Old Crossleyans maintained their excellent start to their Yorkshire One season with a hard fought 32-13 victory on the 4G pitch at Keighley.
Midway through the second half the match was finely balanced with Crocs holding a 20-13 lead. An interception try eased the pressure on the visitors and the bonus point was secured with Billy Hammond’s second try deep into stoppage time.
The first half was a rather disjointed affair with neither team able to establish any authority on the game. Scoring opportunities were at a premium, testimony to some effective defending as well as a result of unforced errors.
Crocs made a number of changes from the team that beat Guisborough the previous week. Iain Davies returned to the pack after being unavailable the previous week and Tony Oxley made his seasonal debut following his return to the club. Freddy Walker started in the back line, enabling Billy Hammond to move into the back row. Joel McFarlane filled the full back slot and Chris Vine started on the wing.
The opening exchanges set the pattern for much of the first half with both teams unable to take advantage of territory and possession when in their opponents’ half.
Crocs took the lead on 10 minutes when they pushed Keighley off their own scrum feed and the referee awarded a penalty. Gareth Sweeney established a 3-0 lead.
On the quarter hour Keighley pulled a penalty effort wide.
Vine ran effectively from deep in his own half and found support from Billy Hammond but the move broke down shortly after when Crocs knocked on. Walker then carved his way through the Keighley midfield but lacked support.
On the half hour Crocs had a man yellow carded for a high tackle and this signalled a period of pressure from the home team. Crocs produced some excellent defence but the numerical advantage eventually paid dividends when Josh Slingsby spotted a gap and went under the posts.
Alex Brown added the conversion and Keighley must have anticipated finishing the half with a 7-3 lead. However, Billy Hammond drove deep into the Keighley 22 and found support from Oxley, who made a powerful run to the line.
Sweeney converted to give Crocs a 10-7 lead with the last action of the half.
The lead was extended within two minutes of the restart with a try of real quality. Ryan Hammond drove the ball in hard and the move was continued by Jack Pilcher. The prop maintained the momentum and showed impressive dexterity to release Davies, who ran in for Crocs’ second try.
Joe Stott’s conversion stretched the lead to 17-7 and minutes later Joel McFarlane carved his way through the Keighley cover to take play deep into the opposition half.
Crocs were playing with more control but Keighley responded on 60 minutes with an Alex Brown penalty to make it 10-17. Sweeney and Brown traded further penalties to retain the seven-point gap moving into the final 15 minutes.
With Keighley probing the Crocs’ defensive line and the visitors again down to 14 men for a yellow card offence, the hosts threw the ball out wide but Jack Hammond intercepted. He sprinted to within yards of the line before passing to brother Billy, who touched down. Sweeney’s conversion made it 27-17 and game was effectively settled.
The bonus point was secured with the final play, a flowing back line move which saw Billy Hammond touch down for an unconverted try in the corner.
Three successive victories sees Crocs in second place behind next week’s visitors Middlesbrough.