One game too far for Scorpions' season

Rochdale Hornets 60 South Wales Scorpions 26
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The Independent Online

The professional rugby league season might be unexpectedly still alive in North Wales, but it is over in the South, after Scorpions' record defeat and elimination by the impressive Hornets.

Although you would not know it from this scoreline, it has been a landmark season for rugby league in Wales. Not only have Crusaders defied all predictions and made the Super League play-offs at their first attempt, with Huddersfield awaiting next Saturday, but, at the other end of the country, the Scorpions qualified for the Championship 1 play-offs as well.

The Neath-based remnants of Crusaders' decision to move north have, from a purist's point of view, been the more significant success story. The Scorpions have achieved what they have with a genuinely Welsh squad and for them to still be in the mix at the end of the season is a reminder of how much league talent there is in the Principality.

Hornets, possessors of one of the oldest and most famous names in rugby league, have had their own battles to fight. They would have gone out of business last year, but for a rescue by a group of supporters. They have had no money to throw around but, under a bright, young coach in the former St Helens second-rower, John Stankevitch, they, too, have over-achieved this year.

Some extravagant early ball-handing from the visitors failed to yield any reward and they were then swept away by some sparkling rugby from Rochdale, spearheaded by Paul Crook's 28 points from two tries and 10 goals.

Deprived by injury and suspension to key players, Scorpions could put nothing together coherently, although they made matters worse by conceding a string of penalties. The referee, Craig Halloran, sent Joe McLocklan to the sin-bin and Hornets quickly cashed in with tries from Craig Ashall and Crook.

The South Wales dummy-half, Steve Parry, got over to bring them their only points of the first 40 minutes, but Rochdale had the final word through Dale Bloomfield.

Ashall and Bloomfield added second tries after the break, with John Cookson and Gareth Hayes their other scorers. Scorpions at least kept pace with them, with tries from Lewis Mills, Aled James and two from Jamie Murphy.

"It was a terrific achievement to make the top six in our first season, but this was a game too far for us," admitted their coach, Anthony Seibold. "We had six or seven players missing and probably lacked the depth to cover for that, but we will keep this squad together for next season."

Rochdale Hornets: English; Bloomfield, Gorton, Reid, Saywell; Crook, Roper; Bowman, Wood, Fairhurst, Samuel, Smith, Ashall. Subs used: Cookson, Powell, Hayes, Blackmore.

South Wales Scorpions: Kear; Richards, Bateman, Williams, Murphy; Bromilow, Gay; Mills, Parry, Roach, Phillips, James, Roets. Subs used: McLocklan, Pope, Greville, Cunningham.

Referee: C.Halloran (Dewsbury).