with the extras for 16-nil.

On the half hour a teasing kick towards the corner from Crooky saw the Swinton winger make a complete hash of it: Ormsby - distracted by the flying Gaz Langley - lost the flight of the ball and Danny Davies was on hand to gather and score. Crooky coolly slotted over the two.

Swinton ended the half with three repeat sets, but no matter how hard they pushed and probed, Hornets fantastic defence gave them nothing and they went to the break a dominant 22-nil up.

The second half with both teams seemingly having had a persona transplant. Hornets now hesitant and backing off in the tackle: Swinton more expansive and playing at a much higher tempo.

It took just five minutes for the Lions to catch the Hornets defence napping: A Hawkyard break and quick-hands wide where Worthington scored in the corner. Then, on 50 minutes, the other Hawkyard came crashing through after a scrappy approach set and Peet added the two to take Swinton within reach of the bonus point at 22-10.

There looked to be some respite two miutes later when Swinton conceded a penalty for not playing the ball correctly. Crooky missed what loked like a simple kick and the idiot on the music erroneously hit the 'goal' button.

Just after the hour Swinton continued their comeback. Another messy approach and this time Bowman scoring out wide. Watson adding the 500th point of his Lions career and Swinton within touching distance at 22-16.

But Watson went from hero to villain almost immediately, dropping the kick-off and effectively handing Hornets the momentum. They took immediate advantage, Ryan Millard hoisting a kick to the flank; Swinton defenders flailing and flapping; Gaz Langley quickest to react, gathering the loose ball and stepping inside the full-back to score. Crooky added the two - and at 28-16 Hornets had nine minutes to deny Swinton the bonus point.

The opportunity came four minutes later: good approach play from the Hornets pack and Paul Crook with enough space to land the drop goal to stretch Hornets lead to 13 points.

With the clock tickng down Swinton concded another penalty in possession for leading with the elbow. Crooky added the two from bang in front.

The game ended with a fracas as Paul Crook was caught high with a swinging arm, but he got up off the floor to punt the ball dead and secure the victory that takes Hornets to 9th in the league table - just one point behind Keighley in 7th and one win fewer than Sheffield in fifth!

Ultimately, teams that will stay up in this competition will have to find both a way to win and a way to deny their opponents the bonus point. Both objectives were achieved here - and with Workington at Spotland next week having grabbed four bonus points, a repeat would be very welcome.