1st September 2017, 16:59
HORNETS LOOKING FOR A RESPONSE AGAINST SWINTON
If Rochdale Hornets thought Monday’s derby with Oldham was crucial, it is nothing compared to this Sunday’s clash with local rivals Swinton Lions.
Going into the game just one point separates the three Greater Manchester clubs, as the Bank Holiday produced one of the most dramatic rounds of the current Championship campaign.
The Hornets went into the fourth round of the Championship Shield three points ahead of the drop zone, and a victory over the Roughyeds would have distanced themselves from the relegation scrap.
Swinton headed into the bank holiday with a tough trip to Dewsbury Rams, the form team of the competition, and weren’t given a chance of breaking the Yorkshire club’s winning run.
Everything went against Alan Kilshaw’s men though, as his opposite number Scott Naylor claimed his first win of the season over the Hornets and the Lions claimed a shock victory away from home.
It was a back-and-forth first half at the Crown Oil Arena, as Chris Riley and Jake Eccleston replied to tries from Joe Burke and Luke Adamson, before Adam Clay crossed against 12 men as Lewis Galbraith was sin binned.
The centre was judged to have tripped the breakaway Luke Hooley, and subsequently sat out the final 10 minutes of the first period, with Oldham leading 18-8 at the break.
Hornets dominated the opening exchanges in the second period, as Ryan Maneely snuck over from dummy half to put the hosts within six points.
They then had sustained pressure on the Oldham line, but a combination of stubborn defence, lack of ideas and poor handling saw them come away without any points.
When Burke crossed up the other end it was a killer blow to their chances, until Rob Massam barged over in the corner to ignite hope of a comeback.
An unforgiveable Lee Mitchell knock on was punished in the next set, as Hooley touched down under the sticks, with Jo Taira grabbing a consolation just before the hooter signalled a 30-24 defeat.
With Swinton picking up a 35-28 triumph over Dewsbury it closed the gap between the three clubs to one point.
Now, the Lions and Hornets go head-to-head in possibly the most important game of the Championship season to date.
With both sides picking up a win each in their previous meetings this year it has set up a tense and intriguing encounter.
Rochdale were left heartbroken by their opponents on Easter Monday, as Chris Atkin’s drop-goal was the difference in a 23-22 loss at Heywood Road.
More recently, the two met at The Crown Oil Arena in Round 21 where the Hornets gained revenge in a victory head coach Kilshaw described as the most courageous in his time at the club.
They came out on top 33-28 in a dramatic encounter, with a late Massam try sealing the win, despite Atkin’s best efforts to snatch another win in his final game for Swinton, as he has since moved to Hull KR.
Danny Yates, Maneely, Josh Crowley, Eccleston and Jono Smith were also on the scoresheet, with Lewis Foster knocking over the one pointer.
Hornets face more injury woes ahead of their latest derby clash, as Smith and Gary Middlehurst have both been ruled out for the season, with the former picking up a second concussion in three weeks and the latter suffering a broken thumb.
Massam will also miss the remaining three games despite making his return from injury on Monday, as he takes time away for his wedding and honeymoon.
They should be boosted by Crowley and Foster returning to the squad though, with Ben Moores serving suspended for the remainder of the season.