By Sean Hayes | 05/02/17

With the penalty count stacked against them at 15-6, Rochdale Hornets kicked a penalty goal with two minutes left on the clock to win the game by a point. You couldn’t write it, surely?

It turns out you can, as Alan Kilshaw’s men came up with a herculean effort to come away from The Big Fellas Stadium with two points, something not many teams will do this season.

Featherstone Rovers had the lion’s share of the possession but couldn’t break the resolute defence of the visitors, as they handled the conditions better to bounce back from back-to-back defeats.

Both sides made five changes, as Hornets handed a debut to Jay Lobwein, with Jack Holmes and Jack Francis making their first appearances of the season. Miles Greenwood returned with Sam Wilde being brought in on dual registration from Warrington Wolves.

Inside the first ten minutes Rochdale were placed on a team warning for conceding four penalties in a row, which set the tone for the afternoon. They defended amicably to keep Featherstone out though, with a big hit from Jo Taira forcing a knock on.

A rare penalty to the Hornets was converted into a 2-0 lead by Lewis Palfrey 13 minutes in, but they piled the pressure on themselves with a knock on inside their own 40 soon after. A penalty followed but their left edge forced Rovers into touch.

Ian Hardman crossed for a try which was chalked off for a forward pass before the away side almost doubled their lead, only for Jake Eccleston to put down Danny Bridge’s offload.

Then, for the first time in the contest, Featherstone opened Rochdale up as Anthony Thackeray raced through a gap with a great step and found Hardman in support before he was hauled down by the impressive Holmes. Danny Yates was then sin binned for a professional foul, with Michael Knowles levelling the scores with a 31st minute penalty.

Despite the man advantage the hosts conceded four minutes later, as the visitors swung the ball out wide and set Rob Massam free down the left edge, and after he was tackled ten metres out Bridge crashed over from Palfrey’s inside ball. The creator then tagged on the extras to make it 8-2 at the break.

As Yates returned to the action Greenwood came up with a knock on, on his own try line but a great scramble from Massam prevented a try, before Holmes shot off his line to make a brilliant tackle.

They were let off the hook again soon after, as Palfrey scuffed a goal line drop-out and Cory Aston went close to scoring. Again, though, the defence held strong but it wasn’t long before Rovers finally found a way over. It came from a fourth tackle penalty, as Gavin Bennion was penalised for a high tackle, as the dangerous Thackeray sent Chris Ulugia over with a flat pass for a converted score.

Holmes came up with a huge play to deny them back-to-back tries, as he dove to intercept Jason Walton’s pass with Palfrey hacking the ball into touch to concede a goal line drop-out rather than a try.

Bennion thought he had scored a crucial try up the other end after pouncing on Yates’ kick only for play to be pulled back for offside, with Thackeray knocking over a field goal with 12 minutes left on the clock to edge the hosts ahead.

It was a tense ending as Rochdale went in search of a match winner and Josh Crowley, who was best on field with an immense performance, broke the line to reach Featherstone’s ten metre line and draw a penalty for interference.

All of the pressure was on Palfrey’s shoulders as he lined up the kick, but he made no mistake in slotting over the two pointer before Hornets saw out the remaining minute to clinch a brilliant 10-9 victory.

Featherstone Rovers: Ian Hardman, Luke Briscoe, Joshua Hardcastle, Chris Ulugia, Scott Turner, Anthony Thackeray, Matthew Wildie, Richard Moore, Keal Carlile, Frankie Mariano, Michael Knowles, Jason Walton, John Davies Subs: Cory Aston, James Lockwood, Andy Bostock, Darrell Griffin

Tries: Ulugia (55)

Goals: Knowles 1/1, Aston 1/1

Field goal: Thackeray (68)

Rochdale Hornets: Miles Greenwood, Jack Holmes, Jordan Case, Jake Eccleston, Robert Massam, Lewis Palfrey, Daniel Yates, Jo Taira, Ben Moores, Gavin Bennion, Sam Wilde, Josh Crowley, Gary Middlehurst Subs: Jay Lobwein, Jack Francis, Matty Hadden, Danny Bridge

Tries: Bridge (35)

Goals: Palfrey 3/4

Man of the Match: Josh Crowley was brilliant from start to finish as he put in a huge shift in both defence and attack, with his break inside the final two minutes proving to be the game winner.

Attendance: 1839

Penalty count: Rovers 15-6 Hornets