Friday, 30 June 2017

Sunday's Coming: Dewsbury

Rammed: Dewsbury's pitch is even smaller
than we thought!
Hornets travel to in-form Dewsbury on Sunday for Part Two of a Heavy-Woollen heavy fortnight.

While Hornets were literally wrestling with Batley last weekend, the Rams were having a momentous afternoon - hoisting themselves out of the bottom two for the first time this season with a stunning win over TOXIIIC.

Having been behind 8-12 at the break - and 8-16 after 55 minutes, Dewsbury came up with four unanswered, converted tries to snatch the game away from the Frenchies, who scored a late, late consolation try to give the veneer of a contest.

The Toulouse game gave (relatively) new Rams coach Neil Kelly four wins in six games - having lost 12 of their first 13. A remarkable transformation.

Worth noting that Dewsbury half Paul Sykes kicked seven goals from seven attempts last week - so another marksman to keep an eye on. Sykes has been a solid pro and Sunday will be his 400th career game. For the anoraks amongst you, that's 46 games for Dewsbury, 34 games for Featherstone, 62 games for Wakefield Trinity, 109 in three spells at Bradford and 137 games in a six year stint with Harlequins/London. He also only needs 10 points to reach a career 2,000. Let's hope he gets to celebrate next week against Batley.

On the squad front, last week Rams coach Kelly secured London Broncos prop Toby Everett on loan until the end of the season, but this week lost Castleford loan-prop Daniel Igbinedion to Featherstone who basically offered him a deal that Dewsbury couldn't match. Kelly will also be without prop Tony Tonks who this week confirmed that a shoulder injury picked up at the Summer Bash has ended his season prematurely. Joining him is fellow prop Mitch Stringer who is due for a clean-up operation on a long-standing knee problem.

Hornets come into the game on the back of a frustrating defeat in which the goal-kicking of Batley's Pat Walker proved the difference - both sides scoring three tries. But confidence remains high in the camp as, again, Hornets look more than capable of competing at this level.

But Dewsbury's wins at Oldham and over Toulouse - plus Swinton's defeat of Halifax last week has squeezed every last gasp of air out of the bottom five. Hornets remain a point clear in 8th, Dewsbury and Swinton in close pursuit, with Oldham taking over as Bradford's pacesetter in 11th.

Sunday sees Oldham host Toulouse and Swinton travel to Wakey to play Sheffield - so a win of any shade is pretty much essential as Hornets chase down an Eagles side in free-fall, losing its last three games by 54-nil, 72-12 and 40-18 (a total of 166-30!).

As was mentioned in Thursday's members' meeting, the support of the Hornets fans has been exceptional this season - and it's got us over the line a couple of times. So please do come join us on Sunday - bring your mates and your singing voice and let's give it a proper dig. See you there.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Hornets Done Dog-Style

Hornets 14 - Batley 24

To misquote Mark Twain: "Never get involved in a shit fight with a big Yorkshire pack -  they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."

In the week that tyro referee Liam Moore announced his ascent to full-time status, Batley arrived at Spotland with a win-at-all-costs gameplan that tested his capabilities to the limit - the Bulldogs shipping 12 of the game's 21 penalties as they brawled, sprawled and - eventually - spoiled every last drop of quality from the game.

With a huge pack, Batley's half-backs had a single purpose - to feed the forwards into traffic and grind out a win of any shade. Indeed, This was a victory for experience over endeavour as the low-geared visitors bulldozed their way around the park leaving a trail of elbows, knees and niggle in pretty much every tackle.

Hornets got off to a perfect start: Batley spectacularly knocking-on the kick-off, Lewis Galbraith blasting through the line to score after just 45 seconds. Not even enough time for the visiting fans to shout 'offside'.

And in the early exchanges, Hornets strove to play what little football was on offer, going close in the 7th minute, the ball knocked on under the posts.

As Batley hit their stride, the game became increasingly fragmented, Mr Moore setting the bar as he pulled Jordan Case for holding on too long:  Case making amends immediately with a good shot, knocking the ball out of the tackle. A rare loose carry from Rob Massam let Batley off the hook and, on 15 minutes, Bulldogs prop Gledhill arrived onto a short ball to score from close range. Walker hit the target and Batley edged ahead 4-6.

