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.