Sunday, 23 March 2014

Hornets Win Battle of Brains v Brawn

Hornets 14 - Batley 10

It's been coming.

Every week the Hornets faithful have seen glimpses of the major improvements that their team has made in this challenging season. 'All we need' to do', they said, '… is to put all the improvements into one 80 minutes'. Wait no longer.

In this tough, tight wrestle amidst a Biblical hailstorm, Hornets repaid the faith of their fans with a win that not only rolled over one of the Championship's most durable outfits, but which saw resolute defence and boundless enthusiasm nil last year's Championship grand finalists in the seond forty minutes.

In the run-up to the game, Batley coach John Kear displayed a Nostradamus-like ability to predict his team's downfall: “I have watched three of Rochdale’s games and they are taking teams very close… but at some stage they are going to upset someone. We have just got to make sure it’s not us.”

As it turned out, it was - and Hornets didn't hang around with making Kear's prediction come true. After just two minutes Ryan Millard scythed through the heart of the Batley defence, but his slipped pass was fumbled by Sean Casey with the line begging. No matter…

As Batley's big pack ploughed a furrow up the centre of the park, Hornets continued to play the more imaginative football and, after 10 minutes, conjured up a well-crafted try: first Chris Baines going very close off a Ryan Millard short pass, the next tackle Wayne English slipping the ball to Mike Ratu who bulldozed his way through his opposite number to score. 4-nil.

Batley's response was bizzarre, as they hoisted the kick-off into Row Z of the Pearl Street stand, but the resulting Hornets pressure came to nought as Batley guided a last tackle kick dead in goal, then were helped upfield by a penalty for an unspecified ruck offence.

But Hornets continued to play the only real football on offer. A 17th minute repeat set off a Ryan Millard kick, then Wayne English on a skating 40 metre kick-return setting Sam Te'o loose only for the momentum to break down when Batley were penalised for lying on at the tackle.

Reward for Hornets' patient persistence came on the 20th minute when Paul Crook ran an unstoppable angle off a short ball at close range to score. 8-Nil, and Batley barely in the game.

The 24th minute saw the descent of a swirling hailstorn and the deterioration in conditions seemed to suit Batley's rudimentary approach. On the half hour, with their attack going nowhere, Batley shipped the ball through a series of panicky passes on the 20 metre line where Blackmore found enough space to surprise himself by scoring. 8-4.

The 35th minute served up a harsh reminder of how Championship sides can leap on any error and make it count. A sloppy carry gave Batley soft possession on the Hornets 20 metre line. The error was brutally punished in the next play, as Greenwood scored in the corner. Paterson's conversion slutched in off a post and - against the run of play - the Bulldogs went in at the break 10-8 up.

Batley started the half with another freak kick-off as the wind saw them start with the ball 12 metres inside their own half. From the resulting possession, Batley launched a high kick to the corner where a clash of bodies saw Blackmore touch down. But with Sam Te'o deemed tackled in flight, Hornets survived and took the game back to Batley.

On 48 minutes Paul Crook unleashed a monster of a 40/20, but with players queuing up on the left, the wet ball slipped from Ryan Millard's hands and it was Batley with the let-off.

The second half descended into a battle of attrition. Hornets endeavouring to play round a well-drilled Bulldogs defence; Batley resorting to the blunt-instrument approach, sending waves of forwards crashing into a robust, resolute Hornets resistance.

Fittingly, it was the second half's only real passage of lucid football that produced the try that broke Batley hearts. On 70 minutes Hornets set-up camp on the Batley 20. Quick hands to the left found just enough space for Sam Te'o to squeeze in and score. Crooky slammed home the two from the touchline and Hornets had 10 minutes to hang onto their 14-10 lead.

With time ebbing away, Batley persisted with Plan-A and came up with, well, nowt. 

The final hooter brought the main stand to its feet as Hornets grabbed that all-important inaugural Championship win. Indeed, this was a victory for brains over brawn. Whereas Batley were happy to just roll-in the big lads and hope Hornets would crack under the strain, Hornets sought to play smart, controlled rugby whenever they had the opportunity.

