Monday, 24 July 2017

Class Action

Oldham 24 - Hornets 34

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. At the end of this pressure-cooker derby at Bower Fold it was clear to see, as the Hornets players celebrated a gritty win with their noisy supporters as Scott Naylor sat stone-faced in the back of the stand, visibly gutted by his side’s inability to reel-in a punchy, fluid Hornets who led this contest from the 3rd minute to the last.

Bar a short-lived fightback in the ten minutes either side of half-time - Hornets were by some distance the better side, playing most of the football on offer and putting in some impressive goal-line defence.

Hornets took no time in establishing their dominance: early pressure from Oldham took them close to the Hornets line, but when Hewitt threw a no-look cut-out pass, it was snaffled by Kev Penny who pinned back his ears and blasted fully 95 metres to score. Yatesey no mistake from bang in front and Hornets 0-6 up after just three minutes.

Oldham established a brief period of cursory resistance, but when Hornets drove deep into Roughyed territory on 12 minutes, Jono Smith produced an audacious reverse pass you could get an Arts Council grant for, to send the impressive Dec Kay in for a great try, Danny Yates good with the boot and Hornets up with the clock at 0-12.

Just two minutes later Hornets went back on the attack. This time going right off the back of two cheap Oldham penalties, only for the touchie to deem that Kev Penny had put his foot on the line. No matter.

Having stemmed a foray from Oldham’s walking anger-issue Tyson, Hornets took the ball up the heart of the Oldham defence where Ben Moores found a huge hole to carry the ball into open field. As Neild moved in to tackle, Mooresy dropped the ball onto his toe for Jake Eccleston to gather and score untouched. Danny Yates on target and Hornets 0-18 up with 20 minutes gone. Oldham a ragged mess.

On the half hour, Oldham found their range - on a rare attack, they sent big-lad Smith rumbling in off a short-ball from two metres: Leatherbarrow the extras for 6-18.

Hornets wasted no time in going straight back on the attack, but when Josh Crowley was gang-bundled into touch, the game erupted into a flurry of pushes and punches. The only surprise was that it took this long. Having picked the bones out of it, Mr Hewer dispatched Ben Moores and Tyson for ten minutes. 

With the game now drenched in a downpour, Jake Ecclestone was blood-binned after a high shot, but it was the returning Tyson’s acting skills that drew a penalty from Mr. Hewer. With the half ebbing away, OIdham finally applied some pressure - Ward knocking on over the line when it looked easier to score. The home side did snatch a fortuitous try when a Leatherbarrow bomb landed amongst a tangle of chasers; Clay playing to the whistle to touch down. Leatherbarrow the two and - somehow - Oldham back in the game at 12-18 having played virtually no football at all.

Indeed, they reverted to type immediately, dropping the kick-off possession, then coughing a really cheap, petulant penalty in front for Danny Yates to give Hornets a chink of daylight at the break: half time, 12-20.

It was always likely that Oldham would start the second half with purpose and, within three minutes, they kept the ball alive well in front of a stretched Hornets defence, Hewitt finding the hole to score. Leatherbarrow the two and at 18-20 we suddenly had a game on our hands.

Hornets response was direct, handed the opportunity after Ward had knocked on first tackle after playing the ball incorrectly. Hornets went swiftly left, but Lewis Galbraith did exactly the same to let Oldham off the hook. 

Hornets continued to press hard, Oldham’s best response was to wipe-out playmaker Danny Yates in back-play. but while the home side were looking there, Lewis Foster hoisted a teasing pinpoint bomb into the in-goal where Williams folded under pressure from Kev Penny and Jordan Case dived in to get a hand on the ball: 18-24.

Hornets turned the screw. First forcing a drop-out, then the ball slipping agonisingly from Ant Walker’s grip as he reached out to score. Oldham played their get-out of jail card and set off downfield where they camped on Hornets’ 10m line for three consecutive sets. Hornets defence unyielding, Oldham ending an 18-tackle barrage by flinging a loose pass into touch. Lovely stuff.

On the hour mark came two moments that broke the back of the game: firstly Chris Riley imperious under a steepling bomb, then - 90 seconds later - Ant Walker orchestrating a slick interchange of passes for Dec Kay to ghost-in for his second try of the afternoon. No mistake from Danny Yates; 18-30.

