Wednesday, 11 September 2019

2019 in 30 Paragraphs

Yes, it's that time of year when we review the season. And we've done it by taking a single paragraph from each of our match reports. Relive it all in just 30 Paragraphs.

Rochdale Mayfield 12 - Hornets 18
"A clash of styles was evident as Hornets' structured approach was countered by Mayfield's desire to take risks and go off script - and it made for an entertaining (and occasionally fractious) contest...."

Oldham 24 - Hornets 8
"The raw stats themselves tell a tale where Hornets are a distant second, stragglers in a two-horse race. And if the stats don't lie, they also act as a brutal metaphor for Sunday's game at the Vestacare, where Hornets looked second best in every department."

Hornets 6 - Toronto Wolfpack 58
"Toronto Wolfpack rolled in like the circus it is: all 'look at me' fanfare, big-time Charlies and the dead-eyed joy of a bloke cracking a whip at a broken lion for the hundredth time to meagre squeals of sadistic delight."

Toulouse Olympique 42 - Hornets 12
"People will just look at the scoreline here and make a judgement - but they'll be wrong. Mostly because they weren't actually there to see this game unfold."

Batley 18 - Hornets 12
"... it would be too uncharitable to just complain. Hornets' work-rate was excellent and the defence was pretty solid bar the extreme edges. Indeed, the effort was there for all to see - it just deserved the reward of more incisive football off the back of it."

Hornets 20 - Barrow 8
"Satisfying was Swinton's late, late choking at Halifax which leaves Hornets out of the bottom two and breathing hard down Batley and Dewsbury's necks. A launch pad for the rest of the season?"

Leigh 46 - Hornets 6
"In a first half car-crash of back-pedalling and penalties, Hornets looked stunned in the headlights: Richardson directing traffic as the game slid inexorably - inevitably, even - away from Hornets..."

Hornets 4 - Widnes 50
"Hornets were reduced to bit-part players as the hand-wringing League media focused on how a criminally mis-managed club that's burned millions of pounds could haul itself back to zero points by beating a fan-owned team of part-timers in their own back-yard."

Whitehaven 21 - Hornets 22
"On 70 minutes 'Haven's Forrester took the inevitable drop goal and, when Moore added yet another penalty on 74 minutes, it looked like a done deal at 21-12. But wait..."

Hornets 24 - Halifax 48
"Hornets  started with a bang, Lee Mitchell hitting a short-ball at pace after just two minutes to glide under the black dot. Abram the extras - and on target again with a penalty five minutes later to give Hornets a comfortable 8-nil lead."

Salford 76 - Hornets 6
"By some distance the highlight of the second half was the banter between the Hornets fans and the poor frozen in-goal judge at the Western End who had - literally - nothing to do and even went for a pee at one point."

Swinton 36 - Hornets 22 
"It took the hosts just four minutes to get themselves over when they applied pressure on the Hornets defence, using quick hands to ship the ball out wide to Butt - the first of his four tries that ensured that the Lions came away 36-22 winners in the baking Manchester sun..."

Hornets 16 - Sheffield 52 
"Whilst it turned into a comfortable afternoon for the Eagles, it certainly didn’t begin that way as the hosts enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges. Carl Forster’s try, converted by Dan Abram, had the Hornets in front, but the Eagles were quick to respond..."

Bradford 56 - Hornets 12
"Determined defence from Hornets denied Bradford multiple times - and they caught the Bulls out with Ellis Gillam finding his way over to extend Hornets' lead to 12-0..."

Hornets 10 - Featherstone 56
"Those anticipating some sort of messianic miracle were instantly disappointed: Hornets started the game with a knock-on and 45 seconds later Rovers rake King slumped in from acting half. Chisholm added the extras and Fev were up and running."

Blackpool: Hornets 30 - Swinton 40
"Having crackled with invention and ideas before the break, Hornets spent the second 40 minutes running through treacle - whereas Swinton found their feet, gained momentum and sped away..."

