Monday, 26 February 2018

Hard-working Hornets keep Killer’s Promise.

Hornets 20 - Halifax 26

Alan Kilshaw promised a response to last Monday’s disappointing game - and his side delivered. In spades.

Halifax carry real ambitions for the top four and beyond, but on this showing looked unlikely candidates for any shade of Championship glory as Hornets went agonisingly close to an old-skool upset.

Indeed, this was a proper game of inches; where tiny margins made the difference as both sides refused to back down from what is currently referred to as ‘the grind’.

There was little between the sides early doors, Halifax exerting some early pressure courtesy of some over-fussy refereeing. An early penalty for the visitors as full-back Sharp launched himself heading into on-rushing defenders as he gathered a kick (contact in the air), then Jo Taira snagged for what was - by his standards - a glancing contact that saw his intended target go down like a sack of spuds.

A ‘Fax break after 7 minutes was halted by a perfectly executed Richard Lepori tackle, but as Hornets responded with some incisive, expansive football, the last pass slipped teasingly from Deon Cross’ fingers.

That man Cross was involved again two minutes later when he intercepted a ropey Fax pass and hit the gas into open field - only for Mr Grant to play the ‘disadvantage’ and bring Hornets back to their own 10m line for a forward pass. We know… us neither…

On 11 minutes a snappy, direct approach-set containing a testing Richard Lepori break laid the foundation for Hornets to go wide where Rob Massam skinned his opposite number to score. Harvey Livett aded thew two and Hornets looked good value for the lead.

On the quarter mark, frustration at the ruck saw ‘Fax ship a soft penalty and Harvey Livett extended the lead by two points.

Unable to gain any meaningful advantage, Halifax looked short on ideas and long on exasperation - players in back-play, arms up, arguing with the referee. Hornets now in the groove - completing sets, drilling the ball into corners, walking Halifax back to start on their own 20m line.

On the half hour Lewis Palfrey was removed from the fray with a shoulder injury, then Halifax got a penalty - exploiting a reshuffling Hornets backline to break downfield where Earl Hurst produced a try-saving tackle. With numbers both sides, Halifax ran out of ideas. Pretty ordinary.

With the half draining away, Halifax finally found some momentum. A big 40/20, then a penalty took them within striking distance, but great defence forced the error. The next set produced a moment of base comedy. A Fax player lying in the ruck, Hornets play the ball under his body, Hornets acting half unable to get to the ball, Hornets penalty, Halifax player now magically injured. And we thought panto season was over…

With a minute left to play, Mr Grant gave Halifax back to back penalties that swept them 70 metres downfield, where hooker Kaye slumped in from acting half from 18 inches. Nice to watch. Tyrer hit the two and Halifax somehow still in it - 8-6 at the break.

Hornets began the second half with more sterling defence. And when Halifax shipped a penalty, Hornets marched downfield where Dave Allen drove the ball into traffic, sucking in tacklers before releasing a peach of a short ball for Pat Moran to score through a flat-footed defence. Harvey Livett raised the flags and Hornets ahead 14-6.

Halifax responded swiftly, playing some rare football for Sharp to score out wide (Tyrer lashing the kick spectacularly wide into the Pearl St end).

Then one of those freak moments that turn games. On the hour A Halifax set going nowhere ended in a kick and hope chip into space. The ball bounced cruelly in front of Deon Cross and Grix just managed to juggle it under control to score. Tyrer the extras and Halifax in front at 14-16 - as much to their surprise as everyone else’s.

But Hornets responded positively. More solid approach work, surmounted by Harvey Livett’s deliciously disguised dink that fell just beyond the reach of Danny Yates.

Once again let off, Halifax went wide where Sharp’s show & go up the left ended in a try. 14-20. Halifax now on a roll, thanks to an escalating penalty count.

On 65 minutes Hornets were pulled for a a high shot that was only seen by Mr Grant, Halifax sought the two; Tyrer once more executing like the bloke from your block of seats kicking for £50 at half time. Wide, low - and really bloody awful.

