The Dentist’s Diary – 578th

Houghton’s Heroes Battle to great win!!

‘The Spirit of 2016’, was back in abundance on Thursday!

Didn’t you just love that, isn’t it great to at last beat Leeds at the KCOM and what a drama packed match it took to attain it. Those of us who were there in that cauldron of an atmosphere, sitting perched on the edge of our seats and shaking at the end with the excitement and relief of it all, certainly got our money’s worth, in a game that had drama, controversy, brilliant rugby and stoic defence, in fact, everything we love about nights under the lights at the KCOM.

It was our first league victory over Leeds since 2014 and so intense was the drama that I was physically shaking in that last four minutes, and once the hooter had gone, I wanted to tell everyone I met about it and what’s more I was still buzzing way after midnight, which I guess is exactly how you want to feel after a game.

For the second home game running we won a close encounter with a Sneyd drop goal and hung on to win with some of the best goal line defence we have seen all season. If the first half was our best one so far in this campaign, the second saw us almost throw it away, however throughout the whole game that spirit and will to not give in was manifest right across the black and white ranks.

So after years and years of yearning for it, not only have we beaten Leeds in the league but at last after 5 home games we look as if we are actually starting to develop fortress KCOM. The atmosphere on Thursday was unbelievable at times. It was electric and intimidating and what’s more that great crowd witnessed a fantastic game which just about got us back on track in the League. Thursday proved that we are, when we get everyone fit and out there on the field, a bloody good team. I loved it and it re-ignited my belief and my season!

On Thursday the sun shone down, the temperature rose and after a day in the garden, I really looked forward to the game but perhaps for all the wrong reasons, because I found myself anticipating a game watched without shivering and one to which I would be able to go along and at last witness a game of summer rugby. However, with Leeds in town, the chances of making it 5 wins from the last 6 league matches was always going to be a big ask.

It was a fixture that I used to anticipate with relish, however not any more, as successive seasons of them turning up to play us when we were on song and at full strength and still leaving with the spoils, had made me more convinced than ever that they had the Indian sign over us and we were never going to bloody beat them!

I was looking forward to see some players back from injury and I knew what we were capable of, but I worried that actually we hadn’t really played well at all this season and the prolonged hangover from Australia both injury and form wise was starting to concern me a bit. We were on the back of a win at Widnes, but you’d hardly have called it a convincing one and so it was with a bit of concern and trepidation that I walked in the evening sunlight across West Park. Some will say that they were really confident, some people always do and I envy them, but based on what went before, were even they really so assured?

I hoped of course, I really did for what are we as fans without hope and with Manu, Mini and Hadley back in the back row, I wondered if we could prevail. I knew it was going to take the best performance of the season to even get close to them, but I just yearned for us to reproduce that great fighting spirit and togetherness, which got us such unlikely wins as we saw in 2016 and 2017. Little did I know that by 10-00pm all those hopes would be fulfilled and our season and my appetite for it would be back on track.

It was a great night and as the teams walked out, the tension, anticipation and atmosphere was better than it has been for ages, but we all knew the first quarter was to be critical, because that’s when Leeds have done us of late with early scores which try as we may, we just couldn’t get back. But with tenacity and fortitude we went set for set with the Loiners and should perhaps have made more of the early pressure we were able to exert in their half. However, two good tries engineered by Kelly saw us go in at half time 8-0 up, but little had changed in some quarters, as some unbelievable bloke a row in front of us, was whinging about Sneyd’s goal kicking. Even the league’s best kicker is allowed one off day, I thought, but there’s no pleasing some is there?

I said at half time, that it would still only take a minute lapse in concentration, for Leeds to be in front and we had to score first, but we did and then as we celebrated and sat back a bit in our seats, we were soon put back on the edge of them as a combination of some slap dash rugby from us, some baffling referee’s decisions from Mr Phaler and Leeds sniffing a win, soon saw us trailing. The tide of the game had turned against us, as a knowledgeable guy behind me said, “This is the point that it would be great to bring Ellis on to steady us down”. We certainly looked to be rocking a bit and we all knew that one more Leeds score would sink us.

