Rochdale Hornets v Bradford Bulls
Sunday 18th June 2017, 15:00pm
Championship - Round: 18
Stats over last 3 encounters
As Round 18 sees Rochdale Hornets welcome Bradford Bulls to the Crown Oil Arena, it only feels like yesterday that Alan Kilshaw’s men were stepping off a coach in heavy snow at Odsal were they were about to make history.
It had been 46 years since a team in blue, white and red had made the trip to the Bulls’ stomping ground and left with a victory, and although they were top of the division the odds were stacked against the visitors.
Fresh off the back of a 46-0 opening day triumph over Dewsbury Rams they battled the conditions and a hostile home crowd of over 4,000 to get over the line and make the journey home with two points in the bag.
The snow hammered down and covered everything that was green in a sheet of white, as Hornets’ 18th man Jay Lobwein was reminded just how far he was from the beaches of his homeland Australia.
Gary Middlehurst, Gavin Bennion, Matty Hadden and the recently departed Samir Tahraoui all impressed in a game which was won in the middle, while Rob Massam’s tireless work in the middle when his team mates needed it didn’t go unnoticed.
Tries from Miles Greenwood, Tahraoui and Danny Bridge, along with five goals from Lewis Palfrey sealed a 22-14 victory and kept Rochdale top of the pile after two rounds.
Since then there have been plenty of highs and lows for both clubs, with Hornets currently sat in eighth place in the league table on nine points, while Bradford have managed to claw back 10 of the 12 points they were deducted at the start of the year.
That leaves them on minus two points and bottom of the pile, and they go into this return fixture off the back of a seventh straight defeat, the latest of which was at the hands of Featherstone Rovers in 36-12 reverse.
A depleted Rochdale side went to France a day earlier as six debutants, four of which were on dual registration from Warrington Wolves, featured in a 56-16 loss to Toulouse Olympique who sit second in the table.
They will be boosted by the return of a number of senior players this week though as they kick-off a crucial period of the season with just six games left.
Jono Smith, Ryan Maneely, Jo Taira, Gary Middlehurst and Lee Mitchell could all return, while Declan Kay and Lewis Hatton could retain their place after impressing in France.
Anthony Walker could be in line to make his debut however Miles Greenwood, Chris Riley and Lewis Palfrey are all doubtful for Sunday’s encounter, with the trio being assessed during the week.
Hornets have a chance to finish the first stage of the season strong as they aim to secure their place inside the top eight, and they will be hoping that starts when the Bulls visit on Sunday.