With the game approaching its denouement, there was a frantic passage of play off the back of a Jo Taira pop-out pass, halted when Halifax defenders ripped the ball from Harvey Livett’s grasp. Oh - and Halifax were given the feed at the scrum after Mr Grant failed to consult his guide dog.

To add insult to injury, Halifax were hauled upfield from yet another mystery penalty, where Barber prised a hole in a tired defence to score. Tyrer - just - added the two for 14-26.

Hornets marched straight downfield, played a bit of tidy football in front of the Halifax defence and - just as he was announced man-of-the-match - Harvey Livett showed good strength to wrestle through defenders and score. The extras a formality and 90 seconds remaining at 20-26.

Hornets moved the ball around and, with Trevor’s hand hovering over the hooter, launched a kick & chase into the space behind the Halifax defence. As Murrell scooped up the ball with the hooter sounding, Mr Grant called play back for an off the ball incident, giving Hornets the chance to kick downfield for one last miracle-play.

Fittingly it fell to Harvey Livett to produce a teasing, trickling kick through the Halifax line, but they managed to get enough bodies round the ball to hang on for the win. Breathless stuff.

Despite the defeat, Alan Kilshaw seemed the happier of the two coaches in post-match comments. Richard Marshall said it felt like a defeat - though, in reality, Halifax played as well as Hornets allowed them to.

The real positive is that Hornets have set a standard. Halifax fully expect that they will be challenging for the top four this season - which puts us in a good place. Yes, Hornets were scrappy at times; yes there were errors and yes, a 13-3 penalty count would punish the best of sides. But we can definitely say that we now have a benchmark for future performances.

And - looking at Leigh’s league position this morning - I know which team and which coach I’d put my faith in.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Sunday's Coming: Halifax

Sunday sees surrogate derby rivals Halifax make the trip over the tops.

Having lost at Fev in round one, followed by a thrashing of Sheffield in round two, Halifax come into Sunday’s game on the back of last week's gruelling battle with the Championship’s ‘Harlem Globetrotters’/WWF-style poseurs Manchestoronto Moosef*ckers (©Jerry Sadowitz 1991).

'Fax led 6-4 at the break and trailed just 12-6 going into the last 10 minutes, but they shipped two late Higson tries to flatter the visitors, who went some way to restoring their veneer of unconvincing invincibility.

Marshall blamed ‘errors’ for his side’s defeat, saying in the Halifax Courier this week: “It’s about controlling the ball a little bit better; we turned the ball over three or four times on tackle two… “We were creating chances, but not sealing the deal. We’ve got to get more composed.”

Indeed, from our point of view, Halifax focused well on ‘standing up’ to the brute-force aspect of Toronto’s game, but having done that, they kinda forgot to to try and play round them too. Toronto stayed patient, withstood the ‘grind’ and scored late, once ‘Fax had emptied the tank.

There was also a moment of controversy when winger Saltonstall was dumped dangerously in a horrific looking spear tackle, to which referee Jack Smith mislaid his backbone and waved only a yellow card at McCrone. On any other day - and with any other team - it was a nailed-on red.

But then no-one would want a repeat of the Barrow outcome, would they…

Richard Marshall has fine-tuned his squad this year, adding  Harry Kidd (University of Gloucestershire All Golds), Kian Morgan (Wakefield Trinity), Dan Fleming (Toronto)  and yet another Rugby League Fairbank in the shape of Halifax born Jack. Indeed,  Marshall has a first-team squad boasting 13 players from the town of Halifax. And we like that - a lot.

Marshall has also augmented his squad with Will Maher, Brandon Douglas and James Clare on loan/DR from Castleford (Clare has haunted us in the past, when he played on DR at York - no more so than the time they flogged us at Featherstone’s Post Office Rd).

Hornets’ preparation for Sunday was a harsh reality check from Dewsbury Rams. Having missed rounds 1 and 2, Killer’s side looked a bit undercooked in the first 40 minutes, but rallied to put in a much improved second-half performance.

