Thursday, 28 August 2014

Sunday's Coming: Breaking News


In shock breaking news, Batley and Doncaster have had the three points recently deducted for fielding an ineligible DR player, reinstated. 

After being presented with fresh evidence relating to previous historical breaches of Operational Rules by other clubs which had not faced similar sanctions, the Operational Rules Appeals Tribunal at Red Hall overturned the points deductions this afternoon (Thursday).

Clearly The has a major impact in the Championship relegation fight with Batley moving out of the drop zone thanks to their 73 points advantage over Whitehaven.

Indeed, despite having won a game more than Batley, 'Haven now have to overhaul the points difference in just two games -and rely on a Bulldogs slip-up to keep them in the Championship.

Batley's gain also pulls Workington and Keighley back into the mire, as two Batley and Whitehaven wins would exceed their current points totals if both clubs lose their remaining two games.

Workington go to Leigh on Saturday; on Sunday Batley host Swinton and Keighley travel to Dewsbury.

If Batley win (42 points) and Hornets pull off a win at the Recre' (Haven 39 with one game to play) Batley would only need a bonus point at Doncaster on the final day to sink Dave Wood's side.

Everything to play for then!

Official RFL Match Preview
Tom Carr (knee) is Whitehaven’s major doubt ahead of Sunday’s crucial Kingstone Press Championship clash with Rochdale Hornets. Whitehaven need two wins in their final two league fixtures if they are to secure their position in the second tier in 2015.

Coach Dave Woods said: “We’ve just got to concentrate on our own performance. We need to be confident and get three points.”

Hornets, who are one point above Swinton Lions and 10 points clear of Barrow Raiders, are determined to finish in 12th position. Coach Ian Talbot said: “We’ve got a target now of trying to stay out of the bottom two, and a result this week would go a long way to us doing that."

“We can then say that it’s the restructure that’s relegated us, because in a normal year we’d have survived if we stayed out of the bottom two.” He added: “We want to finish on a high, and get some confidence for next year."

“We’ve moved on from our Sheffield defeat, but we also know that any game up at Whitehaven is always tough. Brett Seymour is one to watch, they’ve some experience in the pack, and dangerous outside backs in guys like Jessie Joe Parker. It’ll be a good test for us.”

Talbot has no new injury concerns ahead of the trip north.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A Sad Sunday's Coming

Being a Whitehaven fan at the moment must really mess with your head. After a singularly 'meh' season, they find themselves in a most peculiar position.

Lose their last remaining two games and they could get relegated. Win their last two games and - if Batley and Keighley stutter - they could find themselves in the playoffs. So fine are the margins in this harsh restructuring season.

With the Marras' season in the balance, it's Batley who find themselves hovering over the trapdoor after their recent three-point deduction for fielding an ineligible DR player.

Indeed, Whitehaven only have to match Batley's remaining results to condemn the Bulldogs to a most unexpected drop - from Grand finalists to relegated in a season would be a spectacular crash.

Up at the Recre, 'Haven coach Dave Woods has taken a laid back approach to the last two games, giving his side the Challenge Cup weekend off to recharge the batteries before his side's final push.

Interestingly, both Hornets and 'Haven come into Sunday's game on the back of defeats to Sheffield - though Whitehaven did nick a bonus point. It was a result that disappointed Dave Woods. Speaking in the News & Star he said: “We were all disappointed with the result…” Wise words, mate...

More interesting words from Woods' captain, ex-Hornet Lee Doran. Also interviewed by the News & Star this week he said of his side's precarious balancing act:  “I don’t think we’ve had our fair share of luck this season, and I feel that pound for pound we are one of the best sides in the league. We haven’t got the biggest of budgets but Dave’s done a great job."  We thought it was an interestingly ambiguous use of the word 'pound'. Maybe it's just us…

And Finally…

As the last embers of Hornets' 2014 Championship adventure fade, it was with a heavy heart that I sat down to write this piece ahead of our trip to Whitehaven.