Barrow 54 - Hornets 10
"Hornets clung scrappily to the coat-tails of the game for 10 minutes, but the half ended in a blitz of points up the right edge as their confidence crumbled..."

Batley 38 - Hornets 18
"From a Hornets point of view, the damage was done in the third quarter of the game when Batley plodded four tries up the hill in just 15 minutes to leave Hornets chasing the shadow of the ghost of a game that wasn't really there any more."

Dewsbury Rams 66 - Hornets 10
"All-up this was a mess. Hornets effectively background scenery as Dewsbury racked up some scary stats: eleven tries, eleven goals; biggest win in 10 years; gifted 13 penalties, Finn hitting his career 500 point mark. As always we try and wring out some positives, but there were none."

York 66 - Hornets nil
"Not so much a contest, More a hard-to-watch procession, as Hornets shipped eleven tries two weeks in succession."

Sheffield Eagles 42 - Hornets 24
"This was a massively improved performance, impacted on by a freak try before the break and a third-quarter where Sheffield found their playing boots. Other than that, Hornets matched - if not bettered - a fairly prosaic Sheffield for long periods of this game."

Hornets 28 - Swinton 36
"Hornets sought to drive the ball out of yardage, but - with Swinton hands all over the ball - Dan Abram was deemed to have knocked on. And as the hooter sounded, Swinton shipped the ball wide to Butt who sealed the game for the Lions."

Widnes 40 - Hornets 12
"The remaining 18 minutes of the game were reduced to a prodding contest. Widnes happy to jab Hornets back into the corners: Hornets poking and pushing, with little to show until Callum Marriott crashed in for a 79th minute consolation try."

Hornets nil - Toulouse Olympique 68
"Hornets provided a literal zero resistance to an, admittedly, bigger, stronger, faster full-time opposition - but it was the flaccid manner of the defeat that leaves a punch-drunk hardcore of fans contemplating the route to West Wales Raiders next year."

Fev 50 - Hornets 6
"The Hornets faithful applauded and headed for the car-park: partly disappointed in another defeat, partly relieved that this soul-sapping season is pretty much all over."

Hornets 12 - Dewsbury 32
"This was the archetypal game of two halves - and not in a good way. Hornets led 12-8 at the break and looked good value for that, but an error-strewn second period where Dewsbury scored three tries in nine minutes saw the game simply washed away as the heavens opened."

Hornets 26 - Batley 50
"There was hope amongst the long-suffering Hornets faithful that this game just might yield the last opportunity for a win this season, but - again - they had to stoically swallow what little faith they have remaining and make do with applauding a 'brave effort'."

Hornets 18 - Leigh 50
"If games lasted 40 minutes, Hornets would be looking forward to another season in the Championship next year. But they don't. And we're not."

Toronto Wolfpack 46 - Hornets nil
"It was an evenly-matched opening to the contest, with  Hornets holding firm in defence early and creating several chances within the first twenty minutes. Eventually however, the Wolfpack managed to break the lines and open the scoring through fullback Gareth O’Brien"

Halifax 58 - Hornets nil
"Once again, the dwindling Hornets faithful had a literal nothing to cheer as a half-paced Halifax jogged through the motions - which was ample enough effort as Hornets looked brittle on defence and a bit one dimensional on attack.:

Bradford 82 - Hornets nil
"Take nothing away from Bradford: they're strong, fast and well-drilled - and having scored with their first carry of the ball after just 90 seconds, they went through the playbook with all the intensity of a training run after a heavy weekend."

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Thanks for Nothing.

Hornets nil - Bradford 82.

There is a quite literal nothing good to say about this game.

Hornets saved their worst performance of the season for last, shipping 15 tries and copping a third consecutive nilling. In the aftermath, the consensus amongst the loyal Hornets fans who've stuck by the club as this shambolic season has limped from rout to rout was relief that it's over.

Take nothing away from Bradford: they're strong, fast and well-drilled - and having scored with their first carry of the ball after just 90 seconds, they went through the playbook with all the intensity of a training run after a heavy weekend.