Mr Moore continued to confound: missing a blatant forward pass, then - when Batley put the ball to ground - giving them the feed. Batley's attempt at lucid football ended in a dreadful obstruction-play to hand Hornets possession.

On the quarter mark, the usually tenacious Hornets defence allowed Batley to offload multiple times and a neat offload sent Ainscough under the black dot. Walker raising the flags for 4-12.

The Bulldogs again coughed the kick-off, Hornets pressing hard with Rob Massam held-up in the in-goal.

With Hornets building pressure Batley unleashed a barrage of cheap shots, high-shots and low-blows to get themselves a team warning and, when Lewis Foster found a big cut-out pass on the half-hour mark, Jake Eccleston stepped back inside defenders to score. Again, no conversion: 8-12.

Batley showed their ambition, taking a penalty on 35 minutes - then settled down to basically fight their way to half time. Not happy enough with receiving a gift penalty after they cocked-up a play the ball, Batley instigated a flurry of punches after Jo Taira landed a bell-ringing shot. But having carried the ball to the Hornets 10 metre line, the Bulldogs ran out of ideas.

With a minute of the half remaining, Danny Yates sparked a huge break up the left channel, only to  be brought back to where Gaz Middlehurst and resident Batley nut-job Farell were exchanging blows. Despite having digged Middlehurst after the play the ball, Batley won the penalty. Then they knocked on. Crap, really.

Hornets had enough time to force two consecutive drop-outs, but Batley held on and the sides went to the sheds with the visitors in-front at 8-14.

Having started the second-half with a needlessly forced pass and a knock-on, Hornets showed good defence to track back and snuff-out a rare Batley attack.

The visitors then had a shaky period. Pound-shop Vin Diesel Reittie ridiculously milked a penalty from the gullible Mr Moore, only to ship one three minutes later for entering a completed tackle with his knees. Pretty much his entire contribution right there.

From the resutling possession, Gaz Middlehurst spun through some ordinary defence to score. Danny Yates locking the game up at 14-all with 27 minutes to play.

The game was now a battle of wills as both sides probed for the breakthrough.

Batley got their noses ahead on 69 minutes when Dec Kay was brutally squashed by onrushing tacklers as he took a steepling bomb, then Batley given a penalty in the ensuing set: 14-16.

With the big Batley pack low on gas, it seemed sensible to keep them moving as much as possible, but Hornets repeatedly kicked the ball into the corners giving them time to walk back and get their breath. Fortunately, the visitors struggled to capitalise and the game remained finely balanced. Hornets snatched some good field position after Batley knocked-on Lewis Foster's kick, but with players lining up for one last push, Gaz Middlehurst spilled the ball.

Batley responded: trundling upfield to force a Hornets error, Leak slumping in for a late sucker-try from acting half. Walker the two and the game gone at 14-22.

In a desperate attempt to chase the last crumbs of the game, Hornets slammed the kick-off directly into touch and Walker took the two from half-way to blow-out the winning margin to 10 points.

In the wash-up, Batley showed every ounce of their Championship nous to win this one, grinding the game to a scrappy halt at times. And if every game is a learning opportunity the lessons here are not to get dragged into a forward scrap against a side who've come to do whatever's neccessary to win - and when you're playing a side of big lumps, keep the buggers playing when they're out on their feet. Also, Walker hit six goals from six attempts, Hornets managing just one from three. And in tight games, that can be the difference.

Ultimately, we can be coldly objective: Batley finished 4th last year and have a budget at least twice ours, which buys you a ten-point margin. Or we can chalk this one up to experience and take the learnings forward.

Which applies equally to Mr Moore.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Sunday's Coming: Batley

We spy with our little eye, something else beginning with 'B' as, hot onthe heels of Bradford, Batley Bulldogs make their way to Spotland on Sunday in search of a third consecutive win.