The unexpected passing last week of our loyal fellow Hornet Andy 'Pugwash' Birch leaves us all shocked - and leaves a huge hole in the lives of those of us who've shared countless Sunday afternoons with him over the years.  Having supported Hornets since 1966, Andy's support had been rock-solid for almost half a century and - despite his recent health issues - he was one of the first supporters to buy a ten year Hornets season ticket. Few have worn their passion for our club so prominently on their sleeve, and his commitment to the cause has been unstinting even through the darkest of days.

Whilst we contunue - as ever - 'onward', the journey won't be quite the same without him. But wherever the game takes us in support of Rochdale Hornets - starting with the Recre on Sunday - Puggy will always be with us.

See you Sunday.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

It's Sheffield Wednesday!

Apologies, but not much of a preview ahead of Hornets trip to Bawtry Road School playing fields for Hornets' re-arranged game against Sheffield.

As observers of the game will know, the Eagles have had a pretty awful season playing at the Whtebank of the Championship, Owlerton. They've struggled for home form on its postage stamp of a pitch littered with speedway track cinders and dog-shit. Indeed, if Hornets had played them there on the opening day of the season as planned, there was every chance of an early upset - especially given that Sheffield had had virtually no pre-season and had never played on their own field.
Sheffield, Wednesday: Balls

Fast forward to August, however, and they've negotiated a move to the Sheffield Hallam University sports ground, which gives them the rare chance to play on a decent, full-sized pitch - having had 99% of a season to get their act together.

Needless to say, here at TLCRF80mins we're pretty pissed off with Sheffield - work commitments mean we won't be there tonight and, because we're travelling with work tomorrow, there'll be no match report. Again another apology.

So all we can do is wish everyone making the trip the best of luck. i would be sweet and fitting if we could spoil their big night on their new home ground.

Here's the RFL's Official Preview

Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston has urged his troops to “put on another show” when they host Rochdale Hornets in Wednesday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture.

The match, which will be played at Bawtry Road, provides an opportunity for in-form Sheffield to claim a fourth consecutive win. Eagles were 36-28 winners against Whitehaven on Sunday, and could climb into fifth place with victory against Rochdale.

Hornets coach Ian Talbot said: “Sheffield are a very dangerous team.

“They always come good towards the back end of the season, and they’ve started to string a few results together in the last month. They’ll be a threat to anybody who plays them in the play-offs.”

Talbot, whose side are also backing up after playing on Sunday, added: “It’s a very difficult task for part-time players, but we’ll go there and give it our best shot. We were frustrated we didn’t get a win on Sunday, but we’ll dust ourselves down and get on with things."

“We’ve got three games to go, and we’re trying to make sure we finish above Swinton. Taking something out of this trip to Sheffield would help us do that.”

Michael Knowles and Peter Green could come into contention for the hosts, while Hornets pair Sean Casey and Jordan Case are both unavailable.

Monday, 18 August 2014

A tale of Crook, Cooke - and Mr Brooke

At ten to three after I'd just read the teams out, the Doncaster time-keeper tapped me on the shoulder. "Our full-back's called Dave Scott, not Dane Scott" he said. Notwithstanding that I just read what's on the teamsheet, by 4.40pm I was left wishing that referee Mr Brooke had applied a similar level of detail.

In a performance where the interpretation of the laws at times verged on the surreal, it's been a very long time since I've seen/heard a ref so universally villified by both sets of supporters.

Despite having to negotiate his 'jazz' approach to game management, Hornets did themselves few favours in a game punctuated by loose carries, forced passes and daft errors.

Indeed, from the very first set the die was cast: Hornets fumbling at the play the ball, Doncaster forcing a drop out.

When Hornets found a bit of rhythm, they did look the more dangerous side in a tight first quarter. A great exit set after 10 minutes that began with Paul Crook's break from his own 20, ending with Lewis Sheridan's dink kick towards Doncaster's corner post. 

Doncaster's only real threat was a big gormless hoof upfield, and when the ball uncharacteristically slipped from Gaz langley's grasp first tackle it took a determined rear-guard action to repel the visitors.

Again Hornets played out a great exit set - but when Wayne English and Shaun Robinson combined to haul Hornets fully 50 metres, the ball was again fumbled on the third tackle. Hornets defence to the rescue again as Doncaster ran out of attacking ideas.

