Thursday, 31 July 2014

Sunday's Coming: North Wales Crusaders

No Welsh stereotypes here, boyo!

Sunday brings 'Big Spending North Wales Crusaders™' to Spotland - but they've hardly lived up to their Champions tag from last season.  

Proving once again that we know nowt about Rugby League, we predicted that Crusaders would be the team to break into the top 'division within a division', but their potential goes unrealised and they find themselves involved in the bottom five shit-fight with the rest of us.

On the same number of wins as Hornets having played a game more - and artficially buoyed by seven bonus points - Crusaders sit nine points and four wins adrift of 10th placed Whitehaven.

The big clue to Crusaders' underachievement lies in the numbers. A cursory glance at the stats for the year reveals that  they are the lowest scorers in the Championship - actually having scored one point fewer than already-relegated Barrow!

Their propensity for low-scoring manifested itself last week when they choked at the death to lose 8-16 to Workington to leave Anthony Murray still looking for his first win in charge of Crusaders, having stepped into the hot-seat at the Univrsty f n Vwls six weeks ago. 

Jono Smith's try on 72 minutes looked to have won it for North Wales. But, with just two minutes left on the clock, Crusaders conceded a penalty for obstruction and Town marched upfield to nick it with the last play of the game. 

Off the field, Crusaders' coaching revolving door continues to turn. From the outset Anthony Murray, who took over from Clive Griffiths in June, said that he would step down from the role at the end of the season due to work commitments. Hence, The club has this week announced that they are aiming to appoint a new head coach for next season in the next couple of weeks.

Hornets fans will be hoping for a repeat of that astonishing game at the Racecourse back in April, when Ian Talbot's side produced one of the displays of the season to dismantle a frankly shambolic Crusaders by 42 to 16.

Certainly a win of any colour - preferably without conceding a bonus point - would provide a welcome boost. Defeat for Swinton and a big win yielding a 46 point points-swing (i.e. a 23 point margin) would hoist Hornets above the Lions and put us hot on Crusaders' tail having wiped out their advantageous points difference.

With 18 points still up for grabs there's plenty to play for. It'll only take a couple of squeaky sphincters around that 9th place spot and for Hornets to find a bit of momentum and there might just be a miracle left in this season yet.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Catch Twenty Two

Hornets 22 - Leigh 72

In the post match speeches, Hornets' Chair Mark Wynn described Leigh as a 'juggernaut'. And we couldn't better that. 

Despite a gutsy, never-say-die performance, Hornets' efforts weren't enough to withstand the onslaught when Leigh's turbo-charged steamroller clicked into gear. But for 20 minutes, Hornets held the upper hand,

After just five minutes Paul Crook hoisted a teasing bomb and, as Leigh fullback McNally made a specacular hash of it, Gaz Langley celebrated his return, swooping to score. Crooky the extras: 6-nil.

Hornets continued to test the Leigh defence and when Joe Greenwood made a huge break after 10 minutes, Adam Swift was on hand to take the pass and embark on a mazy, twisting run that tied the Leigh defence in knots; going 40 metres to score a blistering solo try. Crooky the two and, at 12-nil, the travelling hordes from Leigh were reduced to shouting 'offside' at every play the ball.

On 15 minutes the game erupted. Tony Suffolk drove the ball in; Leigh's Sarsfield had a rush of blood and - whilst pinning Suffolk with a hand round the throat - rained punches into his face. This sparked an all-in brawl. Referee Leatherbarrow's response? A craven yellow card for Sarsfield and a puzzling one for Joe Greenwood. Hornets at least got the penalty.

But the brawl did exactly what Leigh hoped it'd do: it broke Hornets' momentum and disrupted their rhythm. Loose handling and back to back penalties put Leigh on the front-foot for the first time in the game and they responded witgh two quick-fire tries: Barlow crashing in from a yard, then Ridyard's break to slot McNally under the black dot. And, from nowhere - almost imperceptibly -  Leigh were level at 12-all.

Hornets' response was direct: a good approach set saw Anthony Walker drive in from close range, only to be deemed held-up over the line.

On 25 minutes, another needless penalty (this time for a high-shot) waltzed Leigh downfield, where they worked an extra man on the left for Kay to score: 12-18

No matter, Hornets again took the game back to Leigh: this time John Cookson arriving at speed onto a short ball, but adjudged by Mr Leatherbarrow to have knocked on over the line.