And they do it having delivered quite possibly the most eyecatching scoreline of this championship season so far - having flogged Sheffield Eagles by 70-12 at the Mount last week. En route, Batley racked up 11 tries (four to wing Wayne Reittie) and stand-off Patch Walker ended the game  with a 100% record landing 13 goals. He also weighed in with two tries to complete a 34-point personal haul.

Playing up the slope, Batley led 38-nil at half time in what coach Matt Diskin described as a 'near-perfect performance'. The victory hoisted Batley over the Eagles into sixth place, but after the game Diskin conceded that, despite the impressive nature of the win, his side's target for the 2017 season looked likely to be missed.

Speaking in the Batley News this week he said: “The top-four was our initial goal and it looks as though we’ve fallen short of that, but we want to finish as high as we can. We’ve gone above Sheffield now and we need to keep chipping away.”

Diskin will run the rule over injuries to Alex Rowe and Alistair Leak ahead of Sunday’s game - and Back rower Dane Manning is in line to play the 200th game of his career.

Having surprised everyone by making the Middle 8 last year, the Bulldogs have slipped backwards a bit, but continue to punch well above their weight in this competition.

As a club, Batley have a long and distinguished history that pre-dates the Northern Union and have the rare disctinction of still playing on their original ground. The Batley Cricket, Athletic and Football Club played its first game of 'rugby' against Bradford Zingari on the 2nd November 1880 at  'The Mount Ground' - a home win by 2 goals, 3 touchdowns, 2 dead balls and one touch goal to nil. Now that IS an interesting scoring system!

The dressing rooms used at this time were located at the Royal Hotel, Bradford Road and were quoted in the official handbook as being:  "8 minutes walk from the ground".

Hornets come into Sunday's game with confidence boosted by a convincing win over Bradford Bulls - and given the results of Wednesday evening's Championship fixtures, it was a timely two points. Midweek, Swinton crashed 36-2 at Featherstone and Dewsbury sneaked home at Oldham (16-20) as the the battle at the bottom of the Chamoionship tightened up considerably. There are now only three points between 8th and 11th - and Hornets yet to play Swinton at home and Dewsbury and Oldham away - so two points on Sunday would help maintain our slight cushion in 8th.

Certainly a performance resembling last week's effort would go a very long way to delivering this. And with Hornets unceremoniously robbed of victory by some frankly surrealist refereeing decisions at Mount Pleasant earlier in the year, payback would be nice. Thankfully, Mr Straw is ruining Swinton v Halifax, so at least we have a fair shot at it.

See you there.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Bulls Hit by Hornets Blitz

Hornets 28 - Bulls 14

Bullshit: Don't believe the hype.
Once Hornets got onto the scoreboard, this Battle with the Cattle was only going one way. A superb last hour lock-out left an increasingly impotent Bradford looking a distant second-best, as the Bulls gave debut coach Geoff Toovey a birthday present to forget.

Indeed, it's an indicator of how far the mighty can fall that former Super League cause-celebre Bradford and Grand-Final winning coach Toovey were handed a lesson in commitment, desire and punishingly penetrative football.

To their credit, Bradford started the brighter: a double-whammy of tries around the quarter-mark - Bentley off a well-picked line, Chapelhow hauling defenders 10 metres to the line - giving the travelling Yorkshire hordes brief reason to bang their drum. But they really hadn't accounted for anything like Jo Taira.

Fresh from the bench, the Fijian Wrecking ball made an instant  - and game-changing - impact. On 25 minutes, he took the ball close to the Bradford posts and, as a gaggle of defenders flailed around him, Jo found the strength to muscle the ball down. Danny Yates the two for 6-12.

Bradford turned up the heat: four back-to-back sets gave them 17 consecutive tackles in the Hornets 20m zone, but their best efforts were repeatedly repelled by some fearsome defence.

You could sense Bradford's nerves as they took the two at a penalty, but with the half ebbing away came the two minutes that completely shifted the momentum of this contest.

A niggle at a tackle that saw referee Mr Straw talk to Bulls' awkward lump Peltier and Ben Moores had the Bradford fans baying for Peltier to 'knock him out'. From the next play a Hornets dink into the in-goal found Lilley scrambling back to gather. He was unceremoniously sacked and, as Mr Straw gave the drop-out, backplay eruped into a flurry of punches as Bradford's resolve snapped.

