Rochdale Hornets 17-18 Toronto Wolfpack
Friday 23rd March 2018, 19:45pm
Championship - Round: 7
Earl Hurst, Gary Middlehurst, Rob Massam,
Lewis Palfrey 2,
Liam Kay, Josh McCrone, Reni Maitua,
Ryan Brierley 3,
HERCULEAN HORNETS DEALT CRUEL BLOW
In Alan Kilshaw’s post-match assessment of Rochdale Hornets’ agonising defeat to Toronto Wolfpack he admitted that he may have lied to his players before the game.
It was unintentional of course, as he was referring to the fact he had told the 17 who stepped out onto the Crown Oil Arena pitch on Friday evening that their ‘efforts would get what they deserve’.
That was in fact untrue, as their performance deserved a victory only for a late penalty to snatch a famous giant-killing from under their nose.
It was a cruel ending to a herculean performance, which saw a side full of part-time players outclass a Canadian outfit with an abundance of Super League and NRL experience.
A lot of the Hornets men had gone into the game off the back of a day’s work, finishing their day job a 5pm ready for a 7:45pm kick-off.
That didn’t affect their performance though, as they left the field to a standing ovation knowing that they left everything on the field.
Their opponents knew they had been in a game too, as they were relieved to have snatched two points and avoid a shock defeat.
Rochdale welcomed back captain Luke Adamson, as he put in a captain’s display in the middle, while Morgan Smith made his debut on dual-registration from Warrington Wolves, replacing Danny Yates in the halves.
Pat Moran also returned, with Billy Brickhill handed his first start in the centres where he impressed throughout.
Hornets started in the best possible way, as 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.