On the half hour came one of those moments that can make or break a game. Dave Llewellyn spotted an opportunity and came ripping out of the line to make an interception, but despite his best efforts, he nudged the ball back into Leigh's hands and they exploited space out wide for Sarsfield to score Ridyard the two off the touchline for 12-24. 

With half-time looming, Leigh had a flaccid set going nowhere - only for it to end with Hopkins barreling over the line to score a try out of nothing. Ridyard converting 12-30.

The half ended with Hornets camped under Leigh's posts, but they couldn't find a way through some determined defence. Half time 12-30 - and the Hornets supporters wondering how the hell that happened.

The second half, Leigh were brutally irresistible; a tsunami of high-tempo, high-intensity football that - at times - even had the Hornets fans nodding in grudging acknowledgement.

46 minutes: Armstrong first to react to a speculative kick. 51 minutes: Pitman scoring off a lightning 70 metre attack. 56 minutes: Brierley first to the ball off a Ridyard kick. 60 minutes; McNally launched from 40 metres for another long-range strike. Ridyard flawless with the boot and Hornets reeling at 54-12.

Respite came on 64 minutes. With Leigh put on a team warning for persistent offending round the ruck, Jordan Case came skating through off a short-ball to score. Crooky the extras 18-54.

Sparked into life, Hornets began to play with more purpose. A great break by Adam Swift and Lewis Sheridan unzipped the Leigh defence, but the last pass went to ground in traffic. Leigh countered instantly. A Ridyard chip to the corner, Gaz Langley conceding 12 inches to Armstrong who outreached him to score. Ridyard the two: 18-60

On 72 minutes, Brierley produced an outrageous cut-out pass for Pitman to score by the flag. Ridyard, inevitably, the conversion off the touchline; 18-66.

Despite being on the ropes for most of this game, Hornets were going down swinging and, on 78 minutes, a quick, tight approach set fed Anthony Walker in off a short ball to score. Crooky the extras: 66-22.

But this game had a kick in the nuts right at the death. As the hooter sounded Pitman rounded an exhausted Hornets defence to bring up the 70. Ridyard the two to complete a whirlwind of a game.

There's no doubting Leigh's ambitions to play at the top level, and they've built a team and a club that can mix it with the best - as Leeds will attest. But, like any juggernaut, it costs a fortune to fuel and Hornets simply aren't at that level. But you can't buy team spirit and Ian Talbot's team has that in abundance. Indeed, If I were Paul Rowley this morning I'd be thinking "If Hornets can put 22 points through us, what would a really good side do?"

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sunday's Coming: Leigh

This is a good week to play Leigh.

Having had their veneer of invincibility shattered at Doncaster a fortnight ago, they were in no mood to piss about last week - clinically spanking Keighley Cougars 30-0.

Tom Armstrong, Robert Beswick and Oliver Wilkes all scored converted tries in the first 25 minutes to give Leigh an 18-nil half time lead. Gregg McNally and Martyn Ridyard weighed in after the break (Ridyard flawless with the boot for all five conversions) to stuff Keighley down into the relegation mix.

But while Leigh have pretty much had every side's pants down this season, they've struggled to beat Hornets.

In two consecutive weeks back in March/April they coughed-up a bonus point beating Hornets by 34-22 at th LSV, then in the cup they sneaked through wining 22-28 at Spotland. Scoring 44 points and an 18 point losing margin over two games shows that Hornets can compete with the best at this level. Which makes games like last week's scrap-fest at Workington even more frustrating.

Ian Talbot takes a philosophical view: “We’re not reading anything into any previous results; it’s all about this week. We let ourselves down last week, but to be disappointed with a bonus point is testament to our performances over the last few weeks.”

He added: “We were below par throughout (against Workington). We coughed up way, way too much possession. We gifted them possession and, while we defended well, it meant we were down on energy when we did have the ball. We need to be better this week.”

Jordan Case (calf), Shaun Robinson (knee) and Ryan Millard (groin) will all be given late fitness tests before Tol finalises his side.

Centurions coach Paul Rowley is selecting from a fully fit squad.

Rowley said: “Rochdale have been within touching distance of us both times we played them, and they’re arguably one of the form teams in the league.

“They’ve got some good dual-registration players, and they’re a good team. League positions count for nothing in the Championship and we need to remember that on Sunday.”

