Monday, 13 January 2014

And so it begins...

All journeys start with a single step - and we like to think it's a bit early in this one to get carried away. Pre-season friendlies are, primarily, steps up a learning curve - though the Bradford Telegraph & Argus went big on Keighley's well-drilled win like it meant significantly more than just a structured run-out under match conditions.

Hornets went to Cougar Park with an extended bench and it was inevitable that, in order for Ian Talbot to get a look at all of them in action, there'd be a lack of rhythm that comes with multiple changes.

To be fair to Keighley, they are the benchmark to aim for, for staying in the Championship - and their jumbo-sized pack made easy headway for 80 minutes against a ring-rusty Hornets.

Without star signing Paul Handforth in the line-up, Keighley fielded Paul March at half-back and - off the back of his forwards' dominance - he launched a first half aerial bombardment of Hornets left corner, where ex-superleague winger Richie Barnett capitalised on his significant height advantage over Ryan King to grab two tries from the skies. Elsewhere Hornets succumbed to a couple of slack close-range efforts from Feather and Cosgrove.

Hornets did look more comfortable with the ball in hand, and when they launched a 20th minute attack up the right flank, tidy hands from Paul Crook and Danny Davies slotted Benji Lloyd in for a well taken try. But the respite was brief; Cosgrove grabbing a second and Hesketh stepping through to give the Cougars a 36-4 half time lead.

The second-half was similarly disjointed as players came and went: Keighley keeping the scoreboard ticking over at regular intervals so that their overexcitable tannoy guy could treat us all to his somewhat unique style of delivery. For the record, Keighley scorers in the second half were Lee, Williams (2) and Lawton as Keighley ended the day with ten tries.

So what did we learn? Well, it was an unsubtle reminder of the size of the step up to compete at Championship standard: it enabled Ian Talbot to run the rule over his squad in match conditions to see how they rerspond and react to game pressures; and it allowed players to shake off the torpor of the winter break and get back into the groove. So, while it wasn't the prettiest of afternoons, it was a vital step in Hornets preparations for 2014.

And for those of you who opted to do something else with your Sunday afternoon, you did miss one of the coldest afternoons at a game that we can remember.
Yesterday's teamsheet