However, cometh the moment cometh the man and with the Captain and vice-captain really leading from the front and by example, we did what good teams do and got back into it to draw level. Danny started running from acting half at a Leeds defence who looked to be struggling a bit after all the pressure they had been under in the first half, whilst Taylor simply ploughed up field with three or four Leeds players hanging on. We took the lead back with a beautiful executed kick, catch and pass move on the line which turned the tide back our way again, before Sneyd, always the player for the big moment, stepped up and under pressure from two chasing Leeds players, he coolly popped the ball through the posts.

Leeds were always going to come back in that second half but once back in front we hung on for the win. However, in the second half we had to ride the storm. In the past Hull FC teams would have folded when they saw a 14-point lead dissolve in a few disastrous minutes, but with Leeds leading by 4 points, we did what good teams do, we got back at them and beat them with a ‘single pointer’. All that, despite the fact that Sneyd had a very rare off day with the boot. That was going to happen one day and I guess in the bigger picture he couldn’t have chosen a worse game for the occurrence, but we battled on and got over it and so did he, so that in the end we over-came the odds, the Leeds hoodoo and indeed the officials to record a memorable win.

There are some great memories from the game and everyone will have one, but the sight of the ball sailing through the posts and every pair of hands in the South Stand shooting in the air as one, will stay with me for a long time.

There were so many good performances and although I still worry a bit about Shaul at present, as he got caught out of position a couple of times (particularly when Taylor had to brilliantly shepherded a Leeds kick over the dead ball line to get a twenty-meter restart rather than us conceding a drop out to hand the ball back to Leeds) he tried really hard and indeed everyone deserves credit. I want to give special mention to someone who the media and pundits in general passed over in their debriefings for some of the big names, because for me Hadley stood out as he ran the ball in well, grabbed lots of yards and linked and passed superbly in the line. He’s a great player and with Mini and Manu returning with him in the back row we look such a better team.

Seke dropped the ball early on, but that was the only mistake he made as he drove the ball up well, tackled relentlessly and grabbed the most yards from the Hull pack, whilst Mini looked back on it and caused Leeds so much concern when he had the ball. Up front, as I said, Taylor and Houghton were massive but Paea operating from the bench (and despite being withdrawn for a time for a head test), had perhaps his best game so far carrying the ball forward. Bowden had a better game I thought, Masi continues to impress and is the darling of a lot of the fans at present, whilst Jordan Lane, called into the 17 after Chris Green pulled up with a back injury in the Captains run, slotted in almost seamlessly again and doesn’t look out of place at all.

Good to have him back!

In the backs Talanoa has to be signed up again now (more of that later) and Burita although a tad suspect as he shot out of the line a time or two on defence, scored his try well and drove hard up the middle. Connor lacks a bit in stature, but makes up for it in his footwork and brilliant sleight of hand, whilst Griffin again looked great in the centre with ball in hand, but was moved into the pack as Carlos came on to shore up a left side defence that struggled in the first half to restrict the yardage gained by the Leeds right side attack.

Yes, Marc Sneyd had an off day with the boot, but otherwise he did OK for me. The man is a dynamo and although some of his efforts fell down he never stopped trying to get the line moving although at times too many drop off passes back inside, in attack near their line, were I guess a tad predictable. But, he’s the big game player and the man for the match winning moment, which he provided again on Thursday.

Incidentally while we are on Sneyd (and Kelly) I thought we saw some great field kicking from both sides as well. That was depicted I thought by those two targeted end of set kicks that had Briscoe bundled into touch at the start of the second half and that Leeds kick off after our drop goal, that forced us to take the ball into touch under pressure from the chasing Loiners. Good skills and hours of practise there, I expect!