From the drop-out, Jo Taira took the ball at pace and - from 40 metres - blasted his way through the Bulls' defence, stepping hapless fullback Thomas on his way under the black dot for a try that lifted the roof. Yatesey no mistake and Hornets into the sheds 12-14 down. You could sense the confidence in the Hornets ranks.

Hornets began the second half with a bang. With just five minutes on the clock, Danny Yates launched Lewis Galbraith with a peach of a flat pass just past half-way; Trigger hitting the gas to outpace the Bradford defence to score a top quality try. Yatesey off the touchline with the extras and Hornets in front at 18-14.

Offered a rare opportunity in a 9-3 penalty count, Hornets kept the scoreboard ticking over with a Danny Yates penalty on the hour mark.

Hornets were now in complete control: Danny Yates and Lewis Foster repeatedly kicking the Bulls back into the corners, walking their big pack back time and again to start 10m from their own line. And when Hornets ventured forward, you could hear Bradford sphincters squeaking as the home pack made big metres in every tackle.

On 65 minutes, Hornets opened up the Bulls defence at close quarters, but the ball slipped tantalisingly from Lee Mitchells's grasp with the line begging. Bradford responded by sending Peltier - by some distance their most dangerous player - in off a short ball, but again some outstanding Hornets defence somehow held him up in the in-goal.

With Bradford now desperately looking for the draw, Danny Yates launched a 75th minute drop-goal attempt, but it was deflected dead by a Bulls defender. From the drop-out Hornets went straight back to the Bradford goal-line where Ben Moores found the deftest of cross-field kicks for Matty Hadden to gather, wrestling off defenders to score. Hornets fans in raptures, Bulls fans heading for the exits in their droves. Yatesey the two for 26-14 - then adding a cheeky two-pointer from a penalty on the 40 metre line to cap a quite stunning victory that leaves the busted Bulls staring at the trapdoor to League 1.

More importantly, it leaves Bradford six and a half wins behind Hornets in the league table.

In the wash-up, this was a great win. All the talk in the week was about Toovey and how Bradford could get to zero. But on this performance, you'd be hard pushed to tell which of these sides used to be world club champions. Hornets were resolute on defence and patient on attack - and seeing Danny Yates walk an increasingly crestfallen Bulls round the field with an imperious display of controlled kicking was a delight.

In his post-match interview,. Geoff Toovey bemoaned his side's "... bad luck and biscuit tackling..." as reasons for the defeat. Given that Bulls cashed-up owner Andrew Chalmers spent most of the last hour of this game with his head in his hands, it looks like it'll be an interesting chat at Odsal on Monday morning.

Conversely, Hornets can start looking up with renewed confiidence.

And finally:  this result sent RL anoraks racing for the record books to check-out the last time Hornets did the double over Bradford. One journalist has it at 'over 50 years' - if anyone has details, please let us know.

Thursday, 15 June 2017


Bullsh*t detector: The RFL's investigation into Bradford's
liquidation went to extreme lengths.
The big news coming out of Bradford this week is that Geoff Toovey has finally got his visa to coach the Bulls after a five month 'holiday' in Weast Yorkshire. The former Manly stalwart taks the reins for this Sunday's game at Spotland - and with Bradford still paying of their 12 point penalty for going toes-up in the off season, Toovey is wasting no time in talking up his side's chances.

In the Bradford Telegraph and Argus this week he said: "The last couple of months has been very difficult with injuries and now suspensions, so this is one positive step and hopefully we can take another one by winning at the weekend."

 "The players are fairly young and inexperienced. We can deal with adversity but we can't seem to maintain that level of consistency, whether that be during the game or week-to-week. So we need to learn how to stay in contests and how to compete for the full 80 minutes. That's very difficult when you've been put in a situation like this."

Indeed, Bradford are currently mired in the trough of an 8-game losing slump - and remain 8 points behind Dewsbury in the table - and Toovey has wasted no time in sniffing the air for reinforcements for his beleaguered squad.

