4 Sep 2022
Champion Cougars show their class against injury-hit Hornets
A determined performance from an injury-stricken Rochdale Hornets wasn’t enough as Keighley Cougars ran out 56-24 winners, at the Crown Oil Arena.
With only 14 players available, the odds were stacked against Hornets from the outset but the newly crowned champions were ruthless in how they took advantage of the numerical advantage.
The Yorkshire outfit were quick get on the scoreboard as well, as Charlie Graham broke down the left flank and raced in to score the game’s first try after seven minutes.
Loose forward Billy Gaylor would follow him over the whitewash ten minutes later when he pounced on a misplaced pass deep in Hornets’ territory.
Graham’s second score followed by a try for Alix Stephenson would then see the visitors pull out a 20-0 lead, after 30 minutes.
But Hornets hit back through Ben Killan - the stand-in loose forward powering his way over to record his third try in as many games.
Hornets’ new record points scorer, Cian Tyrer, slotted the resulting conversion to close the gap to 14 points at the break.
With the game still in the balance, Cougars came out flying in the second 40.
In the opening five minutes of the half, Junior Sa’u latched on to a last-tackle grubber kick to dot down before then putting in Mo Agoro for his 28th try of the season.
Again Hornets came back at Keighley though with NRL legend Fuifui Moimoi bludgeoning his way over the try line, to reduce the deficit.
Then, an excellent read from Gregg McNally would see Rochdale score a third try as the former Leigh Centurions man ran in an interception try from 50 metres.
As the game entered the final quarter, the full bench of the Rhys Lovegrove’s side began to take effect.
Within seven minutes Cougars ran in three tries, demonstrating all the qualities that have made them deserved champions.
The first saw Harvey Spence go over from close range, before James Feather marked the final game of his career with a try of his own.
S’au would then double his tally, in brutal fashion, with Jack Miller converting to bring up another half century for Keighley.
Hornets’ spirit was evident throughout the contest though and, five minutes from time, Aiden Roden scored brilliantly from dummy half to make it three tries in his last two appearances.
But, as they have all season, Lovegrove’s side had the final say as fullback Lewis Young gathered his own grubber kick to score a superb individual effort in the final minute of the game.
However, with the limitations placed on Gary Thornton’s side, Hornets can take great pride in their performance against the best team in the division - their tally of 24 points is the most scored against Keighley this season.
Rochdale will be hoping they can build on this when they host local rivals Oldham next Sunday, in a tantalising play-off tie.
Hornets: Tyrer, Birtle, Nixon, Hitchcox, Worrincy, McNally, Rush; Moimoi, Roden, Bennion, Forster, Calland, Killan.
Tries: Killan (33’), Moimoi (52’), McNally (57’), Roden (75’).
Goals: Tyrer, 4/4
Cougars: Young, Agoro, Sa’u, Graham, Stephenson, Chisolm, Miller; Santi, Feather, Parker, Webster, Levy, Gaylor.
Interchanges: Lynham, Scully, Spence, Everett.
Tries: Graham (7’, 20’), Gaylor (16’), Stephenson (28’), Sa’u (42’, 70’), Agoro (44’), Spence (63’), Feather (66’), Young (79’).
Goals: Miller, 8/10
Half time: 6-20
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas
Image by JMSportPix