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Offside

Workington 30 Hornets 18

Anyone wondering where Cumbrians get their reputation for being dour miserablists from could do worse than spend an afternoon at Workington. From first minute to last, the hardy knot of Hornets fans had to suffer a relentless wave of whining, griping and moaning from the locals. Every play the ball offside; every pass forward; all three officials bent, blind or bastardly. Or a combination of the three.

And all this on a day that the sun cracked the flags and their team won. God knows what they're like when they lose in the rain.

On the field Hornets got off to a shoddy start, allowing the kick-off to roll sloppily dead. Fortunately Workington knocked on from the resulting possession.

Hornets finally got started after 4 minutes when two pieces of trickery from Lewis Sheridan (a neat one-two and a reverse kick that forced a drop-out) built pressure, but James Dandy was held up over the line.

With both sides tangled in an arm wrestle, it took a moment of freakish fortune to crack the Hornets defence. In a hurry to switch play, Town's acting half dropped the ball cold at his feet, but referee Kendall bizzarely waved not only play-on, but also wiped the tackle count and, with Hornets' defence scrambling the home side worked the ball wide for Carter to score by the flag. Forber the extras off the touchline for 6-nil.

This heralded a horribly scrappy period for Hornets. Gifted a frustrating last-tackle penalty for holding down on half-way, Workington began their set 10 metres from the Hornets line and, in a carbon copy of its predecessor , it was Hulme this time on the end of the move to score. Forber hit the post with the kick: 10-nil. To make matters worse, Hornets hoofed the kick-off straight out to invite Workington to have another run at them. This time, though the defence held firm as the king-sized Town pack piled in from close range.

Hornets responded well. A towering kick from Lewis Sheridan was dropped by Carter under no pressure, giving Hornets a good platform deep in Town territory. Struggling to find a way through, switching Paul Crook back to stand-off delivered an instant dividend when swift hands right sent Dave Llewellyn careering in for a try that had the locals grumbling further. Crooky with the two; 10-6.

With Hornets now making steady inroads, it was another error from Mr Kendall that pulled the rug from under them. Making a complete hash of a decision on a Hornets' 'free-play' following a Town knock-on, he gave the home side the feed at the scrum. To add insult to injury, Hornets were mugged out of the back of the scrum as Hulme darted through the narrowest of gaps to score; 16-6.

Clearly shaken, Hornets got the yips: first shipping another penalty late in the tackle count, then dropping the ball 1st tackle in a great attacking position.

Having shouted for 'offside' for the entire first half, the locals finally got their wish on 39 minutes as Hornets got snagged and Town were swept 60 metres downfield, but they were beaten by the clock. Half-time 16-6: the grumbling Cumbrians berating the officials from the field at the end of a frustrating, scrappy half.

Hornets began the second half with noticeably more purpose. After just 4 minutes John Cookson produced a miracle-pass out of the back of the tackle to send James Dandy scampering under the black-dot. Crooky the two, 16-12: game-on.

The game then entered an ugly, scrappy period as both sides struggled to find any fluidity. Workington coming closest to scoring - stopped by a cracking try-saving tackle by Shannon McDonnell.

The stalemate was broken with two moments of inspiration either side of the hour: first a neat one-two sent McAvoy in to score under the posts, then by far the biggest 40/20 we've seen this season from Lupton gave him the platform to launch a teasing bomb that was snaffled by Mossop who scored out wide. Within the space of two minutes Hornets were 28-12 down and chasing a bonus point.

Having sparked briefly, the game shrank back into a gritty scramble and, when Town were given a close-range penalty for a spurious high tackle on 70 minutes Forber took the two for 30-12. The locals in moaning-overdrive "Ya should'a run it".

Despite the game's deterioration into a shapeless mess, Hornets kept plugging away and were rewarded on 76 minutes when Lewis Sheridan intercepted a sloppy pass from Lupton to outpace the Workington cover from 80 metres and score. Crooky the two and Hornets with the bonus point in the bag at 30-18.

Having written at length here about the need to find a way to 'lose well', there's irony in taking a bonus point out of Workington - the masters of the 'constructive defeat'. But in a sloppy, fragmented game that needed big hearts to dig in to get anything from it, this was a creditable performance by a Hornets side shorn of the twin attacking threats of Ryan Millard and Wayne English.

Needless to say, the Hornets faithful were philosophical about the result: a hard-working performance, a bonus point and an implausibly warm day in Cumbria. The locals, conversely, grumbled to the very end. Whilst most applauded Town from the field, the bloke next to us turned on his heel and as he passed us, muttered "Bloody rubbish."