Oldham had one last hurrah in them: Leatherbarrow sliding a grubber into the in-goal for Tyson to score a very angry try. Leatherbarrow adding the two to close the gap to 24-30.

Unfazed, Hornets went straight up the other end, stretched the Oldham defence to breaking point and slotted Kev Penny in by the flag on a huge overlap. 24-34.

There was still time for Mr Hewer to strike off what would have been Dec Kay’s hat-trick after Chris Riley’s pass was deemed forward, but in the wash-up this was a deserved win for a never-say die Hornets who played eye-catching football at every opportunity.

Elsewhere, in-form Dewsbury overcame Sheffield to grab 8th place by a point, leaving Hornets facing three home games and four away games in the 8s. Conflictingly, a choking Toulouse failed to make the middle 8, so Hornets will have to travel - again - to the South of France looking to get a result.

From here on in this competition becomes a game of arithmetic. Swinton’s win at 12-man Bradford means that - with 14 points on offer - the Bulls cannot now catch Hornets. And the +102 points difference over Oldham is a handy contingency. 

You have to feel that, with a few ‘regulars’ back in the line-up, Hornets have more improvement in them for the run-in. And with two derby wins over our local rivals inside a month, the next seven games should be very interesting indeed.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Sunday's Coming: Oldham

The headline in the Oldham Chronicle tells you everything you need to know about Oldham, petulantly screaming “Oldham focus on revenge mission”.

In an article dripping with chippy negativity, the Chronic goes on to bemoan: Oldham not finishing higher than last season’s third bottom, ‘avenging’ their defeat at Blackpool and failing to beat Hornets in three attempts this year thus far. Then it goes on to contemplate relegation - cheerful stuff.

Indeed, this has been a season book-ended by unfortunate issues emanating from the wrong end of the A627M. The Law Cup remembered for George Tyson’s rush of blood to the fists as he threw punches during the post-match handshakes, all the way through to their serious accusations against Lewis Galbraith that couldn’t be substantiated.

As it is, it’s looking likely that Oldham will end the regular season below Hornets - they are only two points adrift, but would need an 82 point swing to scramble above us.

Like most clubs in our positions, the queue for the Oldham treatment room gives round the block at this time of the season, The Chronicle reporting fresh injuries to George Tyson (knee), Matty Wilkinson (calf) and Scott Leatherbarrow (calf)last Sunday; Danny Langtree (bicep), Liam Thompson (sternum) and Kameron Pearce-Paul (sternum) carrying longer-term knocks; and Scott Turner, Phil Joy and Richard Lepori out for the season. What was Turner’s third concussion could potentially end his career; Lepori requires an operation on his damaged ankle. There will also be unspecified ‘updates’ on Gareth Owen, Jack Spencer, Adam Neal and Craig Briscoe.

Scott Naylor has this week added Wakefield Trinity full-back Luke Hooley to his depleted squad for the remainder of the season.  Whilst only 19 years old, Hooley has already been signed at Bradford Bulls, released to Wakefield Trinity and punted out on loan to Dewsbury (for whom he played in their win over Oldham - awks!). But he’s unlikely to make the side on Sunday due to an existing knee problem.

Loan deals with London Broncos’ Sadiq Adebiyi and Kameron Pearce-Paul plus Salford’s Liam Bent and Connor Williams have also been rubber-stamped for the rest of the season.

Last week, Oldham led Sheffield 12-10,after half an hour, but then went on to ship 28 unanswered points (five tries) in the 10 minutes either side of half-time, eventually crashing by 42-28 in front of just 329 people (how do Sheffield survive on crowds like that?).

Naylor’s analysis? “Our fringes struggled massively and we made Menzie Yere and Garry Lo look like world-beaters… (We’ll) need to be better defensively against Rochdale.”

However it pans out on Sunday - barring a freak result - Naylor will lead his side into an 8s where his side will face four away games. But for Hornets the door remains open to snatch the all important 8th place and the prospect not only of four home games, but - if Toulouse follow form and choke v Fev on Saturday - of dodging yet another trip to the South of France.

Regardless of their result, Toulouse will miss the cut if in-form Halifax beat a late-twitchy Hull KR.

The permutations for Hornets are pretty straightforward: a win of any shade whatsoever and Dewsbury to lose or draw at home to Sheffield and we take 8th (Dewsbury have a point more, but a points difference of 125 worse than Hornets).