Again in the T&A he said: "We're actively looking. I can't say too much but we're really in the market. Unfortunately so are many other clubs at this stage of the year. There's not too many players out there at the moment, and those that are good quality have been picked up already."

"That search does include Australia but they're in the midst of a season as well, so obviously they need their players. But you can always pick up the odd one or two that have slipped through the cracks and that's what we'll be aiming to do."

"Bringing those reinforcements in would definitely boost our hopes of survival but hopefully we can win a few more games before that happens and give ourselves a chance."

And he needs 'em fast at the moment - especially after contentious Aussie signing Dane Chisholm (signed for a rumoured £10,000 after a contractual tug-of-war with Sheffield) blew up 60 minutes into his debut and faces the remainder of the year recovering from a knee reconstruction.

Less than a than a week in the post, Toovey is bemoaning Bradford's bad fortune this season: "Our bad luck started with Easter weekend, when all the loan players were called back, and over the last few weeks it's been a combination of injuries and suspensions, meaning we've only had 18 players to select from,"

"Those hurdles, including the Dane Chisholm injury and then relying on some steady loan players – which we're very grateful for – does make it very difficult to organise game-plans and training sessions. So we're hoping for a bit more luck going forward."

Lovers of irony will have noticed that Bradford only have a squad of 18 courtesy of four loan players from former bitter rivals Leeds Rhinos. and the quartet of Jordan Lilley, Cameron Smith (not that one), Sam Hallas and Mikolaj Oledzki (whose name gets you 130 at Scrabble) have agreed a week to week extension to their ongoing loan deals.

Last week Bradford spectacularly imploded at Featherstone.Leading 12-10 at the break, they shipped  26 unanswered second-half points to crash by 12-36 - the score blown-out by two tries in three minutes at the death, as the Bulls faded badly.

Hornets also come into the game on the back of a defeat, but you can't read too much into last week's result at Toulouse. With six debutants plugging holes in a patched-up side, it was an uphill task from the off, but with several first choice players back in contention this week, Hornets should be in decent shape to try and prevent Bradford getting to that long-awaited zero points.

Jono Smith, Chris Riley, Gary Middlehurst, Jo Taira and Lee Mitchell are all in line for a recall, alongside Leigh loanee hooker Lewis Foster and re-signed prop Anthony Walker, rejoining Hornets after a stint at Wakefield to add a bit of grit and mobility up front.

This one should be an intriguing contest - and both sides see it as a catalyst for the rest of the season. But for us here at TLCRF80mins if someone had said to us three years ago that we had a great chance to do the double over Bradford Bulls, I'd have laughed at them. But it's on, it's real - and it's happening on Sunday. These are the games we signed up for folks: don't miss the Battle with the Cattle - it'll be a cracker.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Heat Stroke

Toulouse 56 - Hornets 16

Just occasionally the scoreline doesn't tell the whole story The story of this game is one of a patched-up Hornets side shorn of six regulars, bolstered by DR kids and a couple of debutants who gave the cause everything in the punishing French heat.

With the Mercury creeping up over the 32 degree mark, this was always going to be a tester of a game, but against a strong TO side that relishes the conditions, it was a test too far.

Hornets started innovatively, teasing the home defence with a short kick-off. But when TO passed the ball into Gav Bennion on the floor in the ruck, referee Mr Hewer ignored the RFL's guidelines on conning a penalty and marched the home side downfield: less than a minute on the clock and TO cheating.

It was hardly a surprise when Mika launched himself onto a short-ball to score. The tannoy announcer barely with enough time to tell the crowd to cheer.

From the resulting kick-off TO conned another penalty out of Mr Hewer after they appeared to drop the ball, but this time the Hornets defence stood firm and lines were cleared with a good out-set.

Hornets finally got a break when tyro full-back Dec Kay fielded a deep kick, only to be near decapitated by the on-rushing Planas. From the resulting possession, Tyler Whittaker's teasing kick was just too long for Miles Greenwood.

As TO brought the ball away, a shuddering shot from Rob Massam knocked the ball loose, and when another good set ended with TO bringing the ball back from their goal-line, a clutch of French fans retreated away from the noise of the Hornets contingent. Lovely.

