Neil Kelly Post Swinton Lions
May 22, 2022
Head coach Neil Kelly praised the reaction in performance from his Cornwall RLFC side in a losing cause at Swinton Lions.
After a frustrating 20-0 reverse at the hands of West Wales Raiders six days earlier, Kelly’s troops travelled to Heywood Road to take on the Lions who pre-season were tipped for an instant Championship return.
And despite the 54-16 reverse at Heywood Road, home of rugby union side Sale FC, Cornwall were a totally different proposition to the side which were beaten by the Raiders last time out.
Tries in the opening stanza from Adam Rusling and Joe Purcell saw Cornwall trailing 24-10 at the break. Rusling grabbed another after the interval but a three-try burst in the final 12 minutes ultimately flattered the hosts.
“We got a massive reaction and there are massive positives,” Kelly told cornwallrlfc.co.uk at full time. “When you look at the players we had out injured, you could probably knock a couple of scores off Swinton’s final total too.
“We have taken ourselves back to the level we were at after the Hunslet defeat because for large parts and areas of the game we matched Swinton.
“The players went toe-to-toe with Swinton and we played some good football. We saw the benefit of having a recognised half-back combination and that aspect of our team will only get better the more games (Nathan) Conroy and Adam Rusling play together.
“I’m looking forward to seeing that part of our game develop but the performance has given us a huge filip going forward.
“Obviously the result is disappointing but I think it was more important to get a performance from the players. We got that for 60 or 70 per cent of the game with no lack of effort given.
“That said, we do need to be a bit smarter at times and cut out the naive mistakes. Hopefully, as the season goes on, I won’t be saying that after every game.”
Although Jackson Walker took the supporters’ man of the match award, Rusling, on loan from Hull Kingston Rovers, also caught the eye after a difficult debut against West Wales in round eight.
The former Castleford man’s first touch of the football was to present the intercept opportunity which Callum Merrett capitalised on to open West Wales’ account inside the first minute.
But Rusling, who played one Super League game for Castleford last year before moving to Craven Park in the close season, demonstrated why he is highly rated by Robins supremo Tony Smith and he delivered a classy showing in Manchester.
“I’m pleased for Adam