Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Sunday's Coming: Batley

Hornets move from the sunny foothills of the Pyrenees to the shimmering heights of Mount (un)Pleasant, Batley in search of the win that gets 2019 off the launch pad.

Coming up against the twin behemoths of Toronto and Toulouse in the first two games presents a distorted picture and this weekend gives Hornets a chance to take a more accurate reading of our Championship potential - against  Batley team also looking for its first two points.

Batley started their campaign with a narrow 18-22 home defeat by Barrow before getting spanked 42 -14 at Featherstone. Last week saw the 'Dogs mount a huge second half comeback to fall just short - going down 20-18 at Halifax, having trailed 18-nil at the break. And it came at the hands of three of our four to watch.

The first Batley try was 'Made in Rochdale': Jo Taira's short Pass sending Paul Brearley under the black dot. Their last was a typical Danny Yates effort - backing up a break before stepping inside defenders.

Our fourth Batley player to keep an eye on is Dom Brambani. Having begun his career playing in the Bycroft Cup in Queensland, Bradford born Brambani 'came home' in 2010 and his career since has been a bit of a Tour de Yorkshire, starting at Castleford then onto Halifax, then Dewsbury -sandwiched between two stints at Sheffield (where he clicked up 176 games). He joined Batley in 2016. His most interesting stat? In his UK career he has scored SIXTEEN drop goals. That puts him in Paul Harkin territory (ask your dad).

So, much like last week, we have two winless teams desperate for points: can you really have a relegation four-pointer before February is out?

Hornets' game in Blagnac showed promise in patches. Any neutral watching the first half-hour would have struggled to pick out the full-time side, and in the last quarter Hornets matched their hosts in the arm-wrestle. Most of the damage was done in the 15 minutes either side of half time: two quick-fire doubles plus a try on the hooter effectively blowing out the scoreline. The main cause was the concession of cheap penalties late in the tackle count: four times Toulouse were piggy-backed upfield where Jonathan Ford prised the defence open.

Indeed, when Hornets played Toulouse in their own half, they were reasonably well-contained and full of errors, but once you put them on the front foot on your own 20m line, you're in all sorts of trouble.

The good news is that Carl Forster will have Scott Moore, Stu Howarth and Seta Tala available for selection this week which should give the team a more balanced look.

It is a big one this weekend. In the Betfred Championship 'League Within a League', Batley are an immediate competitor - and we need to be taking wins from the sides around us. With the Bulldogs under pressure to deliver and Swinton finding an increasing number of ways to lose, a win by any means gives us a crucial head start.

Games that really mean something this early in the season are pretty rare  - but this one sets the true tone for the weeks to come. Let's get over there in numbers, make some noise and make a difference. See you Sunday.