Friday, 23 June 2017

Sunday's Coming: Batley

We spy with our little eye, something else beginning with 'B' as, hot onthe heels of Bradford, Batley Bulldogs make their way to Spotland on Sunday in search of a third consecutive win.

And they do it having delivered quite possibly the most eyecatching scoreline of this championship season so far - having flogged Sheffield Eagles by 70-12 at the Mount last week. En route, Batley racked up 11 tries (four to wing Wayne Reittie) and stand-off Patch Walker ended the game  with a 100% record landing 13 goals. He also weighed in with two tries to complete a 34-point personal haul.

Playing up the slope, Batley led 38-nil at half time in what coach Matt Diskin described as a 'near-perfect performance'. The victory hoisted Batley over the Eagles into sixth place, but after the game Diskin conceded that, despite the impressive nature of the win, his side's target for the 2017 season looked likely to be missed.

Speaking in the Batley News this week he said: “The top-four was our initial goal and it looks as though we’ve fallen short of that, but we want to finish as high as we can. We’ve gone above Sheffield now and we need to keep chipping away.”

Diskin will run the rule over injuries to Alex Rowe and Alistair Leak ahead of Sunday’s game - and Back rower Dane Manning is in line to play the 200th game of his career.

Having surprised everyone by making the Middle 8 last year, the Bulldogs have slipped backwards a bit, but continue to punch well above their weight in this competition.

As a club, Batley have a long and distinguished history that pre-dates the Northern Union and have the rare disctinction of still playing on their original ground. The Batley Cricket, Athletic and Football Club played its first game of 'rugby' against Bradford Zingari on the 2nd November 1880 at  'The Mount Ground' - a home win by 2 goals, 3 touchdowns, 2 dead balls and one touch goal to nil. Now that IS an interesting scoring system!

The dressing rooms used at this time were located at the Royal Hotel, Bradford Road and were quoted in the official handbook as being:  "8 minutes walk from the ground".

Hornets come into Sunday's game with confidence boosted by a convincing win over Bradford Bulls - and given the results of Wednesday evening's Championship fixtures, it was a timely two points. Midweek, Swinton crashed 36-2 at Featherstone and Dewsbury sneaked home at Oldham (16-20) as the the battle at the bottom of the Chamoionship tightened up considerably. There are now only three points between 8th and 11th - and Hornets yet to play Swinton at home and Dewsbury and Oldham away - so two points on Sunday would help maintain our slight cushion in 8th.

Certainly a performance resembling last week's effort would go a very long way to delivering this. And with Hornets unceremoniously robbed of victory by some frankly surrealist refereeing decisions at Mount Pleasant earlier in the year, payback would be nice. Thankfully, Mr Straw is ruining Swinton v Halifax, so at least we have a fair shot at it.

See you there.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Bulls Hit by Hornets Blitz

Hornets 28 - Bulls 14

Bullshit: Don't believe the hype.
Once Hornets got onto the scoreboard, this Battle with the Cattle was only going one way. A superb last hour lock-out left an increasingly impotent Bradford looking a distant second-best, as the Bulls gave debut coach Geoff Toovey a birthday present to forget.

Indeed, it's an indicator of how far the mighty can fall that former Super League cause-celebre Bradford and Grand-Final winning coach Toovey were handed a lesson in commitment, desire and punishingly penetrative football.

To their credit, Bradford started the brighter: a double-whammy of tries around the quarter-mark - Bentley off a well-picked line, Chapelhow hauling defenders 10 metres to the line - giving the travelling Yorkshire hordes brief reason to bang their drum. But they really hadn't accounted for anything like Jo Taira.

Fresh from the bench, the Fijian Wrecking ball made an instant  - and game-changing - impact. On 25 minutes, he took the ball close to the Bradford posts and, as a gaggle of defenders flailed around him, Jo found the strength to muscle the ball down. Danny Yates the two for 6-12.

Bradford turned up the heat: four back-to-back sets gave them 17 consecutive tackles in the Hornets 20m zone, but their best efforts were repeatedly repelled by some fearsome defence.

You could sense Bradford's nerves as they took the two at a penalty, but with the half ebbing away came the two minutes that completely shifted the momentum of this contest.

A niggle at a tackle that saw referee Mr Straw talk to Bulls' awkward lump Peltier and Ben Moores had the Bradford fans baying for Peltier to 'knock him out'. From the next play a Hornets dink into the in-goal found Lilley scrambling back to gather. He was unceremoniously sacked and, as Mr Straw gave the drop-out, backplay eruped into a flurry of punches as Bradford's resolve snapped.

From the drop-out, Jo Taira took the ball at pace and - from 40 metres - blasted his way through the Bulls' defence, stepping hapless fullback Thomas on his way under the black dot for a try that lifted the roof. Yatesey no mistake and Hornets into the sheds 12-14 down. You could sense the confidence in the Hornets ranks.

Hornets began the second half with a bang. With just five minutes on the clock, Danny Yates launched Lewis Galbraith with a peach of a flat pass just past half-way; Trigger hitting the gas to outpace the Bradford defence to score a top quality try. Yatesey off the touchline with the extras and Hornets in front at 18-14.

Offered a rare opportunity in a 9-3 penalty count, Hornets kept the scoreboard ticking over with a Danny Yates penalty on the hour mark.

Hornets were now in complete control: Danny Yates and Lewis Foster repeatedly kicking the Bulls back into the corners, walking their big pack back time and again to start 10m from their own line. And when Hornets ventured forward, you could hear Bradford sphincters squeaking as the home pack made big metres in every tackle.

On 65 minutes, Hornets opened up the Bulls defence at close quarters, but the ball slipped tantalisingly from Lee Mitchells's grasp with the line begging. Bradford responded by sending Peltier - by some distance their most dangerous player - in off a short ball, but again some outstanding Hornets defence somehow held him up in the in-goal.

With Bradford now desperately looking for the draw, Danny Yates launched a 75th minute drop-goal attempt, but it was deflected dead by a Bulls defender. From the drop-out Hornets went straight back to the Bradford goal-line where Ben Moores found the deftest of cross-field kicks for Matty Hadden to gather, wrestling off defenders to score. Hornets fans in raptures, Bulls fans heading for the exits in their droves. Yatesey the two for 26-14 - then adding a cheeky two-pointer from a penalty on the 40 metre line to cap a quite stunning victory that leaves the busted Bulls staring at the trapdoor to League 1.

More importantly, it leaves Bradford six and a half wins behind Hornets in the league table.

In the wash-up, this was a great win. All the talk in the week was about Toovey and how Bradford could get to zero. But on this performance, you'd be hard pushed to tell which of these sides used to be world club champions. Hornets were resolute on defence and patient on attack - and seeing Danny Yates walk an increasingly crestfallen Bulls round the field with an imperious display of controlled kicking was a delight.

In his post-match interview,. Geoff Toovey bemoaned his side's "... bad luck and biscuit tackling..." as reasons for the defeat. Given that Bulls cashed-up owner Andrew Chalmers spent most of the last hour of this game with his head in his hands, it looks like it'll be an interesting chat at Odsal on Monday morning.

Conversely, Hornets can start looking up with renewed confiidence.

And finally:  this result sent RL anoraks racing for the record books to check-out the last time Hornets did the double over Bradford. One journalist has it at 'over 50 years' - if anyone has details, please let us know.