Hornets flailed and flapped. Out-played, out-thought, out-enthused, out-muscled and out for the count at the break trailing 0-46 as Bradford scored at will and stayed ahead of the clock throughout.

The second half looked pretty similar.

Hornets' shortcomings were exposed on attack and defence. Late on, having forced multiple drop-outs, they had four sets in Bradford's 20m zone, but couldn't find a pass or a kick to make Bradford think. The brief spell of pressure (and expectation), ended with a flaccid jab of a kick mopped up by Oakes who barely had to move. The season in a microcosm right there folks.

Some of the observations of the people around us were pretty apposite. One media guy described the difference in ability between the sides as "The Harlem Globetrotters v a school side". An ex-coach commented that there were "... no plays, no plan and no-one talks to each other". And one experienced RL official - in an attempt to be positive - said "at least you can't fault their effort - they're trying their hardest". Like Yoda said: "Do or do not - there is no try". And he was absolutely right. There was no try, for the third game running.

Ultimately, losing should hurt. It should f*ck-up your week until at least Wednesday. What we do has to matter or what's the point?

In an attempt to close the book on 2019 in a positive light, the Hornets faithful have been been absolutely stoic this season. It's that relationship with people who care - about the club and each other - that has seen us through. They're the true heartbeat of the club. It's you guys we'll miss between now and March. From Toronto and Toulouse to Bradford and Batley you've all been legends.

And there's nothing more certain than that.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Sunday's Coming: Bradford.

Bradford head to Spotland on Sunday as Hornets face another 'Battle with the Cattle'. Much like Bradford held an emotional farewell to the Odsal Crater last weekend, Hornets fans will be bracing themselves for an equally emotional adieu to the Championship after a challenging three year stay. Doubt there'll be a pitch invasion, though - most fans likely to head home and lie down in a dark room until March.

As for Bradford, we've written at some length here about how the Bulls have been a bit of a basket case in recent years, so we don't really want to pick that scab again. But they can be a hard club to like. Indeed, we don't often go Biblical on our opponents, but on this occasion we're happy to heavily paraphrase Matthew Ch7 V4.

The quote roughly states: "Don't go on about a speck of dust in someone else's eye when you've got a plank in your own eye." This moral lesson in avoiding hypocrisy and self-righteousness could have been written for Bulls owner Andrew Chalmers - a man with a seemingly bottomless well of opinions on how other clubs should be run - but whose own club finds itself ending the season homeless and out of the playoffs.

1. In January this year he called for Wigan Chairman Ian Lenagan to resign as Wigan were deducted two points and fined £5,000 for a two-year-old salary cap breach. “The average man in the street might conclude its either wilful dishonesty, or at the very least, sheer incompetence. ... He should now do the honourable thing and resign... I suspect there will be little sympathy around the rugby league for Lenagan’s plight."

2. In August last year he called Workington Town "... amateur and completely selfish, amongst other things..." when they refused to allow Bradford to stream their game at Derwent Park.

3. In April he aimed barbs at Toronto: “The club and our fans are travelling intercontinental to play an away fixture with all the challenges that presents, whereas some of our rivals will not be similarly tested, with Toronto choosing to play some of their home fixtures in the UK. This can’t be right from a competition integrity perspective?"

4. ... and also at the Catalans: "Catalans Dragons privileged position sucks millions of pounds out of the British game – for what? A sunshine weekend away for supporters to fill the coffers of the Perpignan’s hoteliers and restaurateurs? Hardly looks like smart business from a British Rugby League perspective..."

5. Back in January he took aim at the smaller clubs in the Championship "... the Bulls are seen as a big club by others in the league... but clubs playing in front of the low hundreds, bringing no away support and little profile won’t have a future in the professional ranks..."

Given the speed at which he's prepared to criticise others, perhaps Chalmers needs to consider his own failings this year.

1. He has failed to deliver on the field: having said in February that the top three was the Bulls' target for 2019, they failed to make the top five.

2. The RFL last week confirmed that Bradford remain in special measures, which prevents them from making signings - including renewing contracts - for next year.

