Old Crossleyans started 2019 with a lack lustre, disappointing 18-13 defeat at home to Keighley in Yorkshire One.
The visitors gained revenge for their 32-13 defeat at Utley in September.
The Crocs’ performance, in comparison to the high standards achieved for much of this season, lacked the necessary cohesion and discipline. They didn’t have a cutting edge in attack and the defence was found wanting on several occasions after a four week layoff. Keighley defended effectively and took their scoring opportunities well.
Crocs still led until the 75th minute but having a man red carded early in the second half meant they faced an uphill struggle. Keighley eventually made the numerical advantage count and Crocs had a further man red carded as the game entered stoppage time.
Crocs controlled the opening exchanges but conceded successive penalties and Keighley responded with a promising move down their left wing, deep in the Crocs’ half, only for it called back for a forward pass. Defences were on top and play became scrappy and fragmented with a series of turnover balls and unforced errors from both teams.
Keighley’s Alex Brown’s hit the crossbar with a penalty and Crocs cleared.
Josh Hunt excelled in defence, forcing a turnover, and minutes later he scored the opening try. Crocs built the phases patiently. Tony Oxley drove the ball in hard and Joe Stott’s diagonal cross kick found the wingman who sprinted past the cover to score under the posts. Callum Dunne’s conversion established a 7-0 lead.
Keighley responded when Tom Wilson broke the midfield defence. An attacking platform was established but a knock on relieved the pressure.
Crocs were penalised for successive scrum infringements and Keighley again asked serious questions of the home defence. They spun the ball to the right wing but a try’ was ruled out for a foot in touch.
Joe Gallagher intercepted a dangerous Keighley attack but the constant pressure was made to count after 32 minutes. Crocs had a man yellow carded for a deliberate knock on and Brown’s easy penalty made it 7-3. Callum Dunne made it 10-3 minutes later but Keighley had the final word of the half. Suspect tackling allowed Joey Sugden to scamper in for a try in the right corner. The conversion attempt drifted wide but the Crocs’ lead was narrowed to 10-8.
Crocs started the second half on the attack, building the phases with a series of pick and go drives, but Keighley defended comfortably and eventually forced a turnover.
The home team were back to a full complement of players but it was the visitors who were controlling play and only a further interception prevented a possible scoring opportunity.
Arguably, the turning point of the game occurred on the 50th minute. Following a scuffle, Keighley had a man yellow carded but, crucially, Crocs’ scrum half received a second yellow which became a red.
A Keighley penalty in front of the posts was pulled wide and when the visitors were penalised for a high tackle, Dunne’s penalty extended the lead to 13-8.
Crocs were still turning the ball over too readily, although credit must be given to the Keighley defence.
Entering the final 10 minutes, a further penalty attempt from Dunne, just inside his half, fell short.
Keighley replied immediately and a scything run through the Crocs’ defence from full back Jake Duxbury levelled the scores and the easy conversion gave Keighley the lead for the first time.
Entering stoppage time Crocs had a second player sent off for successive yellow card offences and Brown’s penalty stretched the visitors’ lead to 18-13. There was still one more opportunity for Crocs to attack but the ball was eventually turned over and kicked into touch.