So that’s it. Nothibgf less than a win will do. Given the way previous games v Oldham have e gone this season, this one promises to be another spicy, heart-stopping no-holds barred battle. And while Oldham have nothing to lose and nothing to gain except this week’s bragging rights, the 80 minutes at Bower Fold on Sunday will shape the remainder of our season.

You wouldn’t usually need motivating to get along to an A627M El Clasico - but this one promises to be special. Come on you Hornets - let’s ‘ave it.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Broncos Blow-out

Hornets 18 - London Broncos 58

In Sunday’s Observer Sports section, Aaron Bower took 1,000 words to lionise the ‘project’ underway at the Trailfinders Stadium to get London Broncos back into Super League. And ‘project’ is a good word to describe the Broncos promotion push. It’s nicely rational, speaks of process and procedure - and that’s reflected by their style of play - organised, pragmatic and productive: football by spreadsheet. Project-managed.

We spoke in our preview about London’s ruthless efficiency and, whilst it’s impressive up close, it does lack a bit of soul. Every player has a set role and it’s left to Jarrod Sammut to pull all the levers in the right order to send the points rolling off the production line. 

With only a minute gone, London signalled their intent, Sammut hoisting a huge bomb; Dec Kay a brave catch, Rob Massam a forceful clearing drive. But within two minutes, London were back on the attack and a neat blind-side sneak caught Hornets napping and Ackers strode through to score. Sammut the two (this would become a recurring theme) for 0-6.

On 7 minutes what looked like a clear London knock-on was - like Rob Massam - pulled back, only for referee Mr McMullan to give the visitors the feed. And when Sammut stepped back inside to score, it had an air of inevitability about it. Sammut with the two: 0-12.

Hornets responded with some direct football, but when Lewis Galbraith was mugged by three London players in the tackle, Mr McMullan gave a knock on. London were similarly fortunate four minutes later: the entire three-quarter line offside at a last tackle kick and, in the ensuing chaos, ref McMullan missed a forward pass in the build-up to Walker’s scrappy try. Sammut on target; 0-18.

On the quarter mark, Hornets sprang to life: Lewis Galbraith testing the Broncos right channel, but as his pass went to ground, Hornets were given a penalty. Immediately Hornets shifted the ball right, where Jake Eccleston steamed straight through his opposite number to score. Danny Yates off the touchline for 6-18.

Hornets then produced a near perfect attacking set: hard direct running to eat up the metres, a block-busting break by Ant Walker and Lewis Foster on hand to score under the posts. Lovely stuff. Yatesey on target and - at 12-18 - it was game-on.

However, when Jono Smith was compelled to end the next set with a kick, London shipped the ball into space on the left edge where that man Sammut popped-up to score, adding the extras too for 12-24.

But still Hornets hit back: Lewis Galbraith turning Hellewell inside out up the left, then a great cut-out pass to Rob Massam who piled in by the flag. Danny Yates slotting the kick from the touchline: 18-24.

On the half hour, London were pretty much gifted a try: Lewis Foster slicing his attempt at finding touch; 45 seconds later Davis mugging a retreating defence from acting half. Horrible. Sammut the two for 18-30.

Despite the setback, Hornets still strove to play some football: first Rob Massam soaring to reach for a teasing bomb, the ball slipping from his fingers as he landed awkwardly. Then Jono Smith unzipping the Broncos defence, only for his reverse pass to fall into London hands.

With the first half almost done, Hornets - for reasons better known to themselves - charged down a last-tackle kick going nowhere on half-way, handing London one last chance to attack, They did, Bienik scored. Sammut converted and Hornets went into the sheds 18-36 down. All a bit freakish.

The second half was - from our point of view - a bit of a non-event. Hornets continued to press, probe and move the ball around: London happy to play to process and keep the scoreboard ticking over - Williams in the corner on 48 minutes; on the hour a fortuitous Evans try that even the London fans couldn’t be arsed cheering; Ackers from acting half on 70 minutes and Walker up the right channel through a Hornets defence out on its feet. All very perfunctory. The London fans banged their drum, sang about Super League and retired to the bar.

In the wash-up this was a tale of two sides with differing agendas. London - as had been made clear in the Observer that morning - have pinned their future on getting back into Super League and secured a second-place finish with this result to give themselves yet another shot at the big time. Hornets, meanwhile, are looking to next week’s game at Oldham to provide a foundation for their Championship Shield challenge, where survival by any means remains the target.