But back to performances and then there was my man of the match Albert Kelly. Just shading Scott Taylor for me, there is a strong rumour that he has been given a deadline to accept or reject a massive offer we have made him, but carrying an injury on Thursday, he was back to his absolute best. While Radford was quick to acclaim his defensive qualities, they only shaded for a moment the amazing job he did in attack. First, it was a brilliantly weighted short ball for Jake Connor to cross and then a lovely dummy and drop-off followed to enable Bureta Faraimo to crash over. That crucial first try of the second half from Connor came from a great cut out Kelly pass and the final try that saw us draw level came on the end of a perfectly ‘flighted’ kick to the corner which went straight into Talanoa’s outstretched arms. So, all four tries came from Kelly’s inventive play making and it was a man of the match display for me from Albo. Our half backs stepped up on the night and between them won us the game; wouldn’t you just love it if we could keep Albert eh?

It was a good night to be at The KCOM, a pulsating atmosphere and a great win, but most of all it was thrilling and exciting and in the end we got home in what was a fantastic game for us all to be involved in. What a match and top stuff all round!

Sadly, and there always seems to be a sadly from this quarter, once again we did it despite rather than because of the refereeing. As my pal Neil said at the end, “Great win and Mr Phaler didn’t get his winning bonus either did he?” That ref. is notorious for letting the game flow until one team gets a foothold in front and then penalising the winning team ad infinitum. In the first half he let things flow as he allowed at least two suspect forward passes from us and about 6 from Leeds which was fine as long as it’s the same for both sides, but then once he got his knife into us he pinged Houghton for a forward pass that was no worse than the others. But he was looking for things by then and watching it back, how he didn’t penalise Ferris in that period I’ll never know, for he stepped off the mark so many times he could have been auditioning for River Dance.

I don’t mind if a referee decides to overlook indiscretions of a trivial nature in the name of letting the game flow, but if he does I don’t expect him to change his mind at some point later in the game to start penalising the winning team at every end and turn (I know we were our own worst enemy as well, but it was pretty obvious to me at least what was going on there) as for the Video referee, obstructions and all, well you know my view on that one! I’d get rid of the ‘try/no try’ stuff and in fact probably get rid of the video referee as well. Yes, the ref would still make mistakes but we’d fume and rage and then get on with it and at least the game would flow. However, for me, all this close scrutiny of one human being’s mistakes or otherwise, is all too much. As I said last week, what game has ever been enhanced by 26 players, three officials and 11,000 spectators gawping at a screen for 2 minutes?

However, I’m not letting all that distract from a famous victory and a return of that brilliant spirit of 2016, that brought us such rewards.

So to the week gone by and who would have thought last week at this time that I would be reporting on the return of Joe Westerman to the Club. If ‘It’s never dull at Hull’ has become a forgotten phrase this year at the Club, then boy did it come back with a vengeance on Friday, The rumours were out there at the game on Thursday, but it was all treated as a joke. That wouldn’t be happening would it? However, come Friday morning the verbal wringing of hands and shroud waiving was all over social media in a repeat of what we had seen from some fans who doubted the coach’s judgement when the rumours abounded that we were signing ‘bad boy’ Albert Kelly.

Who ever thought we’d see this again?????

But he’s signed and let’s just step back a bit and consider what has actually happened. From a business side of things, it’s brilliant! We sell a highly paid player for £150,000, farm him out for two years and then sign him back for nothing and do it on a third of what he was paid when he left. I said in here when he left that the Club had told me that, despite the rumours, they had no issues with him disciplinary wise, Lee got on with him, but the offer from Warrington was just too good to miss out on for us and him and 6 months later, I commented on a senior member of our staff telling me that Westy would never come back, “Whilst Liam Watts was still at the Club”. Which prompted me at the time to comment, “Make of that what you will!”

Look, people can gripe all they like, but we simply can’t lose with this deal. Westy is on a last chance contract, as was Kelly when he came, he is only on contract to the end of the season, as was Albo and so we can get rid then, if we want to and what’s more, Westerman knows if he doesn’t cut the mustard, he will be off and few teams will touch him with a barge pole. The senior playing group will have been consulted and add to that Manu not signed up yet, Mini in the twilight of his career and Abdull apparently on his way out and we certainly need a ball handling second rower to run with Hadley don’t we?