Guess there's just no pleasing some people.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Sunday's Coming: Workington

Workington earlier today - the crowds flock to celebrate
nine bonus points.
We've spoken at great length here over the last few weeks about how finding a way to 'lose well' could be the key to survival in this particularly punitive Championshiop season. And no-one has mastered the art of getting points for losing quite as well as Workington ToWn. With only one win more than Hornets, they have a staggering 12 points more, courtesy of NINE bonus points. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, three free wins for coming second in nine two horse races. 

We've always been ambivalent about the bonus point, seeing both its value in encouraging teams to compete and its stupidity for basically rewarding losers - but Workington have turned 'losing well' into an art form - and sit only a point behind Whitehaven in 7th!

The other thing that's caught our eye with Workington is their dual reg relationship with Wigan. Just as we've striven to make our partnership with Saints work as effectively for both parties as possible, there's been a steady stream of pie-eating talent heading up the M6 all season. Indeed Wigan prodigies Lewis Tierney and Jack Murphy weighed in with ToWn's three tries last weekend as Workington snuck past Keighley by 16 to 12 in the archetypal game of two halves.

Sitting on a comfortable 16-nil half time lead, Worky's wheels came off in the second period, much to the disappointment of coach Phil Vievers. Speaking in the News & Star this week he said: “Why do we seem to let teams back into it in the second half? It’s about a mentality issue. It’s about them listening to instruction and then applying that to the game… We know we can stop people scoring and there was only six or seven minutes when they scored, but I thought that was irrelevant really… we’ll sit down during the week and look at the video and take the positives out of it and address the negatives of what we shouldn’t be doing and move onto Rochdale at home".

With four wins on the trot - including a 'shock' defeat of Featherstone - ToWn have a bit of momentum. And with wins up at Derwent Park pretty hard to come by at the best of times, Hornets will need to reprise the best bits of the last two weeks' performances to keep the pressure on Swinton and 'Big Spendng North Wales Crusaders™' above us. Indeed, with North Wales at Dewsbury and Swinton at Doncaster (who derailed the Leigh juggernaut last week), favourable results could see Hornets leapfrog both into 11th - and pull Workington closer to the pack.

With 8 games and 24 points still to play for there's still plenty to believe in. So stick three mates in the car, treat yourself to a lovely day out in the lakes - and get over to Workington to get behind the lads.

Official RFL Match Preview
Workington Town coach Phil Veivers has the option of recalling Declan Hulme following his recent suspension. Town have now won four consecutive games to move within three points of fifth-placed Dewsbury Rams. Veivers was frustrated with his side’s second-half display against Keighley Cougars last week, but is now focusing on a fifth straight victory.

Veivers said: “Our confidence is bound to be high because we’ve got a bit of momentum about us.”
Hornets coach Ian Talbot hopes to have Mike Ratu and Gareth Langley available for selection, while Shaun Robinson could also feature after joining Rochdale from Dewsbury Rams.
Talbot’s men won 54-22 against Barrow Raiders last week. He said: “If we compete set for set with any team at this level, we’ll give ourselves a chance. That will be our aim, and then hopefully that frustrates Workington."
“They were the bonus point masters at one stage, but since then they’ve won four games and are competing for ninth spot, so they’ll be the favourites. We’ll just concentrate on ourselves and what we can control.”

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Hornets Rack-Up a Barrow-Load of Points

Hornets 54-Barrow 22

And so it came to pass: Bobbie Goulding's return to Spotand sparked briefly with the threat of an upset, but ended with his well-beaten Barrow packed of back up the M6 on the end of a good old-fashioned flogging.

Despite a stuttering start that saw Barrow snatch two early-bird tries from Wiper (in the first set) and Mossop (after 10 minutes) to leap into a 10-nil lead, once Hornets' gears engaged, this was relentless one-way traffic.

On 15 minutes, Hornets began to build pressure. Double drop-outs forced by a Lewis Sheridan kick through and a probing Paul Crook dink gave Hornets a good platform. And when Barrow coughed a soft penalty it seemed inevitable when Lewis Sheridan jinked through a series of flailing tackles to score a great solo try. Crooky the two and Hornets were up and running.

And whatever Lewis could do, his half-back partner Ryan Millard does equally well:  producing a sparkling solo effort of his own on 24 minutes. Crooky the two, Hornets with a lead they never looked like relinquishing.