It’s fair to say that, after next week, the season becomes a mathematical equation conjugated week-by-week in two point increments. Indeed - with seven shield games to come - if Hornets win next week and Bradford lose against Swinton, there’s no way for the Bulls to overhaul us, halving the risk of relegation. But more importantly a win next week gives us a realistic shot at snatching 8th place, which guarantees us four home games in the 8s.

It’s tense, nail biting stuff - but it’s what we all signed up for. So let's have it.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Sunday's Coming: London Broncos

Bula Bluebag: Junior's back at Spotland.
London coach Andrew Henderson brings the Broncos to Spotland having already secured a top four finish with games to spare.

Last week’s systematic demolition of Sheffield underlines our belief that London are the best side we’ve seen this season - their ruthlessly efficient disposal of Featherstone at Blackpool close to our best performance by any side the season. Relentless, methodical.

Then, as last week, the key cog at the heart of the Broncos machine was Jarrod Sammut - his perpetual motion-style verging on unplayable.

At the Trailfinders last week he ran the Eagles ragged: scoring one try, setting up each of Ben Helliwell’s four tries and kicking eight goals from nine attempts. Three of Helliwell’s tries came from Sammut’s trademark ‘run wide/inside ball’ shift - so a combination to watch on Sunday.

Also putting in an eye-catching two-try performance last week was Irish-Kiwi Api Pewhairangi. Having begun his career Playing Toyota Cup for Newcastle Knights he had stints at Wenty Magpies (NSW Cup) and at Parramatta, where he played four games in the NRL. In 2015 he had a season back in New Zealand playing NSW Cup for the Warriors before joining the Broncos last year, weighing in with 21 tries in 26 games. This season so far: 11 from 14 - a good strike rate.

Last week, Henderson added French international hooker John Boudebza to their squad ahead of the Super 8s Qualifiers. Boudebza had been playing for Lezignan in French Elte 1, having spent the previous two seasons at Hull KR.

On a personal note, we’re quite excited to welcome back to Spotland Fijian utility forward - and ex-Newtown Jets prop - Junior Roqica (that’s ‘Rong-itha’, folks). Junior played in Rochdale twice in 2013 (v Hornets and Ireland) and the last time we saw him play for Newtown he helped them to a rare victory for the Jets at Penrith. We admit, we’re a little bit conflicted to have one of our favourite Jets players running at us this weekend. Seeing him go head-to-head with Jo Taira will be worth the admission money alone.

Hornets go into Sunday’s game buoyed not only by a gritty win over Swinton, but by the news that Lewis Galbraith has had his 8 match ban overturned on appeal after it was, finally, agreed that Oldham and the RFL had little if any evidence to prove their case against him. Our question here is: who compensates Hornets and Trigger for his enforced unavailability last weekend?

Speaking on the club website, Galbraith said: “I’ve had my name dragged through the mud, and plastered across the back page of my local newspaper. Nobody won here tonight but I’m just glad that I can get back to playing rugby league and helping the boys finish the campaign strong.

“I also want to thank Adam, the board, staff and my teammates who have been behind me on this along with the supporters who have backed me while this has been going on.”

Alan Kilshaw has been left fuming over the whole affair and his thoughts can be found HERE

Trigger is now available for selection on Sunday as Hornets took to upset the form book. There are interesting contests all over the park - and a great opportunity for the club to benchmark itself against a side with Super-League ambitions. As always, it promises to be a cracker - see you there.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Lion Tamers

Hornets 33 - Swinton 28

“The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”
James Arthur Baldwin.

Having announced a potentially terminal financial deficit of at least £100,000 and with the vultures of the HMRC already circling, Swinton came to Spotland with nothing to lose and everything to prove. Add Hornets’ desire to rectify what was essentially daylight robbery at Heywood Road earlier in the season and you had all the ingredients for an explosive molotov-cocktail of a derby. And this game didn’t disappoint.

It began with a bang as, twice in the first three minutes, Jo Taira rattled Atkin’s cage with a couple of range-finders. Referee Jack Smith set the penalty meter running: Atkin took the two.

Hornets response was swift and crafty. A good out-set took them to the Swinton 40m line, but as the Lions retreated for a kick which never came, Ben Moore took the ball up a gaping blind side to send Danny Yates scooting in. Yatesey adding the extras to edge Hornets ahead 6-2.

