Friday, 23 February 2018

Sunday's Coming: Halifax

Sunday sees surrogate derby rivals Halifax make the trip over the tops.

Having lost at Fev in round one, followed by a thrashing of Sheffield in round two, Halifax come into Sunday’s game on the back of last week's gruelling battle with the Championship’s ‘Harlem Globetrotters’/WWF-style poseurs Manchestoronto Moosef*ckers (©Jerry Sadowitz 1991).

'Fax led 6-4 at the break and trailed just 12-6 going into the last 10 minutes, but they shipped two late Higson tries to flatter the visitors, who went some way to restoring their veneer of unconvincing invincibility.

Marshall blamed ‘errors’ for his side’s defeat, saying in the Halifax Courier this week: “It’s about controlling the ball a little bit better; we turned the ball over three or four times on tackle two… “We were creating chances, but not sealing the deal. We’ve got to get more composed.”

Indeed, from our point of view, Halifax focused well on ‘standing up’ to the brute-force aspect of Toronto’s game, but having done that, they kinda forgot to to try and play round them too. Toronto stayed patient, withstood the ‘grind’ and scored late, once ‘Fax had emptied the tank.

There was also a moment of controversy when winger Saltonstall was dumped dangerously in a horrific looking spear tackle, to which referee Jack Smith mislaid his backbone and waved only a yellow card at McCrone. On any other day - and with any other team - it was a nailed-on red.

But then no-one would want a repeat of the Barrow outcome, would they…

Richard Marshall has fine-tuned his squad this year, adding  Harry Kidd (University of Gloucestershire All Golds), Kian Morgan (Wakefield Trinity), Dan Fleming (Toronto)  and yet another Rugby League Fairbank in the shape of Halifax born Jack. Indeed,  Marshall has a first-team squad boasting 13 players from the town of Halifax. And we like that - a lot.

Marshall has also augmented his squad with Will Maher, Brandon Douglas and James Clare on loan/DR from Castleford (Clare has haunted us in the past, when he played on DR at York - no more so than the time they flogged us at Featherstone’s Post Office Rd).

Hornets’ preparation for Sunday was a harsh reality check from Dewsbury Rams. Having missed rounds 1 and 2, Killer’s side looked a bit undercooked in the first 40 minutes, but rallied to put in a much improved second-half performance.

It came at a price, though, with Ben Moore, Matty Hadden and Gaz Middlehurst picking up knocks in the process, to add injuries to insult in this shocking start to 2018.

But if strength comes from adversity, then Hornets should be throroughly annealed by now - and we’ll need all the physical and mental toughness we can muster over the next few testing weeks.

A more immediate concern, though is meteorological. Weather experts predicting plummeting temperatures as we head for a forecast record-testing cold snap. Pray for sunshine - and we’ll see you Sunday.

Monday, 19 February 2018

I don't like Mondays

Hornets 6 - Dewsbury 38

After a fortnight of frustration, Hornets finally got 2018 underway with a Monday night performance that bore all the hallmarks of having not played for a month.

In a first 40 minutes of missed tackles, misfired passes, mistimed runs, and frankly miserable handling, a fit and firing Dewsbury raced into an unassailable lead, leaving a punch-drunk Hornets reeling by 0-32 at the break.

Dewsbury laid their stall out early doors, forcing a drop-out first set, then going wide to Worrincy, only to be pulled for a forward pass.

On 7 minutes Gary Middlehurst was snagged for interference at a tackle and, in the following set, Morton out-sprang debutant Deon Cross to open the scoring.

Hornets were still struggling to settle: Lewis Palfrey and Earl Hurst both snatching at passes, the latter gathered by Glover who strolled 30 metres to score. Sykes with the extras and Dewsbury 0-10 to the good.

Just three minutes later saw an almost carbon copy error: this time Dec Kay was relieved of the ball after a lazy Dewsbury kick downfield, and Worrincy bullied his way to the line. No mistake from Sykes and the Rams chasing the clock at 0-16.

Hornets continued to sputter: Hurst again coughing the ball in the tackle, then Middleurst coming up with a high shot to ship a penalty. Thankfully, Dewsbury threw a ridiculous forward pass to relieve the pressure: briefly.

On 25 minutes Joe Taira’s impact was considered a little too robust. A brief flurry of handbags and Gary Middlehurst dispatched to the sin-bin: cause unclear.

On the half hour, Hornets finally go to play some football in the Dewsbury 20m zone: Danny Yates’ kick just beyond the reach of Rob Massam. On the next foray into Dewsbury territory, they went to the same spot with the same plan - yielding the same outcome.

On 33 minutes Hornets were penalised for not being square at the play-the-ball, 90 seconds after Dewsbury had committed the same offence with no punishment. Poor.

Dewsbury gratefully received possession, Knowles jabbed a kick into the in-goal and Brown touched down through a static defence.

And if that wasn’t enough, Worrincy’s 90 metre kick return to score on the hooter put the lid on a singularly difficult first half in which Hornets shipped 32 unanswered points.

The second half was a very different proposition, Hornets finally finding their feet to staunch the flow of points. Unlike the first forty, Hornets were quick off the line, aggressive in the tackle and drew Dewsbury into a real arm wrestle.

For 20 minutes Dewsbury plugged away at the Hornets defence - unlocked eventually on the hour when Guzdek hit a Sykes miracle-ball at pace to score from 40 metres. Sykes the two for 0-38.

Hornets’ response was pretty immediate. A direct approach-set and Luke Adamson racing under the black-dot from a neat short pass. Livett added the two - and the arm wrestle resumed.

It’s fair to say that - beyond exchanging sets - not a great deal of any import happened from there on in. The ‘highlight’ of the last 20 minutes being Sykes’ piss-taking attempt at a drop goal.

After such a shocking opening half, it was heartening to see Hornets regroup to draw the second half 6-all. With a few players carrying bumps - and a few still out with injuries - Hornets are doing it tough at the moment. But there’s a long way to go.

As D-ream said: things can only get better. Here’s hoping.