Hornets were now pushing hard, guilty maybe of forcing passes in search of opportunities. And when Barrow deigned to attack they were repelled by determined defence.

On the half hour Ryan Millard unveiled a delicate chip, gathered by Sean Casey who fed Matt Dawson in for a well crafted try. Crooky the extras of the touchline for 16-10.

Just three minutes later Joe Greenwood was held-up over the line after a great approach-set. The 10m restart set up a cheeky one metre sucker try from Alex McClurg. This time Sheridan with the two: 24-10

On the next set, the Millard-Sheridan combination cut the Barrow defence wide-open, but the last pass was deemed forward and the try struck-off. No matter, within two minutes Hornets had come up with a try that had more than a hint of the freak about it. Lewis Sheridan's last tackle kick, Matt Dawson hitting the receiving defender perfectly, the ball knocked loose into the hands of the chasing Jordan Case who scopped the ball off his boots to score. Sheridan the two and Hornets in complete control, 30-10 at the break.

Within minutes of the restart Hornets were compelled to remove Ryan Millard with a knee injury after he was targetted in consecutive tackle. With the Hornets line shuffling to accommodate the reintroduction of Paul Crook, Barrow repeated their long-distance try act, stringing together a series of passes over 80 metres for Shaw to score. He also added the two: 30-16.

A brief Barrow rally was quelled by some stern Hornets defence, and when a clinically, ruthlessly direct set drove the Raiders 70 metres downfield, it was capped by a twisting, mazy run that took Alex McClurg under the black dot. Crooky the two. Almost immediately Hornets struck again, this time Jordan Case in off a short-ball after Barrow had coughed a bomb. Crooky flawless as Hornets cruised past the 40 mark.

Indeed, Hornets were now irresistable and when Stuart Litller took a last tackle ball to the gain line, he instigated another moment of freakish fortune. Seemingly wrapped up in the tackle, he found the wherewithal to drop the ball onto his toe. With the defence occupied, Jordan Case produced a piece of sleight of hand to send Paul Crook through to score. Just for good measure he added the two from the touchline and with an hour gone, Barrow's challenge was effectively over at 48-16.

Indeed, Hornets pretty much declared. Barrow increasingly out of ideas; Hornets playing their way through the sets with with an almost cruel relish.

Barrow did flicker a little before their light was eventually extinguished: rag-handed winger Grant eventually catching something that came his way in the 75th minute to score. Shaw the two, 48-22.

It was fitting that Hornets should have the last say in this one, and when John Cookson launched himself onto a short ball in the last minute there was no stopping him; crashing in to bring up the half century. Crooky the two for good measure. 54-22.

The game ended in concerning fashion when Barrow threequarter Bradley Goulding got his head position all-wrong in a collision with Dave Llewellyn, but immediate medical attention and the application of oxygen got him gingerly to his feet as the hooter sounded.

Once again, Hornets showed just what this side can do when it clicks; playing direct, high-tempo football off the back of the Millard-Sheridan-Crook axis and some relentless forward play.  

There's no doubt that next week's roadtrip to Workington will pose a real test of this revitalised Hornets' mettle (Workington sneaked a low-scoring win at Keighley this week), but with Fev and Barrow in the bag, we can travel with some confidence.

And, with plenty of football still to be played, maybe there's still reason to believe.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Sunday's Coming: Barrow Raiders

As you might expect, there really is only one story in town up at Barrow

This Sunday sees Bobbie Goulding's return to Spotland, but his magic seems to be taking its time to work as Barrow remain firmly anchored to the foot of the Championship.

Do the maths: 3 + 4= 5 matches.
But we won't have to worry too much about his idiosyncratic playing/pseudo-refereeing style as - by our calculations - he's still serving a 5-match ban picked up after he was dismissed at Doncaster: found guilty by the RFL disciplinary panel of disputing the decision of a match official and using aggressive language and aggressive body language. Goulding was also fined £50.

There's no doubting Goulding's influence in Hornets' reverse fixture at Craven Park last month. Despite being described by one commentator as 'a water-carrier with a kicking game', his presence in two spells was sufficient to raise Barrow's game beyond the ordinary.

The Raiders come to Spotland on Sunday with Bobbie not only looking to get another one over his former club, but also smarting off the back of a derby defeat last week. Racing into a 12-nil lead after 15 minutes - and clinging to a 12-10 lead at the break - Barrow had a second half to forget. Shipping three tries in 12 minutes, left them scrapping for a bonus point as they eventually went down 30-18 to not-so-near Cumbrian neighbours Whitehaven to edge closer to the trapdoor.