Then Swinton got lucky. Woods’ theatrical dive at a play-the-ball caught the eye of Mr Smith, then another penalty for Mooresey hanging on too long in the ruck took Swinton to within 10 metres of the Hornets posts.

Atkin spinning out of two tackles to score had an air of inevitability about it. And then all hell broke loose after Jono Smith arrived as soon as he could to let Atkin know he was there. Jono’s yellow card was matched by one for Swinton’s Barlow. Mr Smith awarding an additional penalty for an eight point try: 6-10.

This rush of blood sparked Mr Smith into a frenzy of puzzling penalties: one for ripping after he’d already given a Swinton knock-on; Swinton dropping the ball cold at a play-the-ball, but given one for - well - god knows what…

Meantime, Hornets produced a Harlem Globetrotters play up the left edge, but the last pass went astray. Then Jake Ecclestone unzipped the defence to dart in, only to be brought back for an obstruction that only Mr Smith saw. Poor.

Swinton’s response was a punt and hope kick into the corner where Kevin Penny shepherded the ball all the way to the dead ball line, though not quite far enough to prevent Butt diving in to get a hand on the ball. Atkins the two 6-14 against the run of play.

Just past the half hour mark Swinton’s Bretherton was given 10 minutes for dissent - and less than a minute later, Ryan Maneely sprang under the black dot to score. Yatesey the two; 12-16.

Swinton’s reaction was to march downfield, kick the ball into Kev Penny’s corner and let deja vu do the rest. Atkin the kick, Butt the touchdown. Deeply annoying. 12-20.

Having coughed up the kick-off under pressure, the visitors then wiped out Danny Yates in back-play. Action from the officials? De nada. And when Chris Riley bounced out of a tackle to end a looping run with a touchdown, that too was struck off for a highly dubious obstruction.

To misquote Oscar Wilde, to pull two obstructions is unfortunate, to pull three looks like carelessness - so when Mr Smith snagged Jono Smith as he released Chris Riley up the left edge, you could sense the frustration.

However, when Swinton produced a similar obstruction play at the other end, only for the officials to take no action, it became clear that the ref was pretty much making it up as he went. Awful.

Hornets retired to the sheds 12-20 down, coach Alan Kilshaw - clearly incandescent - sent his captain Chris Riley to ask Mr Smith for his version of events, only to have him waved away. That in itself was interesting, because he seemed fine with having Swinton’s Bracek up his trumpet offering ‘advice’ for most of the game.

The surrealist officiating continued after the break: Danny Yates pulled for a supposed high-shot on Murphy. Then Yatesey producing some exceptional defence to force a hand-over.

On 44 minutes, Kevin Penny revealed his class: a gliding break up the guts of the Swinton defence took Hornets 60 metres and, the next play, the ball was shifted wide to Josh Crowley who steamed through to score. Yatesey the two for 18-20. Hornets with the momentum.

In response, Swinton winger Robinson produced a moment from the ‘Absolute Gits Book of Underhand Tactics’ - playing the ball on the chest of Danny Yates as he lay in the ruck. Despite the RFL’s recent guidance on this, Mr Smith gave Swinton the penalty. They chose to use the possession by creating a huge overlap up the left, where the last pass sailed into Row E. Justice, most felt.

A huge Swinton head-shot on Josh Crowley gave Yatesey the opportunity to tie the scores - which he did. Game on.

On 55 minutes, Hornets took the lead when Rob Massam tapped back a Lewis Foster bomb for Jake Eccleston to score out wide: 24-20. The lead lasted three minutes.

Despite looking like they’d knocked on a high kick to the corner, Swinton were allowed to play-on and Murphy took advantage of a flat-footed Hornets defence to burst through and score. Atkins the two for 24-26.

This time it was Swinton’s turn to switch off. The Lions coughed the kick-off, Jake Eccleston drove close and, when Jono Smith arrived to take a short-ball, he proved unstoppable, crunching in through a crowd of defenders: 28-26.

With Hornets looking to lock the game down with some big defence, Mr Smith saw the ball ripped where everyone else saw a knock-on. Atkin took the two: 28-all with 10 to play.

