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There is much talk amongst coaches in the eight that the next seven weeks is effectively a series of cup-finals - and, with the 8s fundamentally becoming a zero-sum exercise, every point is going to count.
Speaking in the Dewsbury reporter, Rams coach Neil Kelly boiled down the impact he’s had since he joined the rams.
“… we’ve already got more points this season than the whole of last year. If the season started with Batley at home, which was my first game, we’ve got more points in 15 games than the whole season last year. We are not mathematically safe, but if we don’t win a game in the eights – and I’d hope that won’t happen – Oldham have to win three to climb above us.”
“If we win one, they have to win four. That seems a bit unrealistic. “We realise the job is not done, but I have given the players this week off because their efforts up to now have been superb.”
Having lost their first eight games straight, Kelly’s Rams won 8 of their last 15, ending the regular season with five wins from their last six games to scramble over Hornets into 8th place. It’s an incredible transformation.
With his eyes on a Shield top four finish, Kelly was busy ahead of the deadline, adding former Oldham and Sheffield Eagles utility Tommy Ashton (whose time at Bower Fold was curtailed by a knee injury), former Featherstone and Sheffield second-rower Michael Knowles (17 starts for Fev this year) and French International utility forward Mickaël Goudemand. Ashton and Goudemand are on deals for the remainder of this season, Knowles until the end of 2018.
Games against the Rams this season have been pretty polarised in their outcomes. Having handed ‘old’ Dewsbury a 46-nil flogging in the opening game, the ‘new improved’ Rams reciprocated with a 40-10 win at the Tetley Stadium in July, orchestrated by half back partnership Paul Sykes and Gareth Moore.
As everyone does at this stage of the season, we started to do some complex maths to try and work out potential permutations and possible outcomes over the next few weeks.
With 7 games/14 points to play for:
Bradford have 0 pts: maximum possible = 14
Oldham have 11pts: maximum possible = 25
Swinton have 12pts: maximum possible = 26
Hornets have 15pts: maximum possible = 29
Dewsbury have 16pts: maximum possible = 30
Already, Bradford can’t catch Hornets, effectively leaving four clubs avoiding one relegation place. If Hornets were to win at Dewsbury (17pts) and Oldham were to lose at Sheffield (11pts), Oldham would need to win four of their remaining six games to overhaul Hornets. They’ve only won five of their previous 23. Hornets also have a +102 points difference advantage over Oldham. A draw on Sunday would haul Hornets back into 8th place (Dewsbury having a -125 points difference deficit on Hornets).
Having crunched the numbers, though, we boiled it down to one basic view: if Hornets match - or better - Swinton and Oldham’s results, we stay up.
The other games this weekend are:
Batley v Swinton
Bradford v Toulouse
Sheffield v Oldham
This really is crunch-time: as everyone says, a series of cup-finals. Last time out at Dewsbury the Hornets fans were superb. Now we need a cup-final effort. Get yourself over to Dewsbury on Sunday and get behind the lads. The 18th man has never been this crucial. See you there.