So its win, win, win for Hull FC. In addition, Joe made all the right comments about coming back, turned down more lucrative and longer contracts from Wakey and the Dobbins to choose us on a reduced wage and said to a couple of diary readers who live in Cas that Hull FC and the great crowds at the KCOM, was the only place he wanted to be. So, let’s get him fit and give him a chance eh?

Now, last Tuesday in an article entitled “Fetuli Talanoa on that Contract” the Hull Daily Mail printed an article that actually was a none event as far as it said nothing about any progress being made to sign him up before someone else does. He’s a really loyal kid and as such he’s desperate to stay, but he still hasn’t been contracted despite being in the best try-scoring form of his career with the Club.

He certainly endured his fair share of injuries last season including concussion and hamstring problems, which cost him eleven games, however this season the player who is now 30 years old has crossed for 12 tries in 11 league matches and is an ever present. I hope he signs up soon because he is as loyal kid who loves being in Hull and who is eternally grateful for the chance the FC gave him when we rescued him from the bin vans. But the anti-tampering deadline for Rugby League Clubs is 1st May and we need to have it sorted by then! He is certainly leaving nothing on the field, as he attempts to stay at the Club and let’s hope the whole situation is sorted out soon.

Once again last week the game was tainted by the dark shadow of illegal drug use by a player, as Thomas Minns from across the river failed a drug test. For someone in his mid-sixties who thinks ‘a line’ is something a train travels on, ‘Charlie’ is a perfume and ‘blow’ is what the wind does, it’s all a bit bemusing for me. I don’t like Rovers at all, but won’t be making cheap mileage from this occurrence for several reasons, none more pertinent than the circumstances that surround it and the fact that it will happen again. In such situations its never a good idea to cast the first stone, because it’s something that is endemic in society at present. Minns is at fault, without question, and has let himself, his club and the fans down. He will have to face an inevitable ban and do so manfully and humbly.

That said, and I don’t for one-minute think it’s right, many young people who experiment with recreational drugs move on into a settled life and that’s the end of it. It doesn’t really make them bad people or criminals, but for a professional sportsman it’s totally off limits and they know that. Minns, like Hardaker before him, didn’t take performance enhancing drugs and so he has not cheated to improve himself as a player, but by using recreational substances, he has failed badly in his position as a role model to younger people and he has to take his punishment for that. Of course it’s a much bigger issue than Thomas, who has been through the wringer a bit in his private life and was struggling, but in hindsight he should have sought other help. Perhaps the structures to do that were in place, perhaps they weren’t, but the game has to learn from this without doubt, but its where and who, players get this stuff from that worries me most.

The problem is of course that at present British Rugby League is in a very precarious position. As I discuss a bit further on in here, as a sport we are desperate to build our audiences and to attract investment into the game, which means negotiating improved and wider embracing television deals in the near future. If the game is thought, by the outsider looking in, to have drug culture, no one will want to be associated with it, whatever the mitigating circumstances.

The RL therefore have to make examples of anyone who is tested positive, be their abuse recreational or performance enhancing, and whatever the circumstances. So, every professional player should take note. The sport has to address it big style, but what we do about it as a society is a question that has beat greater minds than mine for decades. I hope the kid takes his punishment, gets some help and comes out of it a stronger individual, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t as a game ban everyone who is caught in such a situation. We have a game to protect and must show strength and set an example.

Recently, I read a fantastic article by Matthew Shaw who works for both Premier Sports and BBC Radio Leeds and who is a top bloke and really well informed. It discussed the way our game is broadcast and got me thinking that I should look at some of the stuff he dug up and add my two penneth as well so as to look at Rugby League’s current coverage, and what the future may hold for our great sport.

You see, for me, most folks these days believe that we get nowhere near as much coverage as in years gone by. However, when I looked more closely that’s not the case. Although Sky Sports remains the game’s biggest broadcasting partner in this country and having acquired NRL rights once again they are screening more games than ever before, but unlike in the past, that £200 million contract no longer gives the satellite broadcaster a stranglehold on coverage.