Having had a flawless game with the boot, it was Atkin’s nerve who deserted him when his side needed it most. Firstly hoofing the ball out on the full on the last tackle. Hornets’ response clinical: a great approach set ended by Lewis Foster’s soaring drop goal (29-28). From the kick-off Kev Penny looked to be tackled in the air, but the penalty was handed to Swinton. Given the chance to win the game, Atkin smacked the penalty against the post and Hornets brought the ball away. It was to be Atkin’s last contribution in a Swinton shirt, revealing after the game that he had secured an early release from his contract to join Hull KR.

With both sets of supporters in a frenzy, Hornets delivered a delicious denouement. Another great set took them deep into Swinton territory, where Foster slid a teasing last-tackle kick towards the corner. Panic in the Swinton ranks saw the ball deflected into the hands of Rob Massam, who pinned back his ears and crashed through his opposite number to score by the flag. Bedlam!

Final score 33-28 in what was a full-blooded, high octane tinder-box of a derby that saw both sides give it absolutely everything.

There had been much talk in the week of this being a crucial game for both clubs - and, though it went to the wire, Hornets proved their mettle by finding a way to win at all costs. Indeed, Alan Kilshaw described it as the most courageous win of his tenure. And who are we to argue with the gaffer?

Other results on the day saw Hornets go back to 8th. Where Swinton go from here is anyone’s guess, but we wish them luck.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Sunday's Coming: Swinton Lions

We’re going to start this week’s preview with a stat that’ll make you wince: it’s 25 years since Swinton left Station Road.

When the Lions locked the gates behind them for the last time, they ended a season in which they’d averaged a crowds of 3,000 per game. Two weeks ago when they produced a shock one point win over Halifax, Heywood Road hosted a crowd of 863 - which at this end of the competition is considered pretty respectable. How times change.

Fast forward to Sunday and Swinton come to Spotland running into a bit of form - just as Hornets appear to be running out of bodies.

Our club this week reported that eight regulars are in line to miss this weekend’s crucial derby - and it couldn’t come at a worse time.

Miles Greenwood (knee), Lewis Palfrey (neck), Gary Middlehurst (concussion), Rob Massam (knee), Jo Taira (hip), Jono Smith (deal-leg) and Gav Bennion (foot) are all on the treatment table, while Lewis Galbraith begins his hotly contested eight-game suspension. So best bring your boots just in case…

Having spectacularly tanked at Dewsbury, Hornets narrowly avoided the drop into the bottom three only by virtue of the fact that Swinton let their game at Sheffield slip away.

The Lions trailed 22-16 at the break, but had the game level at one stage, but fell behind - and then clawed their way back within two points, before Garry Lo popped up at the death the snatch the points in front of just 375 supporters.

Performance of the day came from four-try fullback Jack Murphy, while Chris Atkin hit five from six with the boot.

But while Hornets are having a bit of a confidence crisis on the field, Swinton are embroiled in an off-field crisis that has sent the rumours flying - fuelled by a series of club statements on the Lions’ financial situation following the settlement of a winding-up order last month.

Following a supporter’s meeting on 19th June, Club Chair John Roddy said: “… during our supporter forum the club outlined the difficulties we have experienced this season in respect of smaller gates than anticipated and long term injuries within the current squad which have put pressure on our cash resources."

"Despite enormous efforts by everybody connected with the club, to fill the gap, we now need to raise additional funds from club supporters to ensure our future stability and competitiveness."

The last week, Roddy stepped down. In a statement, Swinton said: “John Roddy has stepped down both as chairman and a director of the club, following discussion with the Board of Directors during the past week. The club wishes to place on record its sincere thanks for John’s input over the past four years, both in terms of time and finance, during which time the club has been promoted from League One and then established itself in the Championship.”

“Negotiations are currently ongoing with potential new directors, with a view to both stabilising the current financial situation of the Lions, and then moving the club forward.”

We held fire on our preview to try and include the outcome of yet another meeting on Thursday evening where a “… a full and frank disclosure of the club’s current position” was on the agenda - but we couldn’t find any reports on the meeting early today (Friday). We’ll update when we know more.

There’s no doubt that Sunday’s game could turn out to be a defining 80 minutes in both clubs’ seasons. A Swinton win could see Hornets drop into the bottom two (Depending on Oldham’s result v Featherstone): A Hornets win could see us leapfrog Dewsbury back into 8th (their result at Batley, pending). So, if ever Hornets’ 18th man was needed, it’s now. We need every last drop of effort and belief from everyone involved. And we owe ‘em one. See you Sunday.