Afterwards, Man-of-the-Match Paul Crook said that the team had '… been on a learning curve this last few weeks…'.  But the big lesson this week is, without doubt, that winning feels a whole lot better then losing.

Team Sheet Hornets v Batley

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Sunday's Coming: Batley Bulldogs

Batley Coach John Kear sat by us at last week's game against the All Golds scribbling furiously in his notebook: a measure of the thorough approach that has made The Gallant Youths perennial Grand Finalists  - and the perfect template for how a 'small' club can take on the economic might of the Championship's over-ambitious Super League dillusionists and win, on their own terms.

In their own Challenge Cup game, Batley overcame a slow start (leading only 14-4 a the break) to eventually beat Kells by 54 to 4. They drew a plum tie against Super League leaders Castleford in the next round - the club where coach John Kear had a great playing career. That tie's been made more interesting after the Bulldogs confirmed the signing of Castleford second-rower Charlie Martin last Friday. 
John Kear - not as grumpy as his
book cover suggests.

The week before in the Championship, the Bulldogs threw away a 6-nil half time lead to go down 12-20 against Doncaster at Mount Pleasant. But possibly their most eyecatching result of the season thus far was their gritty 10-8 victory over Halifax at the Shay.

At first glance John Kear looks to have assembled a moneyball-style squad of low-profile grafters, but there are plenty of threats - most notably from ex-Sheffield flyer Vinny Finigan who plays outside ex-Hornets favourite Lee 'Pogo' Paterson. In the other centre channel is Alex Bretherton, who's played on both sides of the Heavy Woollen divide.

Up front, another ex-Hornet Byron Smith will pile it in all afternoon - but the primary threat could come from ex-Wests Tigers, North Sydney Bears and Halifax half Ben Black. We say 'could' because his absence from recent Bulldogs line-ups suggest that he's still struggling to shake off the effects of a pre-season knee operation that was expected to sideline him for 'three to four weeks'. Let's hope another week will sort him out...

Speaking recently, John Kear said of his side: “I’m not expecting us to be playing our best rugby until two-thirds or three-quarters of the way through the season…” Needless to say, we hope you're right John.

Hopefully, amongst Kear's notebook scribbles is a recognition that ruthless flogging of the All Golds hints at Hornets emergence as a genuine Championship side. The consensus amongst those we've spoken to is that, if last week's Hornets side took on the Hornets that beat the All golds last season, it'd win by 20 points or more. 

And, with several of last week's side having outstanding games, Ian Talbot should have a few selection headaches this weekend.

Having evolved beyond Championship 1 standard by some way - let's hope Sunday sees us take that next evolutionary step and turn good performances in to results. We #believe it's not far away. See you Sunday.

RFL Match Preview
Rochdale Hornets v Batley Bulldogs (3.00)

Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot could stick with a similar team from the one that recorded a 76-4 victory over Gloucestershire All Golds last week.

Mike Ratu, Chris Baines and Dave Llewllyn all impressed on their first appearances of the year.

Talbot said: “A few players put their hands up. They earned their chance and they took it with both hands.”

“It was a good performance. We have improved considerably from last season, but not enough to get that first in the Kingstone Press Championship – yet.

“You know you’re going to be up against it when you play a team coached by John Kear, but we’ll give it our best shot.”

Batley Bulldogs could be without Mark Applegarth, who is struggling with a knee injury, but Ben Blackmore is available.

Batley coach Kear said: “I have watched three of Rochdale’s games and they are taking teams very close. They are just falling away in the last 20 minutes, but at some stage they are going to upset someone. We have just got to make sure it’s not us.”

He added: “They’re not that far away from a Championship win and last week will have done their confidence the world of good.

“Our own season has been consistently inconsistent. We’re having some tremendous periods and some indifferent periods, and we’ve got to try to put 80 minutes together.”

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Challenge Cup Round 4: It's Leigh!

Hornets have drawn Leigh at home in the 4th round of the Tetley's Challenge Cup. The 4th round games will be played over the weekend of the 6th April.