Thankfully, though, Bobbie has a plan to change fortunes at the wrong end of the UK's longest cul-de-sac  - and, by his own calculations, it'll take just three years to put things right.

Indeed, that's the length of contract extension that he's currently negotiating with Barrow Chairman David Sharpe. Quoted in the North West Evening Mail this week, Goulding said: " I love the club, it is going to be my team next year and for the next three years and we can only be positive. I want to build the club. I want stability in the place. I want to build the foundations of the club so that it can go forward for the next 20 years. The foundations have got to be solid. I might not be around when the cherry goes on top of the cake but if I can lay foundations, then I have done my job.”

We're not ordering the cake just yet…

In the Hornets camp, there's a bit of a spring in the step after last week's gutsy battering of Featherstone. Speaking on Ryan Millard's Championship Player of the Week award - and Hornets' Kingstone Press Performance of the Week award -  Ian Talbot said:  "Everything Ryan tried seemed to come off… he was the leader that we signed...  he was back to his best on Sunday."

"The main thing was the way that result turned around our recent performances," Tol added. "We’d been looking forward to coming back home and playing on our own meadow, so to put such a spirited and complete performance together over 80 minutes was very pleasing."

Clearly, with games running out, wins are at an absolute premium, but winning is a habit and - as Ryan Millard said after the Fev game - that win means nothing is we can't back it up this week. 

So let's get there on Sunday and do our bit.

Official RFL Preview
Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot says there is “a buzz in the camp” after last week’s win over Featherstone Rovers.

Now Talbot wants to maintain the momentum by securing a win over Barrow Raiders on Sunday.
Talbot said: “I doubted the result with five minutes to go, but massive credit needs to go to our lads – they reacted positively and got themselves back in front when it mattered most.
“This game against Barrow is massive for both teams, and I’m sure it’ll be one Bobbie (Goulding) has marked down as ‘must win’.
“If we can get a good result and put ourselves five points clear of them, that’s great, but I’m looking at getting three points closer to Swinton rather than three away from the bottom.”
Stuart Littler and Dave Llewellyn will both be checked before Sunday’s game, but Tony Suffolk is available for the hosts.
Raiders coach Bobbie Goulding hopes to have Liam Campbell available, while Ben Karalius and Bradley Goulding are also expected to be pushing for places.
Coach Goulding is hoping for a big improvement on last week’s defeat against Whitehaven.
He said: “We just don’t know how to win football games. We just do not have the experience, the nous, or the intelligence.”

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Tour de Force

Hornets 38 Featherstone 34

After a weekend of extreme Yorkshire hubris and about as much 'God's Own County' bullshit as your average Lancastrian can possibly take, it was doubly enjoyable to see a pumped-up Hornets hand Featherstone a lesson in redoubtable team spirit.

This was a transformed Hornets - unrecogniseable from the side of the last few weeks, revelling in the wide open space of a lush Spotland pitch that resembled a bowling green.

And Hornets leapt from the blocks to stun Featherstone with three finely crafted quick-fire tries. After just four minutes a break Ryan Millard sent Stuart Littler close and, with the Fev defence scrambling to re-shape, Paul Crook was launched off a short ball to score. Crooky good with the two for 6-nil.

It was roles reversed after 12 minutes, this time Stuart Littler in off a tidy pass after Paul Crook had gone close. Crooky with the two and the visitors reeling at 12-nil.

On 15 minutes Hornets produced quite possibly the try of the season: Ryan MiIlard's delicate chip gathered by Lewis Sheridan, Millard going for the return to score - a dismantled Rovers defence chasing shadows. Crooky the extras and, at 18-nil, the sizeable Yorkshire following reduced to subdued grumbling.

But Fev are no mugs and they played their way back into the game with two tries in three minutes: first winger Crookes in at the corner off a wide cut-out pass, then a great show & go by Moore to send kain scuttling in under the black dot from 40 metres. Moore good with the boot to pull Rovers back within striking distance at 18-12.

The game entered a bit of a scrappy period, both sides shipping penalties, but unable to capitalise. On the half-hour, camped on the Hornets line, the pressure finaly told when king-sized lump Crossley went barelling in from 2 feet of a short crash-ball. Moore the two and the game locked up at 18-all.

