Hornets 16 Cougars 40
Some economists argue that you need to spend your way out of a recession - and it's a theory that Keighley have embraced with relish. With last year's promotion-winning side gilded by the addition of a triumverate of ex-Wakefield Super League players and a NSW Cup starlet, the Cougars came to Spotland to wave their wad and get their wobbling start to the Northern Rail Cup back on the… er… rails.
Indeed, after just four minutes it was ex-Cronulla centre Parata who was first up to a Jones kick to the fringes to put the Cougars ahead.
But Hornets struck back. After some concerted pressure and robust defence, a penalty took Hornets to the Keighley 20 metre line. Steve McDermott took the tap whilst the Cougars defence was still organising itself, burst through some frankly pitful tackling and found himself with four men in support approaching lone full-back Moss. A sharp pass sent Danny Pyke in for a great try, Crooky added the extras and the away fans fell silent as Hornets took a shock lead.
Keighley plugged away for the next quarter of an hour, but the Hornets defence worked hard, But as referee Mr Stokes descended into a fug of niggly penalties (22 in all), Keighley capitalised on a glut of posession with hooker Feather taking advantage of a tiring defence to slump in from acting half after three consecutive sets.
On their next foray into Hornets territory, a fruitless set of six culminated in a last tackle jab into the in-goal. Amongst a scramble of boots and bodies - in which Obst looked to have pushed the ball forwards along the gound - Referee Stokes somehow saw downward pressure and, without consulting either touch-judge, he pointed to the spot before the ball had stopped rolling. Not his finest moment.
A shell-shocked Hornets struggled to recover their shape and - with the hooter imminent - Keighley worked the ball to Coleman to give the half-time score a distinctly lop-sided look at 22-6.
The second-half began a much tighter contest, the third quarter a rugged forward struggle punctuated by an escalating penalty count. But on 59 minutes Mr Stokes handed the Cougars the key to unlocking the game - dispatching Dave Newton to the sin-bin for having the audacity to question his understanding of the laws.
Keighley sparked into life, two quick-fire tries for Lawton and Parata exploiting the numerical advantage and the game effectively over at 34-6.
But, given Keighley's habit of clocking off in the last quarter of an hour, Hornets kept going and gained just reward. Firstly the ball was shipped wide to the left for Danny Pyke to score a second try; then a superb flat-pass from Chris Hough found Adam Bowman arriving at speed to score under the black dot untouched.
Keighley did conjure up another try for Parata who finished the day with four.
Once again Hornets showed that for long periods they are able to compete with teams from a higher division, with half-backs Crook and Roper chivvying and probing throughout and, up front, Dave Newton again put in a sterling shift.
But those lapses in concentration or discipline that you might just get away with against lesser opposition get you punished against well-drilled sides - and even I have to recognise that Keighley were supremely organised. But once teams work out their 'Five drives and a chip to the corner' gameplan, one does wonder if they have a plan-b.
Ultimately the result was an object example of economics at work, with returns proportional to the scale of the investment. Here, Hornets fiscal prudence demonstrating that a cautious approach will pay steady, sustainable dividends. As for Keighley? We shall watch. With interest.