TO's response was clinical: ball shipped left, Ader overlapping on the edge to score. Khierallah the extras 12-0.

But Hornets stuck to the task. Good completion, good metres with the ball, good kicking options drove TO backwards and, when Josh Crowley forced an error from Mika, Lewis Hatton was held-up over the line. From the next play Lewis Galbraith was snagged offside as he reeled in a Danny Yates kick to score.

TO finally cracked when a neat flat pass found Rob Massam with plenty of space to run over his opposite number and score. 12-4 and the home fans silent. Well, we say 'silent': when their side was on defence or bringing the ball out from their own half, they casually chatted amongst themselves - neither caring nor knowing what was going on on the field. Bizarre.

Hornets continued to push hard, Matty Hadden and Trigger taking metres out of every contact and a brilliant kick-chase saw the home pack still walking back three tackles later.

Then disaster: Hornets wilting to concede four tries in a nine minute period to change the course of the game. First Robin allowed to continue a mazy last tackle run to score; a break up the guts of the defence, Ader out wide the beneficiary; then an outrageous show & go by Khierallah after a big 40/20; then that man again under the black dot after TO worked a tidy 'out then in' shift through a tiring defence.

Having played nine minutes of lucid football in forty, TO went in at the break a punishing 34-4 up. A punch-drunk Hornets kept out on the field in the cool of the shade at the break as Alan Kilshaw regathered his battered troops.

The second half began  in the worst possible way: the ball dropped loose second tackle, forwards Mika and Boyer exchanging passes for a simple try, but Hornets dug in, pushing forward to force a drop out at the other end. Then some unsavoury play from the home side, Danny Rasool and Lewis Hatton both hit late in back-play, the latter leaving the ground with a face full of stitches.

TO took full advantage of the disruption to set up a try for Marion, but once Hornets settled, they took the game back to the French side.

On 55 minutes the ball slipped from Lewis Galbraith's grasp as he reached to score; then a Miles Greenwood break up the left, his cheeky dink into space just beyond the reaching fingertips of Danny Yates; then - at last - reward in the shape of a Dec Kay interception, blasting clear of a slow-turning defence to score under the posts. Tyler Whittaker the extras for 46-10.

Straight from the kick-off, another head-shot on Lewis Hatton saw him receive attention for blood streaming down his face.

Just past the hour Hornets forced a drop-out when a great kick behind the defence forced Khierallah's arse to prolapse, straight from the drop-out a big drive from Gav Bennion and a short-ball to Miles Greenwood saw the winger blitz defenders on his way under the posts. Tyler Whittaker the two, the home fans distinctly miffed that Hornets dare offer any French resistance.

Hornets went into the last ten minutes out on their feet, the score line bloated courtesy of two late tries to Marcon and Curran, but Hornets were innovative to the last: finding touch with the kick-off and forcing a drop-out with seconds remaining. The game ended with Lewis Galbraith reaching painfully short with the last play of the game. Final score 56-16.

In the wash-up this was a game of a quarter and three quarters: the five try burst either side of half-time the killer blow in a contest in which Hornets matched TO for long periods. What was essentially a skeleton team shored-up by DR kids and debutants gave a good account of themselves in the face of some pretty heavy odds. Indeed, this was an identical winning/losing margin to last year's league game - and we all know how that panned out.

After the game, the players were disappointed that they hadn't done more - but we're not sure there was much more could be done. Every player gave every ounce and that's all you can ask.

Off the field a big mention to the noisy Hornets contingent who put in a sterling shift - especially Gill and George who drove up for the game from Benidorm! That, my friends, is dedication.

Monday, 5 June 2017

This is a Lo.

Sheffield 38 - Hornets 14

In Garry Lo, Sheffield have one of the most potent attacking weapons in the Championship - and his five try performance proved to be the unbridgeable difference between a well-drilled, but unspectacular Eagles and a Hornets side that worked hard and strove to play what little lucid football was on offer in this ugly pan-Yorkshire grind-fest.