But Hornets kept coming, the forwards piling into the Fev defence, new half-back pair Millard and Sheridan teasing and probing. Tempers frayed on the half-hour following some 'afters' off a Rovers bomb. Referee Bloem doled out a lecture. First drive someone digged Stuart Littler in the tackle and Hornets were taken upfield by the resulting penalty. 

With time ticking away, a twisting, jinking run my Ryan Millard took him within inches, the hooter coming just in time for the visitors. Half time 18-all - and you'd be hard pushed to say which of the two sides on show had had 'hundreds of thousands of pounds pumped in' by a shyster.

Hornets began the second half at lightning pace. Rovers immediately in retreat as another wiry break from Ryan Millard turned defenders inside out to create space for Sean Casey to take a peach of a pass and out-muscle his opposite number to stretch-out and score. With Crooky taking a breather, it was Casey with the kick - inches wide. 22-18.

Clearly in confident mood, Hornets went straight back on the attack. A sweeping move across field found Wayne English as the extra man; he launched Alex Trumper linewards and his last-second pass slotted Matt Dawson in by the flag. Casey again just wide, but Hornets in command at 26-18.

For 10 minutes Fev sucked Hornets back into the arm-wrestle and, on 55 mins a last-tackle bomb into an empty in-goal found Sharp who touched down: 26-22.

No matter, Hornets pushed Featherstone back under their own posts and, when Sean Casey trickled a teasing kick behind their defence, James Dandy was first to react and touch down. Casey the two for 32-22

Rovers then had their best spell of the game. On 64 minutes Uaisele finally showed-up to pounce on a dropped last-tackle bomb to score, then Hardman was fed in after some sustained pressure. Out of nowhere, Fev found themselves 32-34 in front: the visiting supporters now roused from their slumbers.

But, cometh the hour, cometh the man - and the man on this occasion was Woz Thompson - crashing onto a 76th minute pass from five metres to bully his way over for a try that brought the house down. Crooky the two for 38-34. Fev a busted flush and Hornets celebrating a quite incredible victory.

Having seen both squad and confidence chipped away over the wretched six-week hiatus that kills us every year, it was inspiring to see the players in which we place our faith galvanised and energised on the return to home ground. 

Let's face it, if anone had offered five wins plus Featherstone's scalp at the start of the season, we'd've jumped at it. Here's hoping it's the catalyst for a big run to the finish line.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Sunday's Coming Extra: Featherstone Rovers

After the bombshell of money-man Feisal Nahaboo's peculiar exit from Post Office Road, Featherstone's off-field aftershocks continued to rumble last night when Chairman Mark Campbell faced shareholders and supporters at a fans forum.

We've always maintained that undue reliance on the generosity/whims of wad-waving individuals is a hards tightrope to walk for clubs and, hopefully, Fev can shake off this whole unsavoury period.

An overview of the fans forum can be found HERE >

Ahead of Sunday's game, Hornets' injury list has another addition: Saints DR stand-off Gary Wheeler was taken from the field at Keighley with what looks like a broken wrist.

Official RFL Preview
Gareth Langley and Mike Ratu remain sidelined for Rochdale Hornets as they prepare to face Featherstone Rovers in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash.

Sean Casey missed out on selection last week, but could come into contention following the Hornets’ 48-6 defeat against Keighley Cougars.

Rovers have amassed 25 more league points than their hosts this year, but coach Andy Hay insists his side will not suffer from complacency.

Hay said: “We’ll turn up against Rochdale knowing we’ll be in for a tough game.

“They’ve been a very tough team over the last few weeks, and they’ve run Leigh close a couple of times.

“We’ll prepare well and take our focus onto the field and just do what we can do.”

Jarrod Sammut looks set to continue at full-back after impressing last week, while Hay has no new injury concerns following a 56-18 victory over North Wales Crusaders.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Sunday's Coming Special: Featherstone Rovers

Think back to January, just before the season started...

London Broncos' future was in doubt, their lease on the Stoop had expired and eight players had baled out ahead of their anticipated implosion. The RFL's back-up plan - if the Broncos folded - was to run with a 13-team Super League. But cometh someone else's darkest hour, cometh the man. In this case Featherstone's majority shareholder Feisal Nahaboo.

With great fanfare, he announced to the Rugby league world that Fev would ride over the ridge and 'save' Super League by 'offering' to take the vacant 14th place.

