Monday, 24 July 2017

Class Action

Oldham 24 - Hornets 34

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. At the end of this pressure-cooker derby at Bower Fold it was clear to see, as the Hornets players celebrated a gritty win with their noisy supporters as Scott Naylor sat stone-faced in the back of the stand, visibly gutted by his side’s inability to reel-in a punchy, fluid Hornets who led this contest from the 3rd minute to the last.

Bar a short-lived fightback in the ten minutes either side of half-time - Hornets were by some distance the better side, playing most of the football on offer and putting in some impressive goal-line defence.

Hornets took no time in establishing their dominance: early pressure from Oldham took them close to the Hornets line, but when Hewitt threw a no-look cut-out pass, it was snaffled by Kev Penny who pinned back his ears and blasted fully 95 metres to score. Yatesey no mistake from bang in front and Hornets 0-6 up after just three minutes.

Oldham established a brief period of cursory resistance, but when Hornets drove deep into Roughyed territory on 12 minutes, Jono Smith produced an audacious reverse pass you could get an Arts Council grant for, to send the impressive Dec Kay in for a great try, Danny Yates good with the boot and Hornets up with the clock at 0-12.

Just two minutes later Hornets went back on the attack. This time going right off the back of two cheap Oldham penalties, only for the touchie to deem that Kev Penny had put his foot on the line. No matter.

Having stemmed a foray from Oldham’s walking anger-issue Tyson, Hornets took the ball up the heart of the Oldham defence where Ben Moores found a huge hole to carry the ball into open field. As Neild moved in to tackle, Mooresy dropped the ball onto his toe for Jake Eccleston to gather and score untouched. Danny Yates on target and Hornets 0-18 up with 20 minutes gone. Oldham a ragged mess.

On the half hour, Oldham found their range - on a rare attack, they sent big-lad Smith rumbling in off a short-ball from two metres: Leatherbarrow the extras for 6-18.

Hornets wasted no time in going straight back on the attack, but when Josh Crowley was gang-bundled into touch, the game erupted into a flurry of pushes and punches. The only surprise was that it took this long. Having picked the bones out of it, Mr Hewer dispatched Ben Moores and Tyson for ten minutes. 

With the game now drenched in a downpour, Jake Ecclestone was blood-binned after a high shot, but it was the returning Tyson’s acting skills that drew a penalty from Mr. Hewer. With the half ebbing away, OIdham finally applied some pressure - Ward knocking on over the line when it looked easier to score. The home side did snatch a fortuitous try when a Leatherbarrow bomb landed amongst a tangle of chasers; Clay playing to the whistle to touch down. Leatherbarrow the two and - somehow - Oldham back in the game at 12-18 having played virtually no football at all.

Indeed, they reverted to type immediately, dropping the kick-off possession, then coughing a really cheap, petulant penalty in front for Danny Yates to give Hornets a chink of daylight at the break: half time, 12-20.

It was always likely that Oldham would start the second half with purpose and, within three minutes, they kept the ball alive well in front of a stretched Hornets defence, Hewitt finding the hole to score. Leatherbarrow the two and at 18-20 we suddenly had a game on our hands.

Hornets response was direct, handed the opportunity after Ward had knocked on first tackle after playing the ball incorrectly. Hornets went swiftly left, but Lewis Galbraith did exactly the same to let Oldham off the hook. 

Hornets continued to press hard, Oldham’s best response was to wipe-out playmaker Danny Yates in back-play. but while the home side were looking there, Lewis Foster hoisted a teasing pinpoint bomb into the in-goal where Williams folded under pressure from Kev Penny and Jordan Case dived in to get a hand on the ball: 18-24.

Hornets turned the screw. First forcing a drop-out, then the ball slipping agonisingly from Ant Walker’s grip as he reached out to score. Oldham played their get-out of jail card and set off downfield where they camped on Hornets’ 10m line for three consecutive sets. Hornets defence unyielding, Oldham ending an 18-tackle barrage by flinging a loose pass into touch. Lovely stuff.

On the hour mark came two moments that broke the back of the game: firstly Chris Riley imperious under a steepling bomb, then - 90 seconds later - Ant Walker orchestrating a slick interchange of passes for Dec Kay to ghost-in for his second try of the afternoon. No mistake from Danny Yates; 18-30.

Oldham had one last hurrah in them: Leatherbarrow sliding a grubber into the in-goal for Tyson to score a very angry try. Leatherbarrow adding the two to close the gap to 24-30.

Unfazed, Hornets went straight up the other end, stretched the Oldham defence to breaking point and slotted Kev Penny in by the flag on a huge overlap. 24-34.

