Sunday, 23 September 2018

Gritty Hornets Go The Distance

Hornets 26 Dewsbury 22

“I realise a miracle is due, I dedicate this melody to you. But is this the stuff dreams are made of?”
Second Skin, The Chameleons

This last week people have spoken much about lifelines, last-chances and miracle escapes. Post match, interim Hornets chair Peter Rush spoke of ’two lifelines’ for staying in the Championship - but we’d like to hope that that’ll be one too many for our requirements.

A robust, gritty performance from a never-say-die Hornets pulled us level with a Swinton side who tossed away a half-time lead to ship a bagful of second-half points.

But things started awfully for Hornets: 10-nil down in as many minutes as Knowles made the extra man to exploit a stretched defence and then Delaney under the black dot off a Sykes break.

The Hornets cogs finally clicked when Rob Massam out-jumped Worrincy to tap the ball back to the prowling Seta Tala to score.

Dewsbury then produced a phase of shapeless, shoddy play - a series of knock-ons and penalties relieving what little pressure they applied. Hornets, however, strove to keep the ball alive - and when Richard Lepori’s neat break created space out-wide he fed Deon Cross in to score: 8-10.

With both sides now struggling to complete sets, fluid football was at a premium: Ben Moores held up from short range, Danny Yates’ attempted intercept slipping from his fingers…

On the half-hour Hornets struck lucky: a lazy Rams pass was scooped up by Deon Cross who hit the afterburners to blaze on from fully 70 metres, Hornets in front.

On 35 minutes, Dewsbury’s fullback spilled a straightforward pass, Hornets drove the ball to the line and, as defenders around him switched off, Dec Gregory produced the cheekiest of tries from half a metre, reaching round static defenders to plant the ball by the upright. Tyler Whittaker with the extras - and a late penalty for good measure to give Hornets an impressive half-time lead, courtesy of 20 unanswered points.

That became 26 just five minutes into the second half. More direct approach work from Hornets; Lewis Hatton arriving at pace onto a beautiful short-ball to score a try that was eye-catchingly elegant in its sheer simplicity. Tyler Whittaker slammed home the two  and Hornets looking comfortable at 26-10.

The next half hour became a war of attrition: Hornets delivering some committed defence as they ran out of substitutes (Joe Ryan and Dec Gregory with shoulder injuries; Joe Taira pressed back into late action despite a knee injury).

Meantime, Dewsbury threw the kitchen sink at a Hornets rearguard that refused to crack. Their only response a flukey 70m intercept from Worrincy, Sykes whittling the deficit to 10 points with 10 minutes to play.

Short on bodies, Hornets sucked in for a desperate finish, but when Delaney exploited an exhausted defence on 76 minutes (Sykes the extras) - from nowhere Dewsbury were within striking distance at 26-22.

It’s at times like this teams need to find a way to win. To refuse to lose.  Dewsbury with the momentum, Hornets throwing knackered bodies into tackles - this really was a case of ‘last man standing’.

With the clock showing 70 seconds remaining, Dewsbury took the ball to the heart of the Hornets defence - only for it to slip loose. Hornets played down the clock; Dewsbury conceding a penalty as the hooter sounded: Ben Moores running the tap into touch to give Rochdale Hornets a genuine shot at the impossible next week at Sheffield.

With 80 minutes of the 2018 season remaining, the maths are brutally simple: Hornets win or draw at Sheffield, and Swinton lose at Batley and we stay up. Any other permutation takes us all into the unknown of the RFL’s Riduculous Relegation Shithouse Playoff™.  Having been relegated once in a Championship reastructure (when the RFL sent five down in 2014) we’d like to think we’re owed a break.

If you’ve ever prayed, pray now. If you’ve never prayed, now’s a good time to start. A miracle is due…