Things are on the move as technology advances and new ways of broadcasting are emerging, in fact close scrutiny reveals that clubs are actually circumnavigating the Sky deal to secure their own TV deals. The internet has certainly upped the ante and the increasing popularity of Club sites showing highlights and full games means the sport boasts at least ten channels attracting views in their thousands.

On TV, the breakthrough of Toronto and their entrepreneurial approach to the game, has brought League 1 and, more recently the Championship, to worldwide audiences.
The Wolfpack, cash rich as they are, decided to opt out of a slice of the Sky cake, to instead fix their own broadcasting deals. Now all their matches are shown in the UK, North America and Australia, in fact the Asian TV market is next up as a deal between the Wolfpack and their primary broadcasters is almost over the line. So well done to them for opting out of the Sky deal and for showing such a great eye for developing the game, when so many others, much more experienced in the sport, seem to find it impossible.

So when you look at all that, then perhaps RL is receiving more coverage than ever before, but the issue is I guess that much of it is still directed at the converted and isn’t being accessed by those with less knowledge of, but some interest in, the game. In any case the vast majority of television coverage is on a pay-to-subscribe basis. In fact, with Sky’s coverage the harsh reality is that only a small proportion of subscribers to their sports package have any interest in their Rugby League programming and those watching Premier Sports’ coverage of Toronto are specifically paying to watch the Wolfpack. The fact is when you study the viewing figures as I have this last week, the amount of coverage might be greater than ever before, but the number of people consuming it is dwindling week on week.

While Sky are showing more matches, their overall coverage of Super League is deteriorating with their pre and post-match stuff having decreased considerably. In 2017, coverage of Friday matches began at 19.00, with a broadcast often going on until 22.30. Now, the coverage has been cut, with all shows this season starting at 19.30.

Now, while Sky have never confirmed why, they sort of intimate that their earlier kick offs have been introduced at the request of journalists keen to ease deadline pressures and get longer articles in their newspapers, most of the shrewd money is on the fact that the games were going on too long with the 8-00pm kick-off. This was mainly due to video referee’s, delays on decision making etc. and the elongated intervals at half time to accommodate advertising. So now we end up with a hurried 15 minute pre amble and that’s all.

When it comes to opening up the sport to a wider market, the BBC is the undisputed best bet. Viewing figures certainly bear that out and any game shown on the BBC can accrue a watching audience of 4 times that of Sky! That’s because its free and the uninitiated viewer searching for something to watch might just have a look at what is going on. We all know once they do they are usually hooked. That’s the good news but the bad news is that the amount of live action set to be shown on the Beeb is down too. From the sixth round of the Challenge Cup onwards, two games will be screened each weekend, culminating in the final at Wembley. However, after that the only further action will be England’s Test series with New Zealand in the Autumn. Yes, the BBC shows highlights from every Super League game every week on a regular show, but its always on so bloody late at night that only the initiated existing enthusiasts, sit up to watch it. So no casual viewers there either!

But what does all this mean for the game we love? Well the rise in popularity of other sports has left Rugby League battling for similar amounts of airtime, and the audience figures – particularly from a Sky perspective – don’t look good at all. If we are to have any chance of arresting this decline and getting new people interested in the game, we maybe have to think outside the box a bit! The sport must change tack and find an alternative means of exposure, or it will die.

Perhaps though we’ve already seen the beginnings of this, as last year, the RFL controversially decided to live stream England’s mid-season Test against Samoa to a paying audience. While that may not have had the desired effect, Bradford Bulls have jumped on the bandwagon and sorted their own broadcasting deal. The League 1 club has partnered up with Proper Sport to provide a live stream of all their games this season, broadcast on Facebook.

