Sunday, 31 August 2014

Hornets Hit Hard by 'Haven's Rec-ing ball

Whitehaven 48 - Hornets 12

The Recreation Ground isn't the happiest of hunting grounds for Hornets. In 40 years I can count wins up there pretty much on one hand.

So maybe I shouldn't have been surprised that, by the time Chris Baines boomed in for two tries in two minutes, somewhere around the 70 minute mark, the vast majority of Whitehaven's damage had already been done. Leading 42-nil at the time, 'Haven had put in an impressive shift of high-tempo, well-drilled, focused football that Hornets struggled to cope with from the off.

There was a threat the first time the home side carried the ball -  ruthlessely direct as Parker embarked on the first of a relentless series of bullocking runs through Hornets' right centre channel. Hornets held-out, but a minute later Parker repeated the plan, powering into space to give Thorman a walk-in. Seyomour the extras; 6-nil.

It was Parker again on 6 minutes, this time using Thorman as a foil, stepping through some very ordinary tackling to score. Seymour the two for 12-nil. Not yet ten-past three and it felt like it was going to be a long afternoon.

Hornets did, briefly, get to try and play in Haven's half: a Crooky bomb knocked on in the in-goal; a passage of panic football sending the last pass to ground.

Urged on by the baying home crowd, referee Leatherbarrow chose a play the ball at random to snag Hornets for offside. A minute later, Hand was scooting in under the black dot from close range off a soft last-tackle sucker-pass. Seymour good with the boot; Haven back up with the clock at 18-nil; Hornets just looking lost.

On the quarter mark, a moment of lackadaisical defence that had the sparse Hornets following raising eyebrows skyward. Burns seemingly going nowhere on the last tackle somehow managed to ground the ball whilst attended by four defenders. Just awful. Seymour the two, 24-nil.

Hornets were under the cosh again 90 seconds later. A soft penalty for a high tackle swept Whitehaven downfield, then a penalty of indeterminate origin (no signal from the ref, but we suspect interference), then Thorman strolling through to score by the posts. Too easy. 30-nil wth the conversion - and Hornets in all sorts of trouble.

And when you're swimming against the tide, things don't tend to go your way. On the half hour a 'Haven player knocked-down a Wayne English pass, but Mr Leatherbarrow gave the home side the feed. An awful decision. Hornets then tackled Parker without the ball to concede a penalty - but the resulting try was struck-off for obstruction. It didn't feel much like relief.

Hornets ended the half with a neat break up the left by Lewis Sheridan and Shaun Robinson, but Liam Gilchrist put a simple pass down under no pressure. Then Stuart Littler uncharacteristically fumbled a Ryan Millard pass. The hooter couldn't come soon enough. Half-time 30-nil.

Hornets began the second half looking more the part, with a period of concerted pressure. A huge bust from Joe Greenwood rent the home defence asunder, but the white jerseys gathered to halt any further progress; Shaun Robinson was adjudged to have knocked-on as he reached out to score; a big Wayne English cut-out pass bounced teasingly from Gaz Langley's outstretched hands. For ten minutes Hornets pressed and probed, but couldn't crack the home defence.

Conversely, at the other end of the field, a dubious penalty off a crunching hit by John Cookson gave 'Haven good field position. They elected to kick for goal. 32-nil to the sound of 756 people snoring.

The locals were roused from their torpor just two minutes later: a big break by the impressive Doran sent Burns in by the flag. 34-nil.

As the hour clicked round hawk-eyed Gaz Langley went for the intercept, but the ball slithered from his grasp to gift 'Haven a repeat set. This time the Hornets defence held-firm. But just two minutes later, Whitehaven produced a really neat interchange of basketball-style passing for Crellin to finish in syle. Seymour from in front; 42-nil.

Hornets finally clicked with just ten minutes remaining. Chris Baines steaming in off some good approach-work; then a great break by Shaun Robinson and Wayne English for Bainsey to score from 40 metres. Crooky good with both conversions, 42-12.

Normal service was resumed almost immediately. Another darting Doran break, this time Newton the beneficiary, scoring under the posts. Seymour the conversion and - mercifully - the hooter at 48-12.

Whilst we always try to look for the positives, there were precious few here. Yes, the second half had all the appearance of a contest, but the damage was done in a first quarter where Hornets chased shadows. From our point of view, Hornets lacked two key elements, a leader and an attack-dog - a player who gives you that bit of unpredictable 'mongrel' that unsettles the opposition. Indeed, whilst we're usually loath to praise any opposition players here, Lee Doran led his side superbly and 'Haven full-back Shaun Ainscough backed his mad-eyed mongrel act with some impressively decisive, incisive running.

As for Hornets, we look like a team limping towards the end of a long, hard season. But it's been an education for all of us. Maybe that's the lasting positive?

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.