18 Sep 2022
Ruthless Hornets surge into semi-finals
Rochdale Hornets progressed to the Betfred League 1 play-off semi-final, with a comfortable 36-20 victory over North Wales Crusaders.
Hornets were in fine form running in seven tries, at the Eirias Stadium, to move one step closer to the Betfred Championship.
In a must-win game, Gary Thornton’s side were right at it from the outset.
With less than two minutes on the clock, Ben Calland got the game’s first try after a well-worked move - down the short side - on the last tackle.
Then, four minutes later, Dan Nixon dived over in the left-hand corner after receiving a fine miss-pass from Gregg McNally.
Rochdale continued to threaten but it was Crusaders who struck next after Patrick Ah Van broke brilliantly off a scrum, to score on the right edge.
However, Hornets would strengthen their grip on the game minutes later with the ever-threatening Rangi Chase putting in Fenton Rogers for an emphatic score.
Thornton’s side would then assert their dominance in the final ten minutes of the half.
A superb dummy from McNally, to deceive the North Wales defence, would see the former Leigh Centurions man score his eighteenth try of the campaign.
This was followed by a second try for Nixon, with the final act of the half, the Left Wing racing in again from another classy assist from the skipper.
After a more evenly contested start to the second half, Hornets would get their sixth try on the 54-minute mark - courtesy of Connor Aspey.
The visitors took full advantage of a fresh set of six, with the hooker finishing brilliantly from dummy half to record his second try in as many games.
With clear daylight now between the two teams – at 28-6 – McNally would call for the kicking tee when Anthony Murray’s side strayed offside on the hour mark.
Cian Tyrer slotted the kick, and the lead would continue to grow some two minutes later when Warrington Wolves loanee Dan Brewin crossed the whitewash.
After receiving a short pass, from scrum half Kieran Rush, the second row initially fumbled the ball but would recover superbly to dive over the Crusaders’ line.
With their season now effectively over, Murray’s side began to throw caution to the wind and were rewarded with three tries in the final 15 minutes.
The first saw second row Gavin Rodden go over, off the back of successive Rochdale infringements, before Connor Parkinson took full advantage of a favourable bounce to score on the left wing.
Then, in the dying embers of the game, Matt Fletcher would carve through the Hornets defence on a great line to dot down.
But they were to be no more than consolation tries on what was very much the visitors’ day, whose impressive form under Thornton continues.
They march on to next week’s semi-final, where they will play either Swinton Lions or Doncaster.
Crusaders: Johnson, Ah Van, Morley-Samuels, Holmes, Parkinson, Billsborough, Briers; Barratt, Ashall, Hazzard, Rodden, Eckley, Fletcher.
Interchanges: Houghton, Brennan, Costello, Hall.
Tries: Ah Van (16’), Rodden (66’), Parkinson (75’), Fletcher (76’)
Goals: Johnson, 2/4
Hornets: McNally, Tyrer, Calland, Hitchcox, Nixon, Chase, Rush; Moimoi, Roden, Bennion, Brewin, Forster, Rogers.
Interchanges: Taira, Aspey, Killan, Worrincy.
Tries: Calland (2’), Nixon (6’, 40'), Rogers (24’), McNally (30’), Aspey (54’), Brewin (61’)
Goals: Tyrer, 4/8
Half time: 6-24
Referee: James Vella