The Full Draw:

Huddersfield v St Helens
Dewsbury v WIgan
Wakefield v Leeds
Hornets v Leigh
Batley v Castleford
Doncaster v Hemel
Keighley v Barrow
Featherstone v North Wales
Hull KR v Warrington
Hull FC v Salford
Bradford v Oldham
Hunslet v Workington
Catalans v London Broncos
Halifax v Widnes
Sheffield v London Skolars
Swinton v York

April 4th to 6th 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Hornets' Cup Confidence Boost

Hornets 76 - All Golds 4

Sometimes, a win of any colour can be the catalyst to ignite a team's confidence. The arrival of the University of Gloucestershire All Golds provided Hornets with a chance to demonstrate how far they've come since leaving Championship 1. Even to the most partisan Hornets supporter, the difference in class was startling.

Hornets were underway after just two minutes when Chris Baines launched himself off a Ryan Millard pass to dive under the black dot. Crooky with the two, 6-nil.

It looked like another for Baines four minutes later, when he took a neat pass off a Millard show & go, but the ball bobbled loose as he reached to touch down. No matter. It took just 2 minutes for Hornets to sweep downfield where slick hands to the right and a neat pass from Dave Llewellyn smuggled Gaz Langley in by the flag. Crook with a gem from the touchline for 12-nil.

With the All Golds hanging in against repeated Hornets attacks it was only a matter of time before their defence buckled. It came on 15 minutes when Chris Baines stepped his way through flailing tackles; Crook with the extras; 18-nil and Hornets ahead of the clock.

On 20 minutes Sam Te'o got in on the action - slipped in at the corner off a neat short pass after rapid-fire passes to the left; 22-nil.

Credit to the All Golds: on 25 minutes they launched a 40 metre attack off the back of a neat step & go by Sideshow Bob lookalike scrum-half Thomas, but his pass to full-back Elliot was fumbled over the line.

Hornets marched straight back downfield, where a great interchange of passes twixt Wayne Engllish and Ryan Millard created ample space out wide for Sam Te'o to grab his second. 26-nil.

On the half hour it was the English/Millard combintion that again caused havoc. Millard slipped English into a huge hole and went back for the return inside pass to score from 30 metres. Crook with the two for 32-nil.

The All Golds' day went from bad to worse as they punted the kick-off into the Wilbutts Lane stand. From the resulting penalty, Ryan Millard jinked through a maze of tackles for a well-taken solo try. Crooky's comversion hit the post and Hornets went in at the break holding a comfortable 36-nil lead.

The second half followed much the same pattern. The first set saw Paul Crook launch a big 40/20. Deep in All Golds territory, Crooky's inside ball handed Jordan Case a walk-in try. Crook the extras; 42-nil.

On 44 minutes Ryan Millard's outrageous 60 metre break came to nought when he delayed his pass a little too long and the chance went to ground. He made amends three minutes later when he combined again with Wayne English to send Sam Te'o in for his hat-trick. Only a minute later Hornets swept forward again. This time a peach of a reverse pass from Dave Llewellyn sent Gaz Langley crashing through to score. The half cenury up for Hornets at 50-nil.

It took only another 2 minutes for Langley to clock up his hat-trick, with a try that had a hint of the bizzarre about it. A 30 metre break from a revitalised Mike Ratu punched a huge hole in the visitors' defence; his inside pass went to ground, but with the ref waving play-on the ball was hacked forward. The scrambling All Golds defence made a spectacular hash of clearing up, coughing the ball straight into the hands of an onrushing Gaz Langley who ducked through a swinging head-shot to score. Crooky with the 2 for 56-nil.

Punch-drunk, the All Golds continued to plug away and on 50 minutes came up with a freak try of their own. A last tackle kick into space saw Referee Cobb stumble and fall into the path of chasing defenders, creating space for the visitors to gather, ship the ball to Elliot and snatch a try. 56-4: a blip.

Normal service was resumed on the hour when Wayne English made the extra man off a Ryan Millard pass to send Dave Llewellyn in for a well taken try (60-4), then Millard himself jinking and squeezing through for his hat-trick (64-4). Then Wayne English again the provider: a mercurial break, the full-back drawn and Paul Crook sent under the posts. Crooky improved his own try for 70-4.

