Thursday, 10 September 2015

Saturday's Coming: London Skolars

And so we come to the last league game of the regular season and - quite possibly - the last game of the year.

In the last couple of weeks the equation for making the top five has become increasingly stark - and the remaining permutation for measuring the success or otherwise of this season is pretty straightforward: Win convincingly on Saturday and then pray to whichever Rugby god you subscribe to that North Wales Crusaders lose heroically at a Newcastle side that has a bit of a point to prove to its squillionnaire owner.

It’s not perfect by any means, but for 24 hours we should remain clinging to 5th, our fate in Stanley Gene’s hands.

And, as it did in 2013, our season balances on a game against London Skolars, as Saturday sees them make the long trip north in search of their 17th defeat of the season.
"Rochdale? On a Saturday evening? Did I hear you right?"
Skolars Coach Jermaine Coleman

Indeed, it’s been a season of rebuilding and consolidation in the capital as the emergence of southern competition has shallowed the player pool somewhat. As such, Skolars have managed just five wins this term - the most recent a good 12-man effort, last week beating Coventry at Butts Park by 28-18.

The vagaries of this year’s fixtures meant that we managed to avoid our usually disappointing trip down to Wood Green, which has been a bit of a graveyard over the years - and what we’ve missed (other than a shambolic flogging) is that, this year, Skolars became one of three RL teams to play on an artificial pitch, following redevelopment of their New River Stadium home.

Skolars are currently coached by Yorkshire-born Jermaine Coleman - his second stint in charge. And he has a creditable League pedigree. Having previously played for Gateshead, York and Hunslet he went on to play 116 games for the Skolars between 2004 and 2011 scoring 19 tries and 14 goals. He then went to Hemel Stags as player/ assistant Coach to Troy Perkins.

And it looks like his influence may by taking effect: three competitive performances against Keighley (16-36), North Wales (16-24) and York (22-30) preceded the Coventry win, so Skolars come to us on probably their best run of form of the season.

Hornets conversely come into the game having had an old-skool shocker up at Barrow. Without raking it over, a game like that needs a big response if we are to embark on playoff football. You might argue that the maths are against you in this super-tight League 1. Eight into five won’t go - and neither will five into two. However it pans out, six teams who would’ve thought they had a decent shot at promotion will be left wondering where the hell their season went. With that in mind, to still be in with a shot on the last weekend of the season isn’t all bad.

Ultimately, Hornets can only uphold their end of the equation and let fate take its course. Don’t stop believing folks - stranger things have happened.