3. In December 2018, Chalmers said   "... our club and Odsal stadium are inextricably linked in a truly deep, emotional and maybe a spiritual way. The Maori have a word to describe this – turangawaewae... our foundation, our place in the world, our home, where we belong...".

Eight months later it was announced that Chalmers would move his side to the Tetley Stadium Dewsbury in order to reduce costs. Aaron Bower's article in the Guardian said: "Stadium staff will lose their jobs, local businesses who thrive on matchday revenue will struggle. Bradford, not just the Bulls, will feel this decision."

In a statement, the RFL said: “The RFL Board feel that the information provided so far in relation to (Bradford's) move to Dewsbury is incomplete and therefore it is a condition that the club provide further financial information on the impact of the move. Until this is provided to the satisfaction of the RFL the Club will remain in special measures and is not permitted to sign players.”

The statement continued: “Based on the information received, the RFL feel that this decision made by the Bradford Bulls directors is a poor one; however ultimately the Board of that club is responsible for determining what is in the best interests of Bradford Bulls." Ouch!

Hornets stagger into Sunday's game on the back of two dismal nillings: 46-nil at Toronto and 58-nil at Halifax. That's 104-nil over two games.  As such, all the loyal, long-suffering Hornets fans would like to see is for our team to end this wretched season by chucking the ball about and putting a few points on the scoreboard. As the game is yet another dead rubber, there's absolutely nothing to lose.

Just 80 minutes of this season remain. See you hardy souls on Sunday,

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Less Than Zero

Halifax 58 - Hornets nil

It was a tough afternoon at the Shay as Hornets suffered their fourth nilling of the season (their second consecutive blank) - all of which, interestingly, have happened since Hornets changed coaches mid season.

Once again, the dwindling Hornets faithful had a literal nothing to cheer as a half-paced Halifax jogged through the motions - which was ample enough effort as Hornets looked brittle on defence and a bit one dimensional on attack.

This poor show was exacerbated by three yellow-cards - two for Zac Baker late/high shots and one for Manchester-bound Brandon Wood for dissent. This meant that Hornets effectively spent half an hour of the second half a man short - and Halifax took full advantage, scoring 38 easy points in the second forty.

The die was cast in just the second minute: Brandon Wood coughing the ball early in Hornets' first set, Kay tapping a kick behind a static Hornets defence where Fairbank strolled in to touch down.

Hornets threatened briefly on ten minutes when Kyle Shelford got over the line after a Dan Abram 40/20, but the last pass was deemed forward.

Halifax then marched straight downfield where Murrell's teasing kick to the corner was snaffled by Tyrer who scored by the flag.

Hornets continued to find new ways to shoot themselves in the foot. On the quarter mark Hornets looked to drive the ball out of yardage 15m from their own line, but the pass was called as forward and, from the resulting scrum, Woodburn Hall ambled in by the upright. Too easy.

Just past the half hour, Murrell lofted yet another kick to the corner, where Tyrer said 'thanks very much' for his second try. On what was a pretty ordinary afternoon with the boot, Tyrer banged home the extras and 'Fax took an easy 20-nil lead into the sheds, having barely broken sweat.

Two minutes into the second half Zac Baker was given his first yellow for a late shot on Murrell. Halifax worked the numbers out wide for Sharp to score.

From there on in, the second half became a slow-motion bin-fire: Hornets full of errors and indiscretions; Halifax shuttling the ball around to take advantage of Hornets' reduced numbers.

It was an embarrassing parade: Cooper on 45, Woodburn Hall on 47 and winger McGrath in off a tidy cut-out pass on 57 reinforced Halifax's dominance. Three tries in the last 10 minutes (McGrath on 71, Fleming on 76 and Sharp at the death) the coup de grace for a Hornets side that showed little in the way of resistance.

Make no mistake, this was a shocker. Hornets a distant second best to a side with only one win in the last ten games -  for the most part, looking every inch like they'd rather be somewhere else.

All of which leaves just 80 minutes of this wretched season remaining for the long-suffering fans to endure.