Monday, 25 July 2016

The Penny Drops

Barrow 34 - Hornets 12

Jesus, where to start on this one…

It’s not often that my team embarrasses me, but this steaming turd of a game at Craven Park left the noisy travelling fans wondering what on earth they’d just seen. Outmuscled, out-thought and out-enthused by a 12-man Barrow side whose game plan seemed to hinge on kicking into a corner then launching a fat-lad from 5 metres, Hornets were a hollow, headless mess for most of the 80 minutes.

Yes, we know that the backline was shorn of Bloomers, Ratu, Cookson and Riley, but in Tom Lineham and Ben Jullien, we had more than adequate replacements. As for Kevin Penny, he looked deeply uncomfortable with the physical elements of life in League 1 and was way off the pace: ridculed by the home fans, vilified by the away fans.

A torrid and frankly awful afternoon from him began in the 9th minute when he knocked on showboating from a play-the-ball with a one handed pick-up on his own 20m line. An ingnominious start.

One minute later - following a Hornets knock-on, followed by a soft penalty - Fieldhouse made the extra man on a looping run to give Barrow the lead.

Hornets briefly flickered: an early kick from crooky for Tom Lineham to chase, the ball bundled into touch, Mr Bloem changing his decision to give Barrow the feed. Then a bone-crunching impact left Hankinson on his back: the home fans all but baying for the death penalty.

Just on the quarter mark, Hornets flattered to deceive when James Tilley and Josh Crowley combined to send Danny Yates scampering under the black dot. Crooky’s conversion gave Hornets a short-lived lead.

Barrow continued to press: a steepling bomb from Dallimore royally cocked-up by Tom Lineham; Hornets repreived with a penalty for offside, only to cough the ball. Then whern Matty Hadden was pinged for holding on too long in the tackle, Dallimore produced a short-ball for BIg-Lad Brennan to crunch onto. All very basic stuff, 10-6 with the conversion.

On their very next foray to the Hornets 20, Dallimore sold an outrageous dummy to step back inside to score. Hornets defence in bits at 16-6.

With Hornets hanging on for half-time, they got what should have been their get out of jail card in the 38th minute. Barrow’s Morrow executed a horrendous spear tackle on Jordan Case, Mr Bloem in the pocket for the red card; bedlam amongst the mob who think it’s fine to drop a lad on his head.

Half time 16-6.

Hornets began the second half brightly: Jack Holmes held-up after good approach work from Woz Thompson; Jono snagged off a forward pass; then Danny Yates catching Dallimore napping to snaffle the ball round the scrum and sneak over (no try, knock-on).

On 50 minutes Hornets went wide in search of the numerical advantage, only for Penny to drop the pass. And it was Penny again a minute later exposing Tom Lineham with a suicide pass across the face of his own posts; Lineham lined up off-balance and the ball on the deck. 30 seconds later the aptly-named Bullock hit a short-pass at speed and barrelled in to score: 22-6.

And if that weren’t bad enough, on 60 minutes Barrow moved the ball through hands to create an overlap a man short for Fleming to score. Hankinson off the whitewash to rub in the salt: 28-6.

Hornets humiliation was complete when - again - Barrow launched their big-unit Brennan from 10 metres to trundle through some soft defence and score. No mistake from Hankinson: 34-6.

The last 17 minutes were a hopeless, shapeless mess: the travesty being that Penny scored at the death. But we were already on the way to the car when that happened, so…

For the Hornets fans compelled to burn a July day watching their team get an old-skool bumming from a Barrow side who clearly wanted it more, their weekend was made complete when they learned that next week’s game at London Skolars has had the kick-off moved to 5pm, leaving many frantically trying to change train tickets or face the prospect of being £160 out of pocket.

Indeed, as one Hornets fan tweeted last night “The worst Rugby League weekend, ever”.

And we concur.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Sunday's Coming: Barrow

To paraphrase Lady Bracknell, to play Barrow twice away from home in one season is unfortunate: to play them three times away from home feels like… er… well… slightly unfair. Especially on Barrow.

Paul Crarey must by sick of the sight of us by now. Sunday sees his third attempt to overcome Hornets at Craven Park, and - having won their last three matches of the regular season - Barrow come into Sunday’s game with a bit of form amd momentum - the pick of their run, a late, late win at Keighley.

Barrow’s peripatetic half back Jamie Dallimore spoke to the North West Evening Mail this week about Barrow’s chances on Sunday - and in the playoffs. Interestingly, in a game where no-one likes being second best, he said: “I think Toulouse are the best team in the competition by a mile, but there is no reason why we can’t get second best”. Keeping with his theme of duality, he also said: “… we owe them one, well we owe them two.” Wise words, mate.

There’s a possibility that Crarey will be playing centre Chris Hankinson outside Dallimore at the weekend, as he looks to add some size to his half-back defence - a tactic deployed at Lawkholme Lane.

Hornets make the trip to Cumbria with a couple of additions to the squad - both from Oldham!

Steve Roper comes back to add experienced cover at half-back, and utility back Jack Holmes - who scored 20 tries in 36 appearances in his two seasons at Oldham - has joined Hornets on loan for the rest of the year.

Alan Kilshaw said: “We are in good shape and we’re looking forward to this next stage to put ourselves in a good position. We just want to kick on now. With the dual-registration deadline coming in and we have got a couple of players carrying knocks, we have not had a big squad all year, they are just to strengthen us through this next phase.”

Elsewhere in the Super 8s, the big story of the week is the implosion at York City Knights - that threatens to throw the comp into chaos. The club issues a statement last night confirming that York City Knights has ceased to trade.

Compelled to play at Bootham Crescent after York City Council pushed through the upgrade of Moks Cross for use by the city’s Rugby League and football teams, the Knights are caught in a contractual wrangle with both York City Council and York City Football Club over a clause that forbids them to play at the football ground within 24 hours of a York City game.

The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the Knights had a contract with the council, but the council had a separate contract with the football club - and none of the parties could agree on what it is they’ve agreed to agree on. Hence, York’s game with Doncaster on Sunday was postponed earlier in the week, ahead of Thursday’s announcement that the club has closed with immediate effect. Interestingly, the club statement also references underlying financial issues as a key factor in pulling down the shutters.

The impact on the Super 8s - and on Hornets - is yet to be calculated. From a club point of view, we now gain no real advantage in finishing second - and we lose a vital home game. Indeed, we might now have been better served finishing 4th: then we’d get Toulouse at home and still end up with an equal number of home and away games. Messy.

From a league point of view: on previous occasions when a club has withdraw part way through a season (the last one was the old York club), their record was expunged  - which would erase the thrashing we took at Bootham Crescent and redress our points difference (it’d also leave us unbeaten, on a technicality).

At the moment there’s no news on what the RFL have planned for this and the next phase of the season. We’d imagine that the ‘Super 7’ would continue a team short - though there would have to be some sort of compensation paid to the clubs expecting to host York at home. The real problem comes in the promotion playoff phase that should have involved 3rd, 4th and 5th + the loser of the promotion final.

However it pans out, it’s a horrendous mess for all concerned - and a depressing way to kick-off the next phase of the season.