It came at a price, though, with Ben Moore, Matty Hadden and Gaz Middlehurst picking up knocks in the process, to add injuries to insult in this shocking start to 2018.

But if strength comes from adversity, then Hornets should be throroughly annealed by now - and we’ll need all the physical and mental toughness we can muster over the next few testing weeks.

A more immediate concern, though is meteorological. Weather experts predicting plummeting temperatures as we head for a forecast record-testing cold snap. Pray for sunshine - and we’ll see you Sunday.

Monday, 19 February 2018

I don't like Mondays

Hornets 6 - Dewsbury 38

After a fortnight of frustration, Hornets finally got 2018 underway with a Monday night performance that bore all the hallmarks of having not played for a month.

In a first 40 minutes of missed tackles, misfired passes, mistimed runs, and frankly miserable handling, a fit and firing Dewsbury raced into an unassailable lead, leaving a punch-drunk Hornets reeling by 0-32 at the break.

Dewsbury laid their stall out early doors, forcing a drop-out first set, then going wide to Worrincy, only to be pulled for a forward pass.

On 7 minutes Gary Middlehurst was snagged for interference at a tackle and, in the following set, Morton out-sprang debutant Deon Cross to open the scoring.

Hornets were still struggling to settle: Lewis Palfrey and Earl Hurst both snatching at passes, the latter gathered by Glover who strolled 30 metres to score. Sykes with the extras and Dewsbury 0-10 to the good.

Just three minutes later saw an almost carbon copy error: this time Dec Kay was relieved of the ball after a lazy Dewsbury kick downfield, and Worrincy bullied his way to the line. No mistake from Sykes and the Rams chasing the clock at 0-16.

Hornets continued to sputter: Hurst again coughing the ball in the tackle, then Middleurst coming up with a high shot to ship a penalty. Thankfully, Dewsbury threw a ridiculous forward pass to relieve the pressure: briefly.

On 25 minutes Joe Taira’s impact was considered a little too robust. A brief flurry of handbags and Gary Middlehurst dispatched to the sin-bin: cause unclear.

On the half hour, Hornets finally go to play some football in the Dewsbury 20m zone: Danny Yates’ kick just beyond the reach of Rob Massam. On the next foray into Dewsbury territory, they went to the same spot with the same plan - yielding the same outcome.

On 33 minutes Hornets were penalised for not being square at the play-the-ball, 90 seconds after Dewsbury had committed the same offence with no punishment. Poor.

Dewsbury gratefully received possession, Knowles jabbed a kick into the in-goal and Brown touched down through a static defence.

And if that wasn’t enough, Worrincy’s 90 metre kick return to score on the hooter put the lid on a singularly difficult first half in which Hornets shipped 32 unanswered points.

The second half was a very different proposition, Hornets finally finding their feet to staunch the flow of points. Unlike the first forty, Hornets were quick off the line, aggressive in the tackle and drew Dewsbury into a real arm wrestle.

For 20 minutes Dewsbury plugged away at the Hornets defence - unlocked eventually on the hour when Guzdek hit a Sykes miracle-ball at pace to score from 40 metres. Sykes the two for 0-38.

Hornets’ response was pretty immediate. A direct approach-set and Luke Adamson racing under the black-dot from a neat short pass. Livett added the two - and the arm wrestle resumed.

It’s fair to say that - beyond exchanging sets - not a great deal of any import happened from there on in. The ‘highlight’ of the last 20 minutes being Sykes’ piss-taking attempt at a drop goal.

After such a shocking opening half, it was heartening to see Hornets regroup to draw the second half 6-all. With a few players carrying bumps - and a few still out with injuries - Hornets are doing it tough at the moment. But there’s a long way to go.

As D-ream said: things can only get better. Here’s hoping.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Monday's Coming: Dewsbury Rams

For the third time of asking, Hornets endeavour to get this wretched 2018 season underway - on a somewhat unusual Monday night: again at the behest of the football club, whose game against Spurs has been selected by the BBC to entertain the nation on Sunday afternoon (sadly it clashes with The Spongebob Movie, so we’ll miss it).

