Monday, 9 March 2020

Hornets' Season Up and Running

Hornets 29 - Keighley 14

Hornets started life back in League 1 with a convincing win over a clawless Cougars side that was second best for 70 minutes. Bar a ten minute spell at the end of the first half, Hornets dominated this one, playing all the football on offer in a game sliced and diced by 25 penalties.

Hornets started with intent, Jordan Syme going close early doors before a Martin Ridyard dink into the in-goal caused panic amongst the Keighley defence: Andy Lea the only cool head in proximity to touch down. Sam Freeman added the extras; the first of yet another 100% afternoon with the boot.

For most of the first quarter, Hornets played in Keighley's half: forcing two drop-outs and building pressure. On 22 minutes Martyn Ridyard hoisted a kick to Keighley's flaky left edge, Webster and Hawkyard lost track of the ball under pressure of Brad Holroyd's harrying chase and Jamie Tracey gathered the loose ball to crash in unopposed. Sam Freeman the two for a comfortable 12-nil.

On the half hour - with Keighley errors and penalties mounting -  the Cougars' newly introduced rake Feather was handed a yellow card for a late shoulder charge on Sam Freeman. He got off the floor and took the two to extend Hornets' lead.

The reduction to twelve seemed to shake the visitors out of their torpor.  Firstly Mr Staveley missed a blatant knock-on as the Cougars crossed the line, his blushes saved by the near-side touch-judge. Then a freak try out of nothing: a pinball kick into the in-goal taking a series of ricochets for Miller to score. (14-4).

On 36 minutes, a moment of lapsed concentration allowed Webster to take an offload and sneak in from close range. Miller added the extras and - out of nowhere - Keighley went to the sheds at 14-10.

Buoyed up by their miracle recovery, Keighley began the second half with real purpose: Hornets compelled to defend four consecutive sets on their own line, eventually forcing a Cougars error. Hornets marched back downfield where Sam Freeman took another two points after the ball was stolen in the tackle (16-10).

On their next possession Hornets were piggy-backed downfield off yet another Cougars penalty: the punishment compounded as Lewis Sheridan fed Liam Whalley into a gap to score. San Freeman on target for 22-10.

As Hornets rolled forward again, Martyn Ridyard did the maths to slam home a 30 metre drop goal to give Hornets a 3-score lead at 23-10,

Keighley sucked in for a big last quarter, but hadn't counted on the ninja defence of Dale Bloomfield. Having halted what looked like a certain try with a bone-crunching one-on-one tackle, he went straight back in to haul Agoro into touch by the flag. Impressive stuff.

With the game ebbing away under a tide of penalties and relentless spoiling, Keighley somehow fashioned a try for Hawkyard out wide, but it was fitting that Hornets had the final word. With the strains of the hooter still hanging in the air, the Cougars defence clocked off to allow Sam Hopkins to score by the posts. Sam Freeman raised the flags to give Hornets a deserved, if workman-like, 29-14 win.

On a day when lucid football came at a premium, Hornets had to dig deep to take the win. Battling horrible conditions, an escalating penalty count and a Keighley side happy to leave something in every tackle, Hornets worked harder on attack and defence and showed more craft at key moments.

As the lads sang the new victory song in the dressing room afterwards, you could sense the confidence creeping back. Yes, we'll face tougher opponents this season - but right here, right now, Hornets are in a good place. And that's priceless.