The early results have been enormously encouraging. A staggering 130,000 unique viewers have watched all or part of the broadcast. To put it into context, that’s similar to Sky’s audience for a Friday night Super League game and all that, for a Division One fixture! Of course, Facebook is a free platform for anyone to use, meaning the Bulls’ coverage isn’t locked behind a pay wall, and that’s the vital part really; its free to view at a time when it is becoming easier to access sport for free; legally or not.

Ultimately, Rugby League’s best chance, perhaps its only chance, is I think to try and increase its market by finding more ways to show off the product to a larger audience that can easily access the content. The French competition has found a gap in the market by broadcasting live streams on YouTube, others have even dabbled with the idea of streaming live on Periscope, although it hasn’t had the success so far that Bradford has had through Facebook. The short-term financial gain might not be huge, the long-term potential is.
Streaming, along with everything else, must be seen as an investment, with the end goal being a new audience which can help our sport prosper in years to come. I think that the owners get all of this and now it’s up to them to act before it is too late.

So now back to the old days, and this week in Codgers Corner we go back to the 1981/82 season when we were just re-establishing ourselves as a real force in the game again and a rather topical off day for our goal kicker. It was autumn and John Player Trophy time and the competition had certainly gained a lot more popularity in the 5 years since our last appearance in the Final back in 1976 when David Doyle-Davidson’s ‘raggle taggle’ heroes took the cup kings of Widnes, so close.

The competition was now receiving good coverage from the BBC on Grandstand and although the luck of the draw, as far as home games were concerned, seemed to have deserted us that year, it was inconsequential really as we beat Halifax away in the first round, Castleford on their own ground in the second and then just when we needed a home draw in the quarter finals we were drawn away in that most desolate of destinations Barrow. Furthermore, the BBC chose our game for televising, and so it was on a Saturday 14th November, at 7-00am, bleary eyed and still half asleep’ the Mermaid pubs coach left Boothferry estate and headed off towards North West Lancashire and the Rugby League outpost of Barrow. Barrow had been the ‘surprise package’ of the tournament so far and really fancied their chances at home in front of a partisan crowd who always made it a hard place for other teams to visit.

We arrived in Barrow at around 11-00 and went straight to the supporters club with whom Barry the pub Landlord had made some prior arrangement, as he always did. I remember little of the drinking or eating that day except no doubt for the fact that we had a few!!!

I remember little of the drinking or eating that day but ‘Hard Up Harry’, an away coach regular (usually without any money) actually took some cash for a change and even won the Club’s raffle which was a £20 meat voucher for the local butchers. “that’s no bloody good to me” he grumbled before he promptly sold it to a barmaid for £10 and so with a little arm twisting actually bought the one and only round of drinks I ever remember him purchasing!

The game itself was to be a tense bruising encounter which was to draw on the depth of all our experience and it certainly had the whole of the crowd of over 9000 on their toes throughout the match. From the start Barrow poured towards our line, after we were penalised in our first tackle on receiving the kick off. In the first five minutes their prop Herbert cut through our line twice scattering tacklers as he went and although we won the first scrum we had difficulty making progress and Norton had to kick downfield on the third tackle. Back came Barrow with Tickle their Full Back linking well in the line on the left before he was obstructed. From the tap penalty Mason broke free of a tackle by Tindall and Crane and dived over under the stick, as, with just five minutes gone, the home side took a deserved 5-0 lead.

Things looked ominous too as from the re-start we had to race back to tackle Hadley who had been put away by scrum half Cairns who was running the show for the home team. Melling the Barrow second rower then attempted a risky drop goal that flew well wide of the mark, but slowly we were starting to find our feet a little and Crane was blatantly held back when trying to support Prendiville in a try scoring position. After some enterprising play from centre’s Leuluai and Harrison, Barrow were penalised for laying on and young Lee Crooks landed a good straight penalty to reduce the arrears to 3 points. Hull then started to turn the screw. Leuluai just failed to get to a Norton cross field kick to the corner and Day almost forced his way over near the post before being dragged back. Then Crooks, who was operating wide-out for even a second row forward, put O’Hara away, but our mercurial winger was forced into touch with the try line open.