And, yet again, the only story in town has been the state of the Spotland pitch.

After suggesting that its quicksand consistency constituted a danger (of sinking without trace, we assume), Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino was shamed into an apology on Friday, after our landlords took the bold decision to re-lay the pitch this week. Dale Chairman Chris Dunphy told Press Association Sport: “It's beautiful… it's like a snooker table.”

Less impressed was Dewsbury Rams coach Neil Kelly who said in the Dewsbury Reporter this week:  “I am just disappointed that Tottenham have not agreed to fund our game to play it at Wembley. We can’t be 100 per cent sure that the game will even take place, but we need to prepare for it.”

Dewsbury have begun this season in better shape than last. Two home games have yielded a 20-12 win over Sheffield, and an impressive 0-12 defeat to London Broncos, who are tipped by many to make a charge for the top four this season, and who shoved 50 points through Barrow in Round 1).

The loss of two points to London was probably no great surprise, but the big impact was the loss of
gun half-back Gareth Moore, who was carried from the field with what looked like a heavy knock to the head injury following an off the ball incident . In typical robust fashion, it was put on report.

Moore was hospitalised on Sunday evening and will undergo mandatory concussion tests before a decision will be made on his availability for Monday.

After the game Kelly identified a lack of creativity and nous as key reasons for the defeat. Again, in the Dewsbury Reporter he said:  “We spoke in the changing room about the amount of possession we had in good positions, especially in the second half. It was probably enough to win three or four games…  Last week I commented that we weren’t smart enough, as we were giving away too many penalties, which gave Sheffield the opportunity to come and attack us.”

“Maybe we have neglected that in the last few weeks, and this game against London has shown that just banging your head against a brick wall isn’t good enough. Even though that is sheer, honest effort, we need to have more invention in last third of the field.”

Kelly has brought in nine new players this year to bolster his squad: Harry Woollard, Billy Hayes, Jared Simpson and Matty English from Huddersfield Giants, Kyle Trout from Sheffield, Jordan Crowther from Wakefield Trinity, Sam Day from Fev plus Rob Worrincy and Martin Reilly from Halifax.

They lined up last week as follows: Guzdek; Simpson, Glover, Hallett, Morton; Sykes, Moore; Sheriffe, Ward, Teanby, Crowther, Hayes, Brown. Subs: Speakman, Trout, Walshaw, English.

The Ram’s real threat  comes courtesy of the Paul Sykes/Gareth Moore axis at half back - a lethal combination of experience and innovation that turns a workmanlike side into something greater than the sum of its parts.

Hornets meantime have been battling away on a couple of fronts. On the playing side, we can only imagine the frustration of players and coaching staff as the 2018 train has got underway without them; whilst off the field the club continues to wrestle with a month in which it’s had zero revenue.

Indeed, you may well have seen our ‘online bucket collection’ on Just Giving, through which we hope to raise £5,000 to offset some of those losses. The response from fans across the game has been amazing - taking us almost a quarter of the way to our target, having raised £1165 so far.

As fans/members/owners of our club, all we can do is implore you to help. We will have at least one actual bucket at the game on Monday evening, so please do dig deep and help get Hornets through this horrible period.


Let’s get behind the guys in numbers on Monday night - they’ve been slogging their guts out all winter for this moment, and they deserve our backing. And don’t forget - under 16's go free on Monday night, with a full paying adult.  One more time: Let’s do it folks. See you there.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Sunday's Coming: Swinton

Whilst we’re all now champing at the bit to get 2018 underway, all talk of the last week has been of the Batley postponement and the consequent financial implications.

At its most basic, the loss of one of February’s three games deprives our club of 30% of it’s forecast revenue for the month and - after our observations last week of the impacts of the off-season budgetary issues - creates yet another financial hurdle to be negotiated.

Yes, we know that the 25 year lease on Scotland contains a clause whereby any game postponed at the behest of our landlords incurs a compensation payment, but the money that the Batley game would have yielded is needed right now to cover immediate costs.

