Hor­nets suf­fer nar­row de­feat

Middleton Guardian - - LEISURE - RUGBY LEAGUE CHAM­PI­ONSHIP

ROCHDALE Hor­nets suf­fered an ag­o­nis­ingly nar­row de­feat to Toronto Wolf­pack as they came up short at the Crown Oil Arena.

A lot of the Hor­nets men had gone into the game off the back of a day’s work, fin­ish­ing their day job at 5pm ready for a 7:45pm kick-off.

Rochdale wel­comed back cap­tain Luke Adam­son, while Mor­gan Smith made his de­but on du­al­reg­is­tra­tion from War­ring­ton Wolves, re­plac­ing Danny Yates in the halves.

Hor­nets started in the best pos­si­ble way, as Billy Brick­hill bat­ted back a short kick-off to Gary Mid­dle­hurst be­fore Lewis Pal­frey’s cross-field bomb was dropped by Liam Kay into Earl Hurst’s path.

The cen­tre mus­cled his way over for a con­verted score with just two min­utes on the clock.

Richard Whit­ing en­tered the field from the bench as Gary Wheeler was forced off in­jured shortly af­ter, and his first in­volve­ment led to the Wolf­pack’s re­sponse. On nine min­utes, he climbed high­est to a Ryan Bri­er­ley kick to send over Kay, mak­ing it 6-6.

Some de­ter­mined de­fence from the hosts saw them keep the visi­tors at bay, be­fore they hit the front again half­way through the first pe­riod. Hor­nets’ se­cond try was cre­ated by Smith, as his per­fectly weighted short pass to Mid­dle­hurst put the back­rower over the try line.

Pal­frey was on tar­get again, and Hor­nets had a 12-6 lead.

Rob Mas­sam came up with a cou­ple of key plays, forc­ing er­rors from Quentin Laulu-To­gaga’e be­fore Deon Cross knocked Kay into touch to save a cer­tain try. An­other out­stand­ing ef­fort came soon af­ter, with Smith haul­ing down Jack Bussey with the try line beck­on­ing, be­fore a great scram­ble on the next tackle kept the Rochdale line in­tact.

The half-time hooter sounded with Toronto in pos­ses­sion, as Kil­shaw’s side took a six point ad­van­tage into the sheds.

Rochdale were in dream­land 10 min­utes into the se­cond pe­riod, as Pal­frey’s cross-field kick was taken one-handed by Mas­sam, with the winger fin­ish­ing su­perbly amid wild cel­e­bra­tions. The score was un­con­verted, and at 16-6 an up­set was in the air.

Toronto needed a re­sponse, and got one three min­utes late as Josh McCrone dum­mied over from close range, mo­ments af­ter debu­tant Gareth O’Brien was held up over the line.

In­side the fi­nal quar­ter of the game a punch-up saw three men sin­binned, as Wolf­pack winger Kay and full­back O’Brien were yel­low carded. Pal­frey was also asked to leave the field for 10 min­utes, much to the be­muse­ment of the home bench.

De­spite hav­ing two peo­ple sin­binned, the penalty went Toronto’s way and they cap­i­talised as Reni Maitua barged over from close range. Bri­er­ley slipped at­tempt­ing to con­vert, mean­ing the scores were level at 16-all with 15 min­utes re­main­ing.

Hor­nets ral­lied, as Cross came up with a great break that drew a penalty, and from the re­sult­ing set Smith knocked over a field goal to nudge his side a point in front on 68 min­utes.

When Mas­sam bull­dozed his way down the left edge it looked like that lead would be ex­tended, but he ig­nored sup­port on the in­side be­fore be­ing forced into touch. Up the other end of the field con­tro­versy turned the tide, as it looked as though an in­cred­i­ble scram­bling ef­fort from the Rochdale de­fence had kept them ahead, only for the touch judge to en­ter the field of play.

He claimed to have seen an of­fence, and with the ref­eree sig­nalling off­side Bri­er­ley knocked over a rou­tine penalty goal to give the away side their first lead of the night eight min­utes from time.

There was still time for more drama, as a tackle off the ball gave Hor­nets a penalty of their own, and with Pal­frey opt­ing to go from goal on half­way he had a chance to win the game mo­ments af­ter miss­ing a drop-goal at­tempt.

It was way short though, and de­spite throw­ing the kitchen sink at Toronto for the re­main­der of the game they couldn’t find a late win­ner.

Jackie Mered­ith

Hor­nets De­clan Kay voted man of the match

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