Thursday, 28 March 2019

Up Fer't Cup: Whitehaven

There's no easy way to say it. The Recre' is a graveyard.

And when the Hornets ball came out of the draw hot on the heels of the Whitehaven one, the flashbacks started.

Last year in the Challenge Cup, Alan Kilshaw's tenure reached a nadir as his Hornets side were brutally dicked 38-nil, shipping five tries to Carl Forster's fired-up League 1 outfit. In the 'haven side that day were Dan Abram (who kicked nine goals and scored a try), Ellis Gillam and Fozzy himself - so he'll be acutely aware of just how slippery this particular banana skin is.

The good news, though is that 10 of Hornets' starting 13 that day have buggered off elsewhere, leaving just Dec Kay, Ben Moores and Lee Mitchell to suffer a dreadful case of deja-vu.

In contrast Whitehaven's 2019 side contains nine of last year's winning side - including half-back pairing Callum Philips and Dion Aiye who did so much damage last year.

'Haven come into the game on the back of a very odd victory indeed: 16-30 at West Wales Raiders. Nothing in particularly unusual there - but the game kicked off In Llanelli at 11.00am last Sunday morning. God knows what time people had to be up to make that happen.

Whitehaven took only 90 seconds to open their account at Stebonheath Park last week and were cruising comfortably at 6-26 at the break. The second half, though, belonged to the home side, clawing their way back to 16-26 at one stage. A 65th minute try from full-back Chris Taylor ensured they job got done, but West Wales did keep 'Haven scoreless for 36 minutes in this game. Haven's man of the match was that man Callum Phillips who weighed in with a first half hat-trick of tries.

But 'haven coach Gary Charlton is a hard man to please, disappointed with their second half performance. In the Whitehaven News this week he said: "I was very disappointed with our second half performance. At 26-6 up, I thought we took our foot off the gas. I thought we weren’t as clinical as we were in the first half and we went away from everything that we had to do."

Luckily, he identified the issue: “Our problem was our defending. We’re not as fluent as what we should be moving forward and that’s what we need to work on. I just said to the boys that if you give away penalties then you’ll concede tries."

He is looking forward to Sunday, though: “I know the lads are looking forward to it and pulling off another good Cup win... I know Fozzy’s return with Rochdale has created a lot of interest.”

Charlton may have to try and do it without both first choice wingers, though. Strike threat Andrew Bulman fractured his cheekbone and eye socket at West Wales. Bulman scored six tries in a 74-6 home win over Wigan St. Patrick’s in the last round, equalling the club's record for tries in a game. On the other edge, Dave Thompson was withdrawn at West Wales with a knee injury. He'll be assessed this week.

Hornets come into Sunday's game in search of a catalyst to ignite the season. Last weekend's heavy defeat to Widnes was a challenging watch at times despite the disparity in resources. The one positive was that we did match a very good Widnes side for 20 minutes. The last hour was a bit of a parade, though.

So we gird up our loins once more and head for darkest West Cumbria. A win would not only boost morale, but open the door for a decent cup run. We believe that it's always best to get the worst team in the cup at home UNTIL you're the worst team left in the cup, then you want the biggest team in it away from home - and bank the cheque.

So, who's up for the cup? See you in Whitehaven