Swinton Lions host Rochdale Hornets in the third round of the Betfred Championship Shield.
Swinton Lions welcome local rivals Rochdale Hornets in what could prove to be a crucial week for the futures of both clubs in the Betfred Championship.
Both sides have been cut adrift from the teams above them in the table, the gap currently standing at seven points between the Lions and Barrow Raiders who occupy sixth place.
It is still mathematically possible for both sides to escape the relegation zone but this relies on a run of victories plus results elsewhere to go their way. Defeat for either side could see them all but relegated to League 1 for the 2019 season.
Stuart Littler’s men looked impressive in the first half against Sheffield Eagles leading 14-4, however a strong second-half performance from the visitors saw the Lions on the wrong end of a 28-16 scoreline at full-time.
The Hornets, despite being without a win since beating the Lions in July, impressed against full-time outfit Featherstone Rovers last week before succumbing to a 33-24 defeat at the Crown Oil Arena.
An opportunistic try from Warrington Wolves dual-registration player Morgan Smith snatched a dramatic win for Hornets with just one minute left on the clock and condemned the Lions to yet another defeat in a game that was a must win in many people’s eyes.
The Lions started brightly and opened the scoring in only the second minute when George Tyson went through a huge gap to score on the left and Chris Hankinson added the conversion.
Three minutes later Jack Hansen kicked a forty-twenty and from the pressure on the line the ball moved swiftly left for Joe Brown to score in the corner and Hankinson was again on target.
In response to going behind Seta Tala hit back for Hornets on twelve minutes after a Lions handling error and Smith landed the conversion, but then the Lions increased the lead again with a Hankinson penalty after Jack Hansen was hit late in the tackle.
Hankinson was again on target when he landed another penalty at the midway point of the half after Kyle Shelford was obstructed, but the Hornets hit back again when Richard Lepori scored in the corner after a good passing movement. Smith missing his shot from the touchline.
The cool and calm Hankinson then added yet another penalty goal after Joe Taira’s late hit on Shelford and it was the villain himself who put Hornets back in it just before the break with a try by the posts that Smith converted.
It was the Lions who scored first again in the second half when Hankinson kicked yet another penalty in the forty-seventh minute and the Aaron Hall was twice held up over the line in the same set of six.
Hankinson then missed a penalty wide out on the right on sixty-four minutes but from the twenty metre drop out there was good pressure on the Hornets line and Jack Hansen put a kick to the line and Paddy Jones was fastest to react and score by the posts with Hankinson converting yet again.
Rochdale then started to turn the screw ten points down with five minutes to go and Warrington’s George King forced his way over by the posts with Smith converting to bring them within four of the Lions.
Then came the winning try with one minute left and the Lions on the attack and on the last tackle, Hankinson was trying to kick the ball into touch to wind down the clock but the ball hit the oncoming Smith and it cannoned towards the try line with the Hornets man chasing it. Smith beat Gabriel Fell in a foot race with Gabriel Fell and the ball bounced up nicely for Smith to gather and score by the posts and also tag on the goal points with just seconds left to give the home side an unexpected victory.
Ian Rigg reporting from the Crown Oil Arena (08/07/18)
Stuart Littler spoke to LionsTV’s Josh McAllister after his side’s defeat to Sheffield Eagles at Heywood Road.
“It was a poor start to the second half. We spoke about completing sets, Sheffield being down a man and how we wanted to start. The first set I though we started well, starting in their twenty. They only started two sets in the second half in their own twenty. I think that tells a stoty in itself and we were under the pump.
“We asked for desire, we asked for hunger, togetherness and enthusiasm. Sheffield had more than us in the second half. I don’t think they changed the game plan too much, they tried tightening it up to be fair till they got back to thirteen men on the field. They did show desire though to put a dent in our line. They showed aggression, togetherness and we were lacking in that department.
“In the first half we asked for reaction from last week. I was really happy to go in 14 points to four. I thought our defence was outstanding and I commended the boys on it at half-time on the pressure from our defence because we had to do so much. We were completing at 42% at one stage. We got it back up with a couple of completions towards the backend of the half to 50%.
“We spoke at half-time about ball control and doing the right things. We just went away from it in the second half, we then chasing the game. There was more reaction from ourselves on the touchline or in the stands saying “pat the scrum down” than there is from the boys on the pitch.
“We need some urgency and desire. We are in a fight here and we don’t know what’s going to happen with this league structure as it is. We can still mathematically get out on our own points if we had won last week and this week but I just don’t think it hurts enough at times. I think we are kidding ourselves sometimes. Were at the bottom end for a reason, we haven’t nailed our stuff all season but it’s becoming consistent now and people are not learning so there’s going to have to be changes.
“We’ll have a good luck at Rochdale who’ve pushed Featherstone close today. A good effort from them and just pipped at the end. We need to get a win, it’s a local derby and we need a reaction. Again I’m repeating myself to you. I don’t know what else I can say, I’m coming out and saying the same thing week after week. It has to sink in or we need some new personnel at some point.”
Will Hope returns after several weeks out after a shoulder injury whilst veteran Paul Wood is back after missing the game against Sheffield. Josh Woods joins up with the squad again on dual-registration from Wigan Warriors.
Craig Mullen and Macauley Davies are still out injured whilst Josh Barlow misses out with an ankle knock.
LIONS SQUAD TO FACE HORNETS: Ben Austin,Andy Bracek,Joe Brown,Mike Butt, Rob Fairclough, Josh Ganson, Aaron Hall, Hayden Hansen, Jack Hansen, Will Hope, Paddy Jones, Rhodri Lloyd, Kyle Shelford,Andy Thornley, George Tyson, Luke Waterworth,Josh Woods, Paul Wood, Chris Worrall.
HORNETS SQUAD TO FACE LIONS: Rob Massam, Morgan Smith, Danny Yates, Joe Taira, Ben Moores, Joe Ryan, Toby Adamson, Luke Adamson, Tyler Whittaker, Lewis Hatton, Pat Moran, Billy Brickhill, Lee Mitchell, Richard Lepori, Dec Gregory, Seta Tala, Jack Fox, Ryan Millington, Deon Cross.
REFEREE: J. Smith TOUCH JUDGES: P. Marklove, D. Sharpe