With time almost up, Hornets ended as they had begun. Quick hands across the field found Dave Llewellyn arriving like a train to punch through and score. Crooky added the two. Hornets convincing winners at 76-4.

After only a month of playing in the Championship, this game demonstrated the gulf in effort required to make a successful step up. Whilst statistics show Hornets just five places above the All Golds in the pyramid, the reality is that - even as Hornets battle with the increased intensity in the Championship - they are already a different animal than the one that left Championship 1 way back in September.

And, in registering the joint highest score of Round Three of the Challenge Cup and the biggest winning margin of the round - against semi-pro opposition - there is encouragement that Hornets have it in them to be the real Championship deal.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Sunday's Coming: All Golds

Good things come to those who wait - and last weekend was the end of a very long wait for the University of Gloucestershire All Golds (or UGAG, to save my typing finger). After 14 months it was 13th time lucky as the All Golds finally bagged their first ever home win - coming back from behind to beat the South Wales Scorpions by 29 to 17.

The much awaited win came after after ten home defeats games at the Prince of Wales Stadium and and two at Lydney RFC’s Regentsholme Park, putting UGAG 4th in Ch.1, tucked in behind the leading pack of York, Oldham and Hunslet.

Interestingly, UGAG took a 77th minute drop goal leading 28-16 to try and deny the Scorpions a bonus point, only for South Wales to snatch it back with a 79th minute drop goal. Such is the importance of the bonus point in building a critical mass of points to hoist you up the table.

All Golds coach Brad Hepi was pragmatic in his assessment of his team's achievement: “It’s the first home win of the season and the first home win of our brief history so far. We won three games last year but never won at home and we’ve got to turn this place into a fortress, that’s the first step towards doing that.”
Brad Hepi: astonished to find that
he's six inches shorter than the
Challenge Cup

Here's hoping Fortress Cheltenham is doing its thing by the time Oldham rock up there later in the season.

The draw that gave us this Challenge Cup tie was made in Cheltenham, after whicfh Rob Webber, UGAG CEO, said: “We were delighted and proud to host the Challenge Cup draw at the University and we are now looking forward to playing Rochdale Hornets in the Cup…"

Whilst equally delighted, UGAG Captain, Mike Stewart may have to check his fixture list for 2014. He said: “Rochdale are a massive traditional name in rugby league, ever since the 1895 split. They are in our league (sic), so there is a possibility of progressing to the next round where hopefully we may draw a Super League club.”

As we know, contrary to their location, Cheltenham and the All Golds have a rich seam of Rugby League history running through them.

The first ever Rugby League international series was decided in Cheltenham on February 15th 1908 between England and the New Zealand's newly professionalised All Blacks - vilified as the 'All Golds' by Rugby *nion for daring to be paid to play. That UGAG have reclaimed the name as a badge of honour and fly the RL flag in the *nion heartland is admirable stuff - though not surprising, given that their president Lionel Hurst is one of our game's most evangelistic expansionists.

For an insight into the one of Rugby League's deepest and most passionate thinkers, you can read a recent Rugby League World interview with Lionel Hurst by clicking here

Indeed, Lionel is one of Rugby League's good-guys - so if you spot him on Sunday, buy him a pint. Or a pie. Or just say hello.

Continuing the theme of breaking new ground, The Challenge Cup provides a little respite for Ian Talbot as Hornets look to apply some of the lessons learned in our first month as a Championship club. For sure, last weekend's game was a tough lesson in the standards you need to attain to challenge at the top of the Championship.

Speaking in the 'League, Weakly' Talbot said: "We started slowly and never really got going. We need to start playing more as a team rather than a group of individuals. We are finding the step-up in physicality tough. In the last  20 minutes we had no substitutes left to go on after losing three players injured. We lost Gaz Langley early on with a dead-leg and had to play 65 minutes with a second-rower on the wing. At half time I feared the worst, but credit to our lads they dug in and stuck at it in the second and had a go…"

So with a month's learnings in the bank, Hornets should be in a good position to grab a confidence boosting win and, hopefully, secure a big fat tie against a Super League club that will stick a few quid in the coffers.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Hornets' Day at Finishing School

Featherstone 56 - Hornets 6

It seems that every game's a school-day in the Championship - and Hornets have picked up some pretty brutal lessons in this opening month. Featherstone are the exemplar of how a club should prepare for Super League accession and - as serious title contenders - gave Hornets their sternest test to date, with a masterclass in clinical finishing.

