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Match report: Keighley Cougars 34, York City Knights 0
As Eminem may say, will the real York City Knights please stand up.
Or, as one fan put it, will York City Knights please just turn up when they play away from home.
On the teamsheet, the side that ran out at Cougar Park was generally the same as that which had hammered Workington at Huntington Stadium last week. On the field, however, it could hardly have been more different as they crashed 34-0 to an average Keighley outfit.
They were “totally unrecognisable”, as boss Gary Thornton put it, in a post-match synopsis that was a mixture of dejection, disappointment and downright anger.
It was almost textbook Jekyll and Hyde – only, with all that is bad about Mr Hyde there’s at least a bit of aggression, a bit of danger, and York yesterday showed none of that.
Not only were they out-enthused, but they posed no threat, hardly ever looking like getting through, over or around the host team.
They was no guile or wit, either, as one would hope from Dr Jekyll, as half-back Danny Nicklas gave his worst display to date – being at fault for Keighley’s first two tries and becoming increasingly ineffectual thereafter.
The Cougars had not previously won a game this term, but it seems their new player-coach Paul March still has a stranglehold on old club York – yet to taste defeat to the Knights since being sacked by them in 2009.
March had told The Press in the run-up to the game that his club were targeting this encounter as the one to kickstart their season. But if that rang warning bells in York’s direction, it fell on deaf ears among the Knights team.
Thornton had unsurprisingly stuck with the same starting 13 that had walloped Workington, barring one late change, with Ben Dent coming on the wing for George Elliott, who damaged a hip in training.
There was nothing controversial about his two changes on the bench, either, with Aaron Lyons ruled out with his knee injury and Austin Bell getting to rest a few niggling injuries, to be replaced by fit-again Sam Scott, the standout second row in February, and prop Luke Stenchion, who was finally passed fit to make his debut.
But names on paper was the only similarity between last week’s team and this one. So much for Thornton’s call to take their good home form with them on the road.
There was one surprise in the Cougars line-up, Scott Leatherbarrow being omitted and March taking back his scrum-half berth alongside Wales international Danny Jones.
Sean Hesketh, the former Knights prop, was also back in the line-up – giving the kind of aggressive, go-forward display so lacking in the opposing pack.
March departed on the half-hour mark with a rib injury – the only bit of damage the Knights caused all day – but the hosts didn’t miss him, Jones being allowed to pull the strings alone without muddying his pristine white jersey.
It was 12-0 at the time, York having themselves to blame for both tries.
For the first, Dean Hadley unnecessarily tried a flicked pass which went to ground, before an attempted 40-20 by Nicklas went out on the full. York’s excellent goalline defence on home turf did not last long here, Hesketh crashing over.
The second saw Nicklas’ pass from a set-move from a scrum easily picked off by Elliot Cosgrove for an interception effort.
It needed a good Tom Carr tackle on Danny Jones to prevent another score, but Keighley stayed on top, Gavin Duffy having a try ruled out for crossing.
The closest York came was when Jack Latus touched down a Nicklas kick just out of bounds.
York inadequacy in possession, however, was summed up by the fact they lost the ball three times at their own scrum and at least twice more in the first tackle after a scrum.
It became 18-0 at half-time when James Haynes was caught out of position at centre, allowing Paul White the space to cross.
The first try of the second half could have been crucial and, on a good day, York would have got it when Scott took a difficult Nicklas pass on the twist. But this was a decidedly bad day and he lost the ball.
Keighley bombed a great chance due to Cosgrove’s awful forward pass to Duffy but, after Jack Lee had fumbled at the back of a scrum, the Cougars were no longer profligate, Richie Barnett getting the first of his two walk-in tries.
Haynes had a run in his favourite full-back position for the last 15 minutes but could not prevent Andy Shickell crashing over, after the Cougars had yet again broken through the defensive line. Barnett then rounded off the scoring from a long pass by Jones, who failed for the first time to add the extras.
Knights: Carr 6, Dent 5, Haynes 6, Briscoe 6, Latus 6, Nicklas 4, Presley 6, Potter 6, Lee 6, Aldous 5, Hadley 5, E Smith 6, Nicholson 6. Subs (all used): Scott 6, Iley 6, Stenchion 5, Sullivan 6.
Keighley: White, Barnett, Sagar, Cosgrove, Duffy, Jones, March, Hesketh, Feather, Shickell, Pursglove, Martin, Rawlins. Subs (all used): R Smith, Law, Sheriffe, Chandler.
Tries: Hesketh 14; Cosgrove 19; White 37; Barnett 62, 75; Shickell 68.
Conversions: Jones 14, 19, 37, 62, 68.
Man of the match: Jack Briscoe – the Hull youngster did little wrong other than be too peripheral.
Referee: Jamie Leahy (Dewsbury) – very good.
Moment of the match: James Haynes did well to take a hard, high pass from Ben Dent, and even better to make 65 metres. However, the Knights at no point looked like scoring, even after this break that left the home team struggling to get back in position.
Gaffe of the match: how can you lose possession from your own scrum three times in a match?
Gamebreaker: the first try after half-time could have been important – and Keighley got it on 62 minutes to move 24-0 clear.
Match rating: from the highs of last week to an awful low this week – at least inconsistency isn’t boring.