And finally…

There will be a minute’s silence on Sunday as a mark of respect to Adam Cooper, the Culcheth Eagles Rugby League player who tragically passed away last week following a North West Men’s League fixture against Runcorn. The 31 year-old leaves his fiancee Michelle and three children. Swinton Lions has reported that Adam’s father Barry is a native Swintonian. Our thought are with Adam’s family, friends and team-mates.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Nadir oh dear...

Dewsbury 40 - Hornets 10

Jewish polymath Sholem Asch said that it is “... not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the power to forget, which is a necessary condition for our existence” - and as we look back on Hornets' bin-fire of a performance at Dewsbury, we concede that there is, indeed, much to forget about it.

Indeed, it'd be easy to forget that for 55 minutes of this - and we use the term loosely - 'contest', it was 12-10 to Dewsbury. But for 25 minutes, Hornets' quite exceptional travelling support was treated to a spectacular self-immolation of errors, penalties, missed tackles and chaos.

And you could easily forget that, for the first 15 minutes, there was little between the sides: both applying early pressure both coming up with errors. But when Hornets elected to run a penalty after a Sherriffe high-shot only to come up with a fumbled carry, Dewsbury forced a drop-out, then were given a penalty for offside. The pressure told when Spicer strode through Hornets' right edge to score. It would become a repeated motif. Sykes edged towards his 2000th point and Hornets trailed 6-nil.

Almost immediately, Dewsbury tested Mr Grant's interpretation of some of the more subtle ruck laws, blocking Gaz Middlehurst at acting half to send Moore scampering through the hole: Hornets scrambling back to defend whilst Middlehurst and his opposite number discussed matters in back-play. Mr Grant called play-on only for Dewsbury to ship a penalty. All very scrappy.

On 22 minutes Moore released a huge 40/20: the precursor to four tries in 15 minutes up Hornets' ragged right channel that effectively killed the game. First Adamson wrestling off some sloppy tackling, then Morton striding through a retreating defence, followed by Spicer off a short-ball at close range and, finally, Hallett hitting a Moore cut-out pass. Sykes ruthless with the boot and shell-shocked Hornets driven to the sheds 28-nil down.

Hornets started the second half in spectacularly awful fashion: Lewis Palfrey sacked in possession on the last tackle of the very first set. Danny Yates repeating the feat on the second set. The game in microcosm, right there, folks.

Hornets sprang briefly to life on 45 minutes, a marauding break from Ant Walker carried on by Lewis Hatton whose pass to send Miles Greenwood under the black dot was deemed forward. No matter - one minute later Hornets found Rob Massam out wide and he obliged by the flag. No conversion: 28-4.

With Hornets enjoying some decent field position: Lewis Foster and Miles Greenwood turned the home defence with kicks into the in-goal, to no avail. Conversely, Dewsbury made a brief trip to the Hornets' goal-line where Sykes slipped a slide-rule kick under the posts for Moore to follow up and score through a static defence. Sykes the extras: 34-4.

Wth the game pretty much settled, both sides degenerated into a mess of errors and cheap penalties (we have the eventual count at 14-10 to Dewsbury). On the hour Hornets got a fortuitous feed at a scrum in a good position only to cough the ball first tackle. Then Ben Moores goaded into reacting at a play-the-ball to concede a penalty in possession and, on 68 minutes, having received a penalty for a shoulder-charge on Lewis Hatton, Lewis Galbraith talked his way to a yellow-card. Poor.

Dewsbury's response was to run Hallett at the hole where Trigger should have been to give Sykes a shot at his 2,000th career point. He didn't miss: 40-4.

At the death, Jordan Case just managed to plant the ball on the line to give Hornets some hollow consolation. Yatesey added the extras to end this shocker at 40-10.

As always, we strove to look for positives, but even we struggled. Jo Taira's 20 minute cameo the highlight as he went on a one-man wrecking-ball mission to pummel the crap out of the Rams. More of this and less of the other stuff please. But the one notable performance came from Hornets' 18th man - their fans. Noisy, resolute and committed throughout, they out-sang their mumbling, grumbling Yorkshire counterparts for the full 80 minutes. Genuinely impressive on a day to forget.

And in that vein, we return to Sholem Asch, who also wrote: "Every dawn renews the beginning" - a philosophy we're clinging to this morning as we get up, dust ourselves off and start again.