Sunday, 21 June 2015

Hornets stutter in Lawkholme Freak Show

Keighley 54 - Hornets 20

In 1724, French philospher Bernard le Bauvier de Fontenelle said: “The greatest hurdle to happiness is the expectation of too great a happiness.” A pioneer of ‘the enlightenment’,  he perfectly nailed this disappointing freak-show of a game at Cougar Park, where pretty much everything that could go wrong, did.

Having travelled in decent numbers - and with expectations buoyed by last week’s thriller at Cefn Mawr - Hornets’ supporters had their hopes put through the emotional wringer.

After a pretty even start, back-to back penalties swept Keighley downfield where relentless pressure eventually told; Handforth ducking in to score from close range. Lawton with the first of a flawless afternoon with the boot 6-nil.

Then the first of a chain of freak moments that swept the game in the Cougars’ favour. A last tackle hoist & hope kick from Handforth looked destined for the stand roof, but it swirled in the wind, dropped like a rock in the in-goal and popped straight up into Gabriel’s hands. Even the locals rubbed their eyes in disbelief; 12-nil.

On 15 minutes, Hornets applied some pressure of their own. A good approach set ending with a Danny Yates kick sparking panic in the home in-goal. A drop-out ensued. Two minutes later, some nifty footwork by Jack Ashworth and smart play up the blind-side by Paul Crook sent Dale Bloomfield in out wide. Crooky just wide with the conversion: 12-4.

On 22 minutes another moment of freakish luck for the home side. Hornets pushing hard up the right channel, the ball knocked loose from Danny Yates hands, White gathering to sprint 90 metres to score. 18-4. Gutting: You could see the body language slump.

Indeed, when Handforth followed up a break through some very ordinary tackling in centre-field to send Paul March under the black dot two minutes later, you could sense an irreversible slide: 24-4.

A well made try on 26 minutes - Brad Hargreaves the beneficiary after quick hands to the edge - gave Hornets some respite at 24-8: but another gift interception off an awful pass from Wayne English saw Gabriel stroll in and score. 30-8.

Most annoyingly, Hornets went in at the break 22 points adrift having been the better side with ball in hand - but the freakish nature of the home side’s fortune left Hornets with a metaphorical mountain to climb.

Keighley started the second half with real intent: Handforth dummying a last tackle kick to skate into open field, Dale Bloomfield pulling off a last-ditch tackle to stop Gabriel in his tracks. Hornets responded well: Jordan Case producing a last tackle dink & chase, but unable to force a drop-out.

With Handforth calling the shots, Keighley began to build pressure. And when Lynam arrived on a short ball after 52 minutes, he found enough space to wriggle through and score: 36-8.

Hornets rallied briefly with Ant Walker barrelling in to score on 55 minutes, but a dropped ball followed by a penalty two tackles later undid all the good work. Hornets’ defence caught static as Brooke scored. 42-14.

On 68 minutes another moment of serendipitous oddity as a last tackle Hornets kick into the in-goal was snaffled by White who pinned back his ears to sprint 105 metres to score; 48-14. And, if that were not enough freakery for a Sunday afternoon, a last tackle kick from Sherriffe pinballed off a series of defenders’ legs to land plumb in his brother’s hands with the line begging: 54-14.

With six minutes remaining Paul Crook produced a dummying run to score - and add the extras to bring this fragmented screwball mess of a game to a close at 54-20.

Having effectively gifted Keighley 24 points, this game was - in reality - much closer than the score suggests, but in games that are won or lost by inches, you can’t really afford to give a good side like Keighley such a massive leg-up.

As it was, an afternoon that began with such expectation ended in head-shaking disbelief. Bernard le Bauvier de Fontenelle would’ve had a field day.