Monday, 4 July 2016

Hornets Forward Firepower Too Hot for Keighley

Hornets 42 - Cougars 28

Ignore the scoreline. The fact that this result even hints at the veneer of a contest does Hornets a gross disservice. Only once Hornets were reduced to two fit substitutes, players playing out of position and a man sin-binned for the last 10 minutes did Keighley even get a sniff of this game

Keighley’s tormentor-in-chief was the ‘Suva Express’ Jo Taira who applied some frankly scary wrecking-ball technique in both attack and defence. Notwithstanding his punishing carries, his thunderous hit to force a drop-out that led to Jono Smith’s try after 55 minutes was worth the admission money alone.

Hornets were in charge from the moment that Paul Crook’s spiralling kick-off found touch at 15 seconds after three. Two dumbass penalties from Keighley gave Hornets a platform deep in Cougar’s territory where James Tilley hit a flat-ball at pace to score. Crooky the extras, Hornets 6-nil up before Keighley had touched the ball.

Buoyed by their start, Hornets went back down field where Danny Yates slipped a teasing kick with Dale Bloomfield in hot pursuit, pressure on a panicking defence resulting in a scrum. But an attempt to go wide quickly was foiled when Tom Lineham was shepherded into touch. No matter.

On 13 minutes a blockbusting run from Jo Taira - that included an exquisite hand-off - drew a penalty; Danny Yates took a quick tap and, while Keighley were holding a post-mortem on what had just happened, Ben Julien skipped through to score. Crooky the two for 12-nil.

Hornets continued to press hard and, on, 18 minutes Paul Crook and Jordan Case combined to create a pinpoint crash-ball hit by an unstoppable Wayne English at close range. Crooky cool as you like for 18-nil.

On 22 minutes, Hornets targeted Keighley half Paul Handforth defending out on an edge. Having compelled him to make four consecutive tackles, Ben Moores went to him again, finding Ben Julien in space. He slipped the ball to Wayne English who - ankle-tapped -  showed great vision and coolness to slip the ball out for Dale Bloomfield to score. Crooky on target: 24-nil.

Keighley did rally briefly: Peltier chucking his weight behind a short pass to score from five metres.

Hornets had the last word of the half when Paul Crook took the two after a string of Keighley penalties.

Half time 26-6; Hornets in complete control.

The second half was a patched-up, patchwork affair: Hornets losing Dave Cookson and Dale Bloomfield to injury, compelling a major reshuffle that saw Jono Smith play on the wing, Jo Taira switch to centre and props Samir Tahraoui, Matt Hadden and Woz Thompson heavily rotated in short shifts.

But Hornets started brightly. An early penalty for a 3-on-one ball-rip was followed by a frankly stunning passage of play.

On 55 minutes Jo Taira set off in pursuit of a deep kick into the Keighley in-goal. Winger Campbell slipped the ball inside to Martin who was hit like a train by 14 stone of angry Fijian. The main stand rose. From the drop out, Ben Julien broke the initial line, finding makeshift winger Jono Smith with enough space to blast 30 metres and score. Crooky’s kick shaved the post. 32-6

Keighley scraped a a score against the run of play when Feather ducked in from acting half on the last tackle. Hornets’ response was swift: Paul Crook and Tom LIneham keeping the ball alive; Ben Moores a superb fingertips catch to score. Crooky the two 38-12.

With a tiring Hornets inreasingly reshuffled out of shape, Keighley had their best spell of the game: two tries in six minutes for Martin, the first the pick of the brace involving a prestidigitous ball steal on Paul Crook that left both parties equally surprised. Somehow Keighley deigning to compete at 38-24.

On 70 minutes Keighley launched an attack through Hornets’ right channel, where lump John Oaks was deemed to have been tackled by James Tilley before he received the ball. Tilley sin-binned: Hornets reduced to 12 for the remainder of the game. Keighley capitalised on their numerical advantage immediately, Rawlins trundling in out wide to close the gap to just 10 points.

But it’s been at times like these where Alan Kilshaw’s Hornets have shown a steely resolve. Where previously we might have limped and struggled to the finish line, this side responded in the only way it knows how. With two minutes remaining an attritional approach set had Keighley retreating to their goal-line, where an audacious Ben Moores cut-out pass created space for Ben Julien to reach in and score by the corner post.

In the end this game looked tighter than it really was. Only when Hornets were depleted did Keighley even look like competing. Indeed, the first half was as good as we’ve played all season. Slick, cohesive and clinical. Whilst the current clutch of injuries seem to have come at a bad time, Killer will also have one or two fit bodies back on deck next week for our final first-phase game before the Super 8s.

Having secured at least third place, a win next week will seal second. And that, my fellow Hornets, will be a job well done.