Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Saturday's Coming - Barrow Raiders

An unexpected Good Friday defeat, followed up by a win built on a whirlwind second-half performance. Sound familiar?

Barrow started the season with what some might see as a 'shock' 34-22 defeat at newly *nionised Newcastle ThunderFalcons, but got their season back on the rails with a hefty 50-12 panning of Swinton last Saturday.

Down 10-12 at one point and just in front by 16-12 at the break, Barrow turned in a quite stunning second half performance. Not only did they nil Swinton in the second-half, racking up 34 unanswered points in the process, they returned an eye-catching 90% completion rate.

Back in Barrow's very-hot-seat - and filling Bobbie Goulding's boots  - is local Rugby League legend Paul Crarey. With a long connection to the club, at least he knows what he's walking into.

To outsiders, the Barrow Coach's office looks like it has a revolving door. Trying to actually piece together the trail of coaches passing through Craven park has been a challenge in itself (there is no definitive list) but we reckon that - in the last six years - the role has been held by:
Which way to Barrow, Paul?

Dave Clark - six months
Steve Deakin - six weeks
Dave Clark - two months
Steve McCormack - 10 months
Dave Clark - two months
Garry Schofield - five games
Nigel Wright - four months
Dave Clark - four months
Darren Holt - two seasons
Anthony Murray - four games
Bobbie Goulding - six months

Fortunately for Barrow, few people know the club and the Cumbrian RL landscape quite as well as Paul Crarey.

Having signed from local community club Dalton in 1987, Crarey played for Barrow  until 1995, clocking up 172 games and 20 tries at hooker.  After one season at Carlisle he cut his coaching teeth at Dalton and Walney Central, before embarking on his first term at Craven Park in 2005.

Over two seasons he steadied a rocking ship by recruiting the best local players. However, after 'disagreements' with the Chief Executive at the time, he took his talents up the coast to Whitehaven. After a short spell of ill-health, he returned to coach Dalton in 2009.

From there he went on to coach Cumbria at both amateur and professional level - and was appointed BARLA GB head coach in 2012. At the time he said: “My whole life is dedicated to rugby league and this just shows that if you put your head down, work hard and dedicate yourself you can achieve your goals." As good a life philosophy as any, we think.

This time round, Crarey's wasted no time in assembling a more than useful outfit. An influx of Leigh loanees augmenting a mix of Cumbrian amateur and pro-talent , including Chris Fleming - a Cumbrian arriving via the Queensland InTrust Cup. Add Salford's  Kyle Dolan & Matt Heaton and Crarey's 2015 side looks like a tough proposition.

Last week's Swinton-squashing Barrow squad was: Chris Fleming, Kyle Dolan, Chris Hankinson, Cameron Pitman, Lee Haney, Josh Ward, Peter Lupton, Joe Bullock, Nathan Mossop, Danny Jones, Liam Harrison, Craig Briscoe, Anthony Bate. Subs: Brad Marwood, Dan Toal, Matt Heaton, Andrew Dawson.

Be careful when you Google "Barrow Raiders, Cumbria".
Like Barrow, Hornets got their season underway at the second time of asking in an error-strewn, but ultimately convincing win at University of Gloucestershire All Golds. In a coach-killing first-half, the error count from both sides was off the scale - and as Barrow demonstrated last week, good completion stats take you a very long way towards winning.

Ahead of the All Golds trip, Ian Talbot said: "We’re a bit low on confidence at the minute …  we’re still trying to find our feet with new combinations so it will be interesting to see where we are…"

And his thoughts dovetail perfectly with acouple of articles this week from the 'Sage of the NRL' Gus Gould, who wrote in his Sydney Morning Herald column about the importance of confidence and completion. "Confidence is such an amazing thing in Rugby League. When confidence is lacking nothing seems to go right. Even the simplest of actions feels as though it's beyond your capabilities. But when self belief is strong - when individuals come together as one to fight for the common cause, well, no challenge seems so great. Winning suddenly becomes a habit."

He goes on to speak of how confidence is built on what he calls 'Tradesman's Victories' - wins built on '… hard work, togetherness and resilence." He also writes about 'defensive composure' as a key component to grinding out those wins: "stoic resistance… working as a unit… frustrating the opposition."

Indeed, in his column last week he wrote about being prepared to scrap: "… to hustle, bustle and niggle opponents to the point of frustration…" In the same piece he identified completion as a key element in the Sharks surprise win over early competition favourites the Roosters.

"At the 65th-minute mark, the Sharks led 14-0 and had completed 34 sets of six from 37 opportunities with the ball. You just don't lose games with those kinds of completion rates. At the same stage the Roosters had been restricted to only 26 opportunities with the ball, yet had only completed 20 sets of six. They committed far too many unforced errors and the fifth tackle options at the end of those sets they did complete were poorly executed. They put no pressure whatsoever on their opponents with their last tackle plays."

"As a result the Roosters were afforded very little field position and limited attacking opportunities. So the Sharks outside backs were put under very little pressure defensively…"

As everyone at the Prince of Wales Stadium - and at Craven Park - saw last week, completion and confidence go hand in hand. And with Hornets and Barrow having very similar records, both sides of that equation could be the deciding factor on Saturday.