There was still time for Mr Hewer to strike off what would have been Dec Kay’s hat-trick after Chris Riley’s pass was deemed forward, but in the wash-up this was a deserved win for a never-say die Hornets who played eye-catching football at every opportunity.

Elsewhere, in-form Dewsbury overcame Sheffield to grab 8th place by a point, leaving Hornets facing three home games and four away games in the 8s. Conflictingly, a choking Toulouse failed to make the middle 8, so Hornets will have to travel - again - to the South of France looking to get a result.

From here on in this competition becomes a game of arithmetic. Swinton’s win at 12-man Bradford means that - with 14 points on offer - the Bulls cannot now catch Hornets. And the +102 points difference over Oldham is a handy contingency. 

You have to feel that, with a few ‘regulars’ back in the line-up, Hornets have more improvement in them for the run-in. And with two derby wins over our local rivals inside a month, the next seven games should be very interesting indeed.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Sunday's Coming: Oldham

The headline in the Oldham Chronicle tells you everything you need to know about Oldham, petulantly screaming “Oldham focus on revenge mission”.

In an article dripping with chippy negativity, the Chronic goes on to bemoan: Oldham not finishing higher than last season’s third bottom, ‘avenging’ their defeat at Blackpool and failing to beat Hornets in three attempts this year thus far. Then it goes on to contemplate relegation - cheerful stuff.

Indeed, this has been a season book-ended by unfortunate issues emanating from the wrong end of the A627M. The Law Cup remembered for George Tyson’s rush of blood to the fists as he threw punches during the post-match handshakes, all the way through to their serious accusations against Lewis Galbraith that couldn’t be substantiated.

As it is, it’s looking likely that Oldham will end the regular season below Hornets - they are only two points adrift, but would need an 82 point swing to scramble above us.

Like most clubs in our positions, the queue for the Oldham treatment room gives round the block at this time of the season, The Chronicle reporting fresh injuries to George Tyson (knee), Matty Wilkinson (calf) and Scott Leatherbarrow (calf)last Sunday; Danny Langtree (bicep), Liam Thompson (sternum) and Kameron Pearce-Paul (sternum) carrying longer-term knocks; and Scott Turner, Phil Joy and Richard Lepori out for the season. What was Turner’s third concussion could potentially end his career; Lepori requires an operation on his damaged ankle. There will also be unspecified ‘updates’ on Gareth Owen, Jack Spencer, Adam Neal and Craig Briscoe.

Scott Naylor has this week added Wakefield Trinity full-back Luke Hooley to his depleted squad for the remainder of the season.  Whilst only 19 years old, Hooley has already been signed at Bradford Bulls, released to Wakefield Trinity and punted out on loan to Dewsbury (for whom he played in their win over Oldham - awks!). But he’s unlikely to make the side on Sunday due to an existing knee problem.

Loan deals with London Broncos’ Sadiq Adebiyi and Kameron Pearce-Paul plus Salford’s Liam Bent and Connor Williams have also been rubber-stamped for the rest of the season.

Last week, Oldham led Sheffield 12-10,after half an hour, but then went on to ship 28 unanswered points (five tries) in the 10 minutes either side of half-time, eventually crashing by 42-28 in front of just 329 people (how do Sheffield survive on crowds like that?).

Naylor’s analysis? “Our fringes struggled massively and we made Menzie Yere and Garry Lo look like world-beaters… (We’ll) need to be better defensively against Rochdale.”

However it pans out on Sunday - barring a freak result - Naylor will lead his side into an 8s where his side will face four away games. But for Hornets the door remains open to snatch the all important 8th place and the prospect not only of four home games, but - if Toulouse follow form and choke v Fev on Saturday - of dodging yet another trip to the South of France.

Regardless of their result, Toulouse will miss the cut if in-form Halifax beat a late-twitchy Hull KR.

The permutations for Hornets are pretty straightforward: a win of any shade whatsoever and Dewsbury to lose or draw at home to Sheffield and we take 8th (Dewsbury have a point more, but a points difference of 125 worse than Hornets).

So that’s it. Nothibgf less than a win will do. Given the way previous games v Oldham have e gone this season, this one promises to be another spicy, heart-stopping no-holds barred battle. And while Oldham have nothing to lose and nothing to gain except this week’s bragging rights, the 80 minutes at Bower Fold on Sunday will shape the remainder of our season.

You wouldn’t usually need motivating to get along to an A627M El Clasico - but this one promises to be special. Come on you Hornets - let’s ‘ave it.