On the quarter mark Hornets broke the deadlock in emphatic fashion: a steepling bomb from Crooky, Shaun Robinson out-jumping his opposite number, feeding Lewis Sheridan into enough pace for him to step deftly round the full-back to score. Paul Crook with the extras: Hornets deservedly in front 6-nil.

Hornets repeated the play less than a minute later. This time Wayne English's gather and kick into space was snuffed out.

Doncaster needed to break Hornets' momentum to get back into the game. Their chance arrived on the half hour when a soft penalty for holding down swept them 60 metres, where slack tackling allowed Snitch to capitalise, striding through score. Sanderson the two: 6-all

Hornets immediately went back on the offensive, forcing a repeat set - but a forced first tackle pass from James Tilley went to ground and the chance was gone.

With the half ticking away, Miller produced a quite ludicrous forward pass to his winger Sanderson - but the officials didn't flinch. With Hornets defence scrambling, Doncaster worked  the ball around for Hodson to score. Uproar as the hooter sounded; Sanderson the two and the Dons in front 6-12 at the break completely against the run of play.

Unsurprisingly, the second half began with a Hornets error: the ball carried into touch off a Cooke kick. A well-spotted Gaz Langley intercept relieved the pressure.

Then another brain-fart moment. Under no pressure, Lewis Sheridan tried a one-handed pick-up at acting half, but only succeeded in fumbling the ball to put Doncaster on the front foot. Hornets defence again holding: Dons' Castle held-up over the line.

Lewis Sheridan redeemed himself on 47 minutes: a mazy, mercurial run turned the Dons defence inside out and his well-picked pass sent Stuart Littler in for a well-finished try out wide. Crooky's radar slightly off - 10-12.

Again, the momentum was with Hornets. Great defence created the platform for Joe Greenwood to launch Lewis Sheridan over 60 metres. The Dons coughing a penalty as Hornets turned the screw, ony for Greenwood to be deemed held-up over the line.

Then two moments within two minutes that opened the door for Doncaster. On 55 minutes Alex Trumper turned to chase a break, bumping into his opposite number innocuously en-route. Mr Brooke called obstruction, the penalty carrying the visitors downfield. Then the Dons got lucky, a fluffed cut-out pass went to ground and - with the Hornets defence stopped - Sanderson gathered and strolled in by the flag from 30 metres. Shocking, really. 16-10.

On the hour another aimless Dons hoof downfield created enough chaos for Wayne English to concede a drop-out and, with Hornets defensive shape all over the place, Doncaster had enough bodies in motion for Snitch to score untouched. Sanderson the two and, out of nowhere, the Dons 10-22 ahead.

Hornets dug in. But when a big hit on 66 minutes shuddered the ball from a Doncaster hand Mr Brooke - somehow - gave a penalty for ripping. However, when Joe Greenwood was gang-mugged by three tacklers a minute later a knock-on was given. Honestly…

But Mr Brooke saved the best for last. On 71 minutes, Hull's DR Australian half-back Miller dropped a pass cold in open play. He stopped, held his hand up, all the players stopped - and, somehow, Mr Brooke waved play-on. Even the visitors were incredulous.

On a 75th minute foray into Doncaster territory, Paul Crook hoisted a huge kick that was royally cocked-up by 'Dave, not Dane' Scott and, while he flapped, Crooky stayed cool to dive in and touch down. Extras added and, at 16-22 Hornets had three minutes to swipe a draw.

It looked likely when Gaz Langley embarked on a twisting run into open space, but defenders gathered to cut off his options. And, with the last gasps of the hooter fading, Sean Casey worked enough space to loft a kick into Hornets right channel, but Doncaster killed the ball to grab the win.

In the end, this was a cracking game from two teams with virtually nothing between them. How Doncaster are fourth was beyond most people in conversation afterwards - but it was Hornets' never-say-die attitude that took the plaudits. A battling performance that deserved more than the bonus point that takes Hornets above Swinton into 12th.

As for Mr Brooke, I've no idea which game he was watching, but I hope he enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed this one.