For the first 10 minutes there was little between the teams. But when Ryan Millard dropped a simple pass on the 2nd tackle on his own 20 metre line, Featherstone pounced. From the resulting possession quick hands sent Uaisele in at the corner. The conversion slutched its way in off a post to give Rovers a 6-nil lead. 

Almost immediately Hornets put themselves under more pressure when a last tackle Rovers kick was fumbled, but the last pass in a rapid shuttle left to Uaisele was deemed forward.

Temporarily reprieved, Hornets went on the offensive. A 19th minute Crook kick to the corner saw Gaz Langley swoop in and snatch the ball from a flailing Uaisele to ground the ball. Referee Bloem the only person in the ground to consider him offside. No try.

Rovers responded with a rapid-fire interchange of passes in broken play up a scrambling Hornets right flank, and - as Gaz Langley went down with a leg injury that saw him helped from the field - Hardman scored a converted try for 12-nil.

The 24 minute saw the fulcrum on which the first half turned. A huge midfield break from Wayne English took play to the Rovers line and, with defenders gathering, Danny Davies was held inches short. Rovers drove the ball away, knocking on in the process as the ball carrier regained his fumble back off his tackler. Mr Bloem saw nowt. He did, however spot a minor infraction at the next tackle. Swept upfield by the gifted penalty Fev capitalised with a try from Ellis. And, from a potential 12-6, Hornets were 18-nil down, the momentum with the home side.

But Hornets kept coming. Joe Greenwood and Steve Marsh both drove Hornets close, but another pressure relieving penalty walked Fev the length of the field.  Quick hands and a huge cut-out pass left Sam Te'o with no chance as Sharp scored by the flag.

The half ended with a Featherstone set going nowhere until a tidy combination of passes saw winger Uaisele find Worthington inside him to score. Half Time 28-nil.

Facing a potential downhill onslaught, Hornets began the second half in the worst possible way.  Crooky uncharacteristically spilled the kick-off. Briggs went piling in off a short ball. Conversion added. Not pretty. And it went from bad to worse. From the kick-off a missed tackle opened the floodgate and Fev had players queuing up to score. Hornets fans just back from the tea-bar wondered how it could be 40-nil.

To their credit, Hornets stiffened up their act. As Tony Suffolk became an increasing pain in Featherstone's arse Hornets had their best spell of the game, but were unable to find the killer pass to unlock the Rovers stern defence.

Conversely, when Fev saw a chink of opportunity they took it without hesitation. With the home side steaming down the slope in numbers, Uaisele was first to respond to a Kain kick to score out wide. Five minutes later it was Uaisele again, this time a try from a 40 metre break off an outrageous cut-out pass. 50 nil.

Credit to Hornets as they sucked in and continued to pound the home defence. A repeat set off a threatening grubber gave them field position to launch Anthony Walker who showed great strength to score by the post. Crooky with the two and some pride restored.

Fev ended the afternoon with a 79th minute long-range effort from Sharp, but whist Hornets were well-beaten, the response from the supporters showed that they were not bowed.

It is difficult, though, to watch your team get such a brutal lesson in finshing - but the step up into this league brings with it the steepest of learning curves. Despite the disparity in the scoreline, Hornets put in their grittiest 80 minutes yet. With genuine Super League ambitions, there's no doubt that Featherstone will nail scores like this to more teams this season. And - if half chances, goal-line knock-ons and chalked-off  tries can be turned into points, then Hornets aren't as far away as a 56-6 defeat suggests. 

Indeed, next week's Challenge Cup break provides a little respite and a chance to put the lessons learned thus far into practice.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Sunday's Coming: Featherstone Rovers

Having suffered a shock opening-day defeat at Dewsbury, Featherstone Rovers look to have got their Super League aspirations back on track - albeit somewhat bumpily.

