A CRACKING game of rugby in difficult weather conditions saw Keighley lose 27-20 at fifth-placed Old Crossleyans in Yorkshire One, despite a valiant effort.

The visitors were playing against a strong wind early on and spent extended periods of time trapped in their own half.

Hosts Crocs took full advantage, with Keighley’s rousing second half comeback falling just short.

On the rare occasions Keighley gained possession in the first 40 minutes, they chose the high risk option of running out of defence.

Even though their handling was well organised by outside half Rich Tillotson, whenever they did get into opposition territory, they found a stonewall defence hard to break down.

The Crocs’ tactics were simple and effective. They used their bigger pack and the strong wind to full advantage, driving up the middle or lofting the ball skywards.

A lineout in the Keighley 22-metre area was driven hard, and with the defenders on the back foot, Crocs centre Chris Vine crossed out wide.

Although Keighley battled away, the constant pressure told when home scrum half Ed Cockcroft landed a penalty.

Sticking to their free flowing game, Keighley managed to force their way into the opposition half.

Unfortunately, an attack through the backs was picked off by Crocs winger Josh Hunt, who intercepted and raced away to score, with Cockcroft converting.

Eventually, Keighley’s hard work paid off when their kicker Jack Atkinson landed a penalty.

But just before half-time, Crocs put the Keighley scrum under pressure, which gave number eight Billy Hammond the chance to break away and score. Cockcroft landed the conversion as his side took a big lead into the break.

A few minutes after the restart, Keighley were again under pressure. A driven lineout forced the visiting pack backwards and led to a try for Crocs’ second row Luke Sturman.

At this stage of the game, Keighley could easily have gone under. Instead they had faith in their ability and proceeded to challenge for every scrap of possession.

On at least three occasions, the Keighley forwards were camped on the Crocs try line, only to be denied by technical offences.

When the hosts did manage to fight their way back into the game, the Keighley defence stood firm.

Young wing forward Ethan Lawrie and number eight Will McLaughlin were well supported by the rest of the pack and stopped every move at source.

Using the wind well, and with quality possession from lineout jumpers James Cunliffe and Tom Willson, Keighley began to build pressure and that told, as Crocs lost a man to a yellow card.

The Keighley pack began to dominate, as substitute Andy Hays made some telling carries.

That gave the backs quick ball and Sean Kelly soon finished off a fine move, breaking through a packed defence to score.

A little later, Tillotson and Kelly worked full back Grayson Tihema into the line. Drawing defenders, he flicked the ball inside for Tillotson to cross, with the try converted by Atkinson.

Keighley, through pressure rugby, gained a lot of penalties which led to good field position.

A well driven lineout then gave McLaughlin, who is in good form at the moment, the opportunity to break off the maul and score.

With time running out, Crocs managed to keep the ball in the forwards and wind down the clock to the final whistle.

Despite defeat, 11th-placed Keighley thoroughly deserved their losing bonus point, but they face another tough test at West Leeds next weekend.