Hornets started brightly, Rob Massam held just short after a looping run by Lewis Galbraith after just two minutes. But when the Hornets defence let Sheffield move the ball  - standing off Menzie Yere’s crabbing run - Lo stepped inside to open his account. Brown hoofed the conversion attempt wide.

Both sides exchanged aerial attacks - Rob Massam held up just short on the last tackle, Lo beaten by the pace of the ball - but it was a last tackle dink & hope into the in-goal that caused the damage: Miles Greenwood making a meal of the bouncing ball, Lo following up to touch down for his second. Awful.

The remainder of the half became an arm-wrestle, Sheffield repeatedly fed easy possession from a stream of Hornets errors and some peculiar decisions from referee Mr Roberts. But the defence held firm as Sheffield looked light on ideas beyond five drives and a kick into the in-goal.

Hornets’ persistence paid off with a minute of the half remaining: Danny Yates the provider, Jono Smith straight through the Sheffield defence to score; Lewis Palfrey with the extras on the hooter and Hornets back in the contest at 8-6.

The second half was an unpleasant contrast - and began as it meant to continue: Hornets knocking on on the 2nd tackle, then Yere playing the referee to gain a penalty: the Eagles producing a ridiculous cut-out-pass to Lo who blitzed through to score. Brown finding his range for 14-6.

On 49 minutes came the sixty seconds that effectively ended the game as a contest. Sheffield worked a simple overlap wide on the left for Yere to stroll in. Lo returning the kick-off from 65 metres for his hat-trick try.

On the hour, Sheffield got lucky: another punt and pray kick into the in-goal was heading nowhere and - when Minchella threw a flailing arm in the ball’s direction only to bounce it dead - Mr Roberts stunned the 351 present by giving the try.

Hornets hit back immediately: Jono Smith regathering the klick-off, slotting Rob Massam into space for him too outpace Flynn and score by the flag for 30-10. And he was in again soon after, booming in off a Jono Smith short pass for 30-14. Lewis Palfrey wide with the kick from pretty much bang in front.

On 75 minutes, Sheffield capped an agricultural performance with one of the ugliest tries you’ll ever see. With Jordan Case down in back-play, Sheffield broke downfield, Jake Eccleston tracking back to halt progress. And as the ruck descended into a melee, Lo snuck up the blind-side to score in the corner. Scrappy, horrible - but the whole Sheffield experience in microcosm.

With the last gasps of air wheezing out of the game, Sheffield went, one last time, to their only real strike option, and Lo obliged with his fifth try. Having said that it’s their only real option, it does seem to work every time. Indeed, it was said on the way back to the car that if we’d stiffed Lo after his first try, we might’ve won it with 12.

In summary, Sheffield are ugly to watch, but effective in a kind of blunt-instrument way. Their Championship experience gives them the smarts to know how to win - and Hornets are still on that learning curve. Indeed, the residual vestiges of Sheffield’s full-time experiment and a trio of Kumul internationals gives them a tough-to-beat edge.

Off the field, the Hornets fans put in a noisy shift - matching Sheffield in both volume and numbers. Indeed, with Sheffield’s future supposedly hanging in the balance, you have to wonder how much longer they can afford to invest in three clearly talented PNG internationals on crowds of 350. And, whilst they may beat Hornets now, our long-term future looks somewhat more certain than theirs.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Sunday's Coming: Sheffield

Hot on the heels of our quite spectacular victory over Oldham at the Summer Bash, Horrnets head over to Wakefield to take on… er… Sheffield… er… Shwakefield Triniteagles, we guess.

Having also come away from Blackpool with a win (30-24 over Swinton), the Eagles thoughts returned this week to securing their long-term survival.

As dyed-in-the-wool League fans know, any news of a takeover of a club that includes the words ‘secret ‘ and ‘investor’ usually sits somewhere between bad news and bullshit.

But that’s the phrase coming out of Sheffield this week as the club faces continued uncertainty about its future. According to reports in the Sheffield Star and on the club’s own website, the Eagles continue to wait for news on two fronts: the un-named investor and their bid for tenancy/partnership in the proposed redevelopment of the old Don Valley stadium site.

The Star stated two months ago that “A mystery investor has pledged to build a £7 million stadium around the all-weather pitch if he gets planning permission for a £35 million green power plant nearby.”