With 25 minutes gone Hulls pressure finally paid off when Duke again shovelled the ball from the scrum, Norton took it forward to the line, only for him to lose it backwards in the tackle, however Day had the presence of mind to pick it up and dive over under the posts and a Crooks conversion saw us leading 7-5. Hull were revelling in the amount of possession Tony Duke was getting from the scrums and after 35 minutes Crooks was narrowly wide with a 40-yard penalty attempt. As the half drew to a close full back Gary Kemble twice burst through the defensive line but could not find any support and at the end of a half that we had almost totally dominated save for those first five minutes, we only had a two-point lead to show for all our efforts.

The second half started with Barrow getting a penalty and starting a set off in our 25-yard area, however a timely interception by Crane saved the day when the home side looked like scoring after a sweeping cross field move had stretched our cover defence. Then with 9 minutes of the half gone Norton spotted an opening and shot through it. We all thought that the break was in vain because no one appeared to be backing up, but as Norton hung a high looping pass in the air for what seemed like an age, from nowhere, Terry Day appeared to snatch the ball from the air and beating the cover touched down next to the corner flag. Crooks missed the chance to improve the try but at 10-5 we started to breathe a little more easily.

However, our relief was short lived as Tindall was penalised by referee Mr Fox for stealing the ball after the player was held, and Tickle reduced the deficit to just one try with a steepling penalty kick from 35 yards. Harkin then caught Cairns with a tremendous uppercut in a tackle and although the referee didn’t see what happened, on came the touch judge and the resultant penalty saw us defending again. A great break by the home sides centre McConnell had try ‘written all over it’ but somehow with no one anywhere near him he dropped the ball and Charlie Stone picked it up to defuse the situation, but we were struggling to keep Barrow out.

Tickle the Barrow full back seemed to be able to field whatever sixth tackle kicks we put up and so Norton decided to run the ball at the end of a set on the 63rd minute. He drew the defence and sent Crane off running towards the Barrow winger who had dropped back for the kick, as the defence approach Mick passed back inside to Norton who then immediately sent Leuluai racing away to score in the corner and with seventeen minutes to go we led 13-7. Crooks failed again to improve the score and that was the signal for Barrow, roared on by the partisan home crowd, to give it one last go.

We had to defend three sets of six before a Kemble break relieved the pressure and Mick Crane dropped a goal to stretch our lead to 14-7. With 6 minutes to go and both our substitutes, Lloyd and Banks on the field, the game took another twist when Lupton made a break and was just held by Stone and Duke at the foot of the post. From the play the ball Cairns shot in from acting half- back and with Tickle converting there was just two points in it. On the terraces as the rain started to fall we were all fretting and some were just unable to look as a perfectly good shoulder charge by Mick Crane on Szymala saw Referee Fox award the home side a penalty to the left of the posts 35 yards out. After taking an age to prepare the kick, up stepped Tickle to stroke the ball just inches past the left upright, and we all breathed again. In the final minute we faced another Barrow onslaught after Harkin was penalised on half way for feeding the scrum, but we survived and hung on for a great if not fortuitous win. Great memories eh?

Danny Houghton was in the news this week when he described himself on social media as ‘A Boiled Egg’ I think he was referring to the fact that he is bald and not for his ‘Hard Boiled’ exterior or his ‘scrambling’ defence or even for ‘try poaching’ habits. Sorry about that!!!! However, he was getting a great accolade from Ex FC player and current Workington Coach Leon Pryce after the Widnes game, when he just about nailed what Danny is all about when he said, “Knows the game. Makes the game look easy. Makes the right decision nine times out of 10.” Not bad I guess for a boiled egg!!

So that’s it, a long Diary (thanks to Joe Westerman) and a great, great night, last Thursday at the KCOM. My gratitude goes out to everyone who came to say hello and to everyone who has been in touch since. Good luck if your off to Catalan it will be a hard, hard game but after this week anything is possible! We just have to ……

Keep Believing!!!

Faithfully Yours