Having since edged out Halifax by 28 to 20, Fev sent Big Spending North Wales Crusaders™ spiralling to their first home defeat in 18 months last week - eventually beating them 36 to 6, having been locked-up at 6-all at half time.

In a game that has a strangely familiar shape to it, Will Sharp bagged three tries and Gareth Moore kicked six goals to clock-up 30 unanswered points to haul the game out of the Welshmen's reach.
Miner Alterations: The new stand at Post Office Road,
but the pitch looks a bit heavy...

Whilst not quite yet the slick Championship machine everyone quite expected, John Bastian's charges have the look of a team happy to grind out a win. An attitude that will take you a very long way at our level.

Celebrating their win at Wrexham, Rovers Chief Executive Craig Poskitt said: "… the club did have complaints from North Wales Crusaders fans concerning some of the language which does not have a place in our family game. Can I please ask fans to respect this element of our game in future, I am investigating the complaints today and speaking with individuals personally. There is no place for this behaviour at Featherstone Rovers".

Elsewhere on their website it said, modestly: "If Featherstone can replicate their second half performance next week, then Rochdale will be unable to withstand the Rovers onslaught".
We assume they mean on the field.

After last week's disappointing second-half Hornets' Ian Talbot wasn't too impressed:  'I was proud of the lads (v Dewsbury) - we competed for 80 minutes and faded in the last 15 or so. This week, we dominated a pack for 40 minutes and then just stopped. Nobody wanted to put a shoulder in and stand up and be counted. We didn't stick to the game plan. I said it last year - if the boys stick to a game plan and apply themselves we will do well.'

Tal. identified the loss of Sean Casey as the turning point: '(Sherriffe) definitely led with his knees, and he's hurt Sean. We got the penalty but the lad should have had ten minutes in the bin. When we lost Sean we had to move Ryan (Millard) to full back and with it we lost our attacking shape'.

There are no doubts that Sunday will pose a severe test - and in 40 year of watching Hornets, we've seen us win at Post Office Road a grand total of twice, so History isn't in our favour. But competing in the Championship means competing with the best the competition has to offer and that's what everyone at the club has worked so hard for. So let's get over to Fev and get behind the lads. You wouldn't want to miss the the season's biggest shock result, would you?

Directions to Featherstone
Leave the M62 at Junction 31: follow for Wakefield.  As you go under the M62 keep left/ bear left towards Ackton. Follow this road straight across a series of three mini-roundabouts, for approximately 1 ½ miles to a set of traffic lights, Turn Left onto the A645 Pontefract. Next set of lights and take a left turn into Station Lane, up Station Lane for 400 yards until you pass the Yorkshire Bank on your right, Post Office Road is the second road on your right after this. The Ground is on your left after 200 yards.

Post code for SatNav is WF7 5EN

RFL Match Preview
Featherstone Rovers v Rochdale Hornets (3.00pm)

Featherstone Rovers coach John Bastian will check on Greg Worthington (jaw) and Jack Bussey (ankle) before finalising the team to face Rochdale Hornets. Rovers produced an impressive second-half display to win 36-6 against North Wales Crusaders last week.

Bastian said: “We played some cracking rugby, but there were certain areas we need to improve on – 
we want a bit more intensity to our starts in games.

We addressed a few things at half time and the second half was a different game altogether. Our response and reactions were superb and we scored some great tries.”

He added: “We’ll go into Sunday’s game full of confidence, and we should do as well.

“That second half against Crusaders has given us a bit more confidence, but we certainly won’t be complacent. We’ll do our homework on the opposition, we’ll respect them and then we’ll try to perform against them.”

Hornets coach Ian Talbot is demanding an improved performance from last week’s 40-14 defeat by Keighley Cougars.

Talbot said: “Nobody wanted to put a shoulder in and stand up and be counted, and we didn’t stick to the game plan.”

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Deja-Vu - Again.