Indeed, it appears to us that each depends on the other - no investor, no stadium / no stadium no investor - a somewhat uncomfortable chicken and egg situation that leaves the Eagles in limbo.

Last year’s ‘delayed funding’ from ‘an un-named sponsor’ almost saw the Eagles fold - and coach Mark Aston has revealed this week that the current ‘secret investor’ is the same party. When asked by the Sheffield Star to confirm that the investment is getting closer, Aston said: “I think the answer to that will probably be yes…”  - almost nearly probably certain, then. Perhaps.

Aston was able to confirm of his ‘secret investor’ that:  “I think if he doesn’t get the green light with the stadium then questions will be asked. It was said three or four years ago that this will be a rugby stadium. We will be mightily disappointed if that changes.”

But promises that the Eagles would be playing back in their home city next season remain in some doubt.

Whilst the Eagles are one of three bidders for the stadium, they have been reassured that if they are unsuccessful, the winning bidder must permit the Eagles to play there. But if they go there as secondary tenants, there is less of an imperative to complete the development  ahead of the 2018 RL season, leaving the club potentially homeless for another year.

And that could be one year too many according to Aston: “The big thing is about how we can get this club back to the city by 2018,” Aston told The Star. “That is a massive thing for us because if we are not back in the city by next year, I fear for the club. I am not entirely sure the authorities will let us play outside the city again, certainly not at Wakefield that’s for sure.”

It's a Stadium: honestly, it really is
As recently as March this year, stadium development body ‘Olympic Legacy Park’ were still claiming that Sheffield Eagles would end the swason playing at the new stadium - though aerial photographs suggest that there’s quite some considerable way to go before the site is useable. The one thing we do know is that the new stadium will have a plastic pitch, the laying of which began recently.

On the field, Aston still has his eye on a top four finish. Sheffield were comprehensively beaten at Toulouse a fortnight ago (45-20), having surprised pretty much everyone by winning the home fixture 32-14 way back in Round two, but last week’s win over Swinton sees them loitering in 6th place, six points shy of the top four.

Last week he said: “If we can get (that) momentum with Swinton, Rochdale, Halifax and Batley coming up, then at the end of that period I think that we’ll know whether we have a realistic chance of hitting the top four.

“We have to take it week-by-week but at the back of my mind, the next four games will potentially determine our season.” So - a big chance to put a dent in Shefield’s season.

Duane Straugheir: a proper veteran
Potential ’un-named’ recruits notwithstanding (there are a lot of ‘secret’ issues at Sheffield, it seems), the Eagles’ line-up should look pretty similar to the side that eventually sneaked past Swinton; PNG strike players Garry Lo and Menzie Yere continue to play despite long-standing knee injuries. On-loan St Helens full-back Jack Owens made his debut for Sheffield at Blackpool. In turn, the Eagles have released former Leigh utility back Eze Harper and former Melbourne Storm/Bradford Bulls half-back Dane Chisholm. Second row Duane Straugheir (that’s 'Straffer') missed out at Blackpool with a groin injury - not surprising, given that Wikipedia has him down as being 87 years old!

Hornets come into the game buoyed by a huge win at Bloomfield Road. Having had a pretty ordinary first half, Hornets produced a flawless second half performance that left Oldham chasing shadows - and made the Championship sit up and take notice. Once again the support was tremendous at Blackpool. As always, we urge you to stick a couple of mates in the car and get yourselves over to Wakefield, where a bit of noise could make this one feel like a home game and give the guys a boost.

If you are heading over, it’s worth noting that additional security checks will be in place at Belle Vue. Bag checkes and searches will be in place for all those entering the stadium. Sheffield have advised fans to allow time for these checks to be carried out and only to bring bags with them, if they feel it necessary to do so.

Belle Vue’s postcocde for your satnav is WF1 5EY. Directions we have are:
From the M62 take Junction 31 and take the A655 towards Wakefield. Turn right and join the A638, go under the railway bridges. Head straight on and you will see Superbowl 2000 on the left hand side. The Stadium is just beyond on the left. See you there.