"Whilst not ideal, we can be ready to mix with the greats of rugby league." he said in a club statement at the time.

"We certainly deserve it... and it would be farcical if space became available and we weren't offered entry. The sport is starved of funds and we've made it clear we have the funds available to build Featherstone Rovers into a rugby league powerhouse and we should be encouraged, not discouraged."
Featherstone's very own Feisal Nahaboo shows his support

"We own our ground, we have a strong board with at least two key shareholders generating seven-figure profits from businesses they run successfully and own. It all bodes well for Featherstone Rovers to show that entrepreneurs can enter the sport of rugby league and commercialise the game and attract investment."

"Roman Abramovich started this in football and now the money in football has gone crazy. Rugby league is ready for entrepreneurs. We've seen Dr Marwan Koukash take on Salford City Reds and I'm sure he will show his value to the sport next year. I'm no different…"

Fast forward six months
Only a week after announcing plans to sign pretty much every off-contract player in Super League, and mere days after signing Jarrod Sammut on Dual Reg. (in direct contradiction of the club's vociferous opposition to the Dual Reg. system) it looks like the shit has hit the fan(s) at Post Office Road, with majority shareholder Feisal Nahaboo and CEO Craig Poskitt having walked from the club after what looks like an irreconcilable fall-out with Chairman Mark Campbell.

Nahaboo not Happy
Having pumped - in his own words - "hundreds of thousands" into the club - which included offering full time, extended contracts to key players and chasing several big-name Super League players including Danny Brough, Leon Price, Michael Monaghan and Eorl Crabtree, you have to wonder how the financial demands of such huge ambition will play-out now the money plug has been pulled.

Nahaboo bankrolled the club for 3 years as a sponsor, investor and majority shareholder - pouring in critical funds to build what looked like a viable Super League challenge, but over the course of last weekend, the story of the rift slowly oozed out via Twitter, with @fnahaboo75 tweeting (sic):

- "Very sad, very upset, revolving door again...same issues same people. Time to go. Very hard to leave when in love"

- "A lot of free time now to play golf.Will miss the lads.I know they backed what was happening & we would have got into SL.We had just started"

- "Immense support from players/directors/officials 2day.spent hundreds of thousands with fev.Someone won't let go.Hurting others.mass exodus"

- "Chairman & I agree a joint statement hopefully for 2moro.We both want best for club/fans.Fans need truth.Players know who was paying them!"

- "No interest in land.Multimillionaire half retired building houses in Fev! Come on!!Hundreds of A shareholders control land!Challenge was SL"

The club's own Twitter account has been particularly taciturn on the matter - a single Tweet referring readers to its official statement.

Exit Signs
In a stream of consciousness press release that makes Hunter S Thompson look like a model of linear narrative, Rovers dropped heavy hints about what exactly had gone shit-shaped at the club. It said: " With immediate effect majority shareholder Feisal Nahaboo has announced to officials that he will no longer invest in Featherstone Rovers following undisclosed disagreements…"

But it does suggest a rift between Nahaboo and club Chairman Mark Campbell: Nahaboo quoted as saying "… (I) believe Mark Campbell is the man to lead Fev. I did my bit, the fans are with him understandably, so walking… was the only way.

In reply Campbell said: "Big personalities who have built big businesses sometimes don't agree with slow growth and old habits and its normal to have differences but Nahaboo is obviously offended…"

Interestingly, CEO Poskitt's exit is tucked away in the last paragraph, Campbell saying: "I'd also like to thank Craig in his time at Fev as we've seen revenues grow across the business year on year and wish him well in the future…"

All very odd. But if you invite a money-man in at the top - especially one who has already flirted with several clubs -  they're going to want control. But control comes at a price - and when supporters feel disenfranchised, the disconnect can be too great to bridge and something has to give (messages on Fev's fans forum are making heavy noises about 'getting our club back'). And that's the crux of the sugar-daddy model: while Big-Time Charlies can spit the dummy and pull the plug, the fans have a lifetime investment. And the one thing that money can't buy is lifetime loyalty.

Read the full statement here:

Meanwhile, back in the Championship...
Having lost the previous week up at Workington, normal service was resumed last week as  Fev battered 'Big Spending North Wales Crusaders™' by 58-8. Dual Reg. signing Jarrod Sammut, bagging 10 from 10 with the boot.

Whether he - or any of the newly full-time contracted players - hang around remains to be seen.

We maintain a watching brief.