Hornets 14 Keighley 40

Rugby League games turn on such small moments. Whilst Keighley's Handforth and March ultimately proved the key difference between the two sides, this game was surely won by Sherriffe on the half hour mark when he dropped his knees in the back of Sean Casey as he dived to gather a kick into the Hornets' in-goal.

Casey was unable to continue, Hornets moved Ryan Millard to fullback and - at a stroke - Keighley saw Hornets primary attacking threat nullified, with Millard pushed into defensive duties.

The afternoon started optimistically, with Hornets off to a lightning start. After just two minutes, Hornets got a repeat set after a Paul Crook kick was charged down. Quick hands to the right and Danny Davies slotted Gaz Langley in by the flag to give Hornets an early lead.

Hornets continued to press, but - having won a last tackle penalty they coughed possession on the first tackle. No matter, Hornets maintained the momentum off the back of a series of cheap Keighley penalties. And, when Paul Crook lofted a teasing 10th minute kick into the in-goal, Gaz Langley out-stripped Barnett to touch down. 8-nil.

It was Paul Crook who, again, gave Hornets a platform to attack. A 12th minute 40/20 took Hornets deep into Cougars' territory; a repeat set sucessfully acquired off a Crook grubber. But - again - Hornets pushed the pass and handed over possession on the second tackle.

On 15 minutes, Danny Davies looked likely to score, but his break off a peach of a flat Paul Crook pass was brought back: the pass deemed forward.

Having weathered the early onslaught, this get-out-of-jail card gave Keighley the position and possession to have their best spell of the half. The first wave of attack came to nought as the Hornets defence stood firm, but on the next set - with no options on the last tackle, Handforth stepped between flat-footed props for a tricksy, close-range try. He also added the two to close the gap to 8-6.

Hornets' response was immediate. A fantastic delayed kick from Ryan Millard found Matt Dawson diving through to touch down on 24 minutes. Crooky added the two and Hornets were back in the box-seat at 14-6

Keighley's response was a sluggish, aimless set going nowhere until a last tackle grubber drew a diving recovery from Sean Casey - and Sherriffe arrived knees-first to change the game's direction.

With March entering the fray at hooker, Keighley visibly lifted their tempo and, when the Cougars worked an old-skool runaround at the back of a 39th minutes scrum, White looped round to score by the flag. Half-time 14-10.

The second half bore a somewhat eerie similarity to last week's. Hornets plugging away gamely, whilst the visitors offloaded us to death - helped by a raft of soft  ruck penalties and easy possession.

On 42 minutes, Ryan Millard was pressed into ending a huge Keighley break with a top-class tackle, but it was only temporary respite. On 45 minutes Hornets knocked-on, Keighley worked the ball around and a stretching wide pass put White on by the flag. Handforth with the two and Keighley in front at 14-16.

The momentum shifted, Hornets unable to wrestle it  back. And a pattern began to emerge...

47 minutes, Hornets conceded a penalty: a lofted kick from Keighley found White who touched down unopposed. 14-20

54 minutes, Hornets conceded a penalty: Keighley worked the ball downfield, sent a big prop steaming in from two metres, March backing up to score. Handforth the two: 14-26.

57 minutes: Hornets conceded a penalty from the kick-off: Keighley marched straight back downfield where quick hands and cool heads fed White in through a fragmented defence. James Dandy sin-binned for a supposed late shot on Handforth. Lazarus-like, he arose to miss the conversion: 14-30

62 minutes: Paul March straight through a tiring defence, Graham in support for an easy try. Handforth the two. March subbed himself off. Job done: 14-36. 

Hornets did rally briefly, gifted a penalty under the Cougars' posts, but the ball was spilled on the first tackle. The second half encapsulated in a single moment.

On 79 minutes, man of the match Tony Suffolk suffered a brain-fart, conceding a penalty in possession for pushing. And with the plaintive tones of the final hooter in the air, Keighley worked the ball wide to Graham who scored by the flag. Full Time 14-40. Disappointing.

What positives there are to take from this game came in that first half hour. Chivvied by a dynamic, probing Ryan Millard, Hornets showed promise and potential.

Now all we need to do is put two great halves together in the same game and we'll be sorted.

Hornets v Keighley line-ups.