And, if that situation wasn’t enough to make you shudder, the football club’s continued participation in the FA cup brings Spurs to Spotland for a televised tie on the day we should be playing Dewsbury (our suggestion: switch it to Wembley, have a big day out, pocket the cash and buy some grass seed).

As we said last week - testing times for all concerned.

As for the pitch situation, it has been mentioned endlessly in the media this week, variously between ‘limiting’ and ‘disgraceful’. Word reaches us that the football club has put the groundsman on gardening leave. God help his garden.

Having fought off their own financial demons last year, a new board looks to have steadied the Swinton ship for 2018. Key to that is the recent conformation of their dual-registration agreement with Wigan for 2018

Speaking in the the M.E.N, Swinton chairman Andy Mazey said: "With a tight budget and a small squad this year whilst we rebuild our club sustainably, the partnership with Wigan provides us with the ability to source quality players to supplement our squad when Stuart deems it necessary.”

The Lions began their 2018 campaign with a trip to Toulouse, where they were on the wrong end of a 32-point battering as TOXIIIC logged eight individual try scorers.

Swinton shipped five tries in the last quarter of an hour to go down 46-14. Interestingly, their only points of the second half came from the boot of Hankinson, futilely kicking into the 20-12 half-time deficit  after 56 minutes.

Swinton lined up:
1 Gabriel Fell
2 Mike Butt
3 Chris Hankinson
4 George Tyson
5 James Worthington
6 Danny Ansell
7 Jack Hansen
8 Andy Bracek
9 Hayden Hansen
10 Kyle Shelford
11 Rhodri Lloyd
12 Matt Sarsfield
13 Josh Barlow
14 Oliver Davies
15 Oliver Partington
16 Chris Worrall
17 Connor Taylor

Swinton also took a bit of an off-field bruising: we hear reports that one of their fans was jumped in Toulouse, suffering a broken cheek-bone and a stolen mobile. We wish him a quick recovery.

Coach Stuart Littler has undertaken what the Lions website describes as an ’extensive squad rebuilding’ exercise, bringing in nine new faces

We have Swinton’s 2018 intake as:
Kyle Shelford and Gabriel Fell (both Wigan), Marcus Webb and Danny Ansell  (both Hunslet)
Jesse Jo Sherriffe (Keighley), Chris Worrall (University of Gloucestershire All Golds), Hayden Hansen (Redcliffe Dolphins), Conor Taylor (Warrington) and the Championship’s favourite loose-cannon/sociopath George Tyson from Oldham.

Traditionally, there’s never been very much between ourselves and Swtinton so, as always, we are anticipating a close fought encounter at Heywood Road - and as our delayed season debut, it’d be good to get down there in numbers and make some noise.

AND DON’T FORGET: TLCRF80mins will be having a whip round on Sunday to raise some cash to help Hornets fill the financial hole left by the postponement of the Batley game, which deprives  us of 30% of February’s forecast revenue. We’re trying to get 500 RL fans to chuck in a tenner, with £5,000 our target, so please dig deep and help keep us start the season in as positive a way as possible. 

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Sunday's Coming: Batley

“Adversity has the same effect on a man that severe training has on the pugilist: it reduces him to his fighting weight.”

US writer Henry Wheeler Shaw was an insightful bloke.  And, if what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, Hornets should come out of pre-season in reasonably solid shape.

A series of challenges have tested the club’s fortitude over the the winter, but in typical battling fashion, we go to the 2018 start-line on Sunday ready for another Championship season.

Not withstanding the budgetary adjustment, a Spotland pitch that continues to rot in front of your very eyes, and the loss of club statesman Ray Myers, Alan Kilshaw has pulled the squad tight and got us ready to go. Indeed, Sunday’s kick off should come as both a relief and a release.

We start this year’s journey - like last year - in Heavy Woollen fashion: this time facing Matt Diskin’s Batley Bulldogs, who’ve cornered the market in perfunctory, hard-to-beat obstinance. Having been blindly robbed at the Mount last year, Hornets were overcome in the return fixture by a side that wrung every last drop of its Championship nous out of a performance that was as brutally ugly as it was ruthlessly effective (Batley winning 14-24)

We wrote: “Batley arrived at Spotland with a win-at-all-costs gameplan that tested tyro referee Liam Moore capabilities to the limit - the Bulldogs shipping 12 of the game's 21 penalties as they brawled, sprawled and - eventually - spoiled every last ounce 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.”

And we anticipate more of the same this time round, the off-season having been a period of consolidation and augmentation. As far as we can see, the ‘Dogs have only lost Cain Southernwood (to Hunslet), Diskin having added Jonny Campbell and Keenan Tomlinson (Bradford Bulls), Izaac Farrell (Huddersfield Giants – loan), Tom Hemingway (Dewsbury Rams), Tom Holland (Whitehaven), Michael Ward (Oldham) and a certain Lewis Galbraith to his squad.

Batley come to Spotland having won three from three pre-season games. Having seen off Wakefield’s academy 24-12 and Keighley Cougars 0-28, the Dogs were unconvincing at Doncaster at weekend, struggling to shrug-off the League 1 outfit at the Keepmoat.

Having led 10- 20 at the break and 16-36 deep into the second half, Batley’s defence knocked-off early to finish clinging-on for a narrow 34-36 win - the home side aided and abetted by Farrell’s yellow-card for a professional foul.

Batley Lined up: David Scott, Wayne Reittie, Jason Crookes, Lewis Galbraith, Shaun Ainscough, Patrick Walker, Dominic Brambani, Adam Gledhill, Tom Hemingway, Tommy Holland, Dane Manning, James Harrison and James Brown.  Interchanges – Izaac Farrell, Keenan Tomlinson, Michael Ward, Alistair Leak, Alex Rowe, James Davey, Danny Cowling and Joe Chandler.

The Batley threat - as always - comes courtesy of their half back pairing of Patch Walker and Dominic Brambani who act as flywheel and governor at the heart of the Bulldogs machine. Their edges of Shaun Ainscough and Pound-Shop Vin Diesel™ Wayne Reittie are both no-nonsense, route-one finishers.

This year Ainscough comes paired with Trigger. If ever there was a case of watching your ex. snog your mate’s idiot brother, this is it. On the plus side, we all know where his frailties lie, so there’s an opportunity to exploit that familiarity.

Diskin starts the season minus prop Tom Lillycrop who dislocated a shoulder in the 28-0 pre-season win at Keighley Cougars and faces a lengthy absence.

On the home front, we’re excited to see the new iteration of Killer’s Hornets in action. After a close-season that has seen what feels like a pretty heavy turnover of personnel, we can’t wait to see the impact that the new guys will have. For those of you who’ve lost track, the new members of the Hornets squad are:

Luke Adamson (Oldham)
Toby Adamson (Dewsbury Rams)
Dave Allen (Whitehaven)
Earl Hurst (North Wales Crusaders)
Richard Lepori (Oldham)
Harry Reardon (Warrington Wolves)
Blake Turner (North Wales Crusaders)
Alex Gaskell (University of Gloucestershire All Golds)
Billy Brickhill (University of Gloucestershire All Golds)
Aiden Hema (Halifax)
Dec Gregory (Hemel Stags)
Callum Mulkeen (North Wales Crusaders)
Deon Cross (Blackbrook)

The squad has a good mix of experience and raw talent - which makes not an unknown quantity for us too. But, as we always do, lets don our colours one more time and get behind our team. Whatever waits for us between now and September, ultimately, unity will pull us through. We ask 100% of those who wear the jersey on our behalf - and it’s beholden on us to give the same level of commitment if we are to haul this club of ours all the way to a successful outcome.

Regardless of which side of the wall we spend our Sunday afternoons, we are all Hornets. We stand together, we pull together and we fight together. And while we surely will lose together too, the rewards for winning together will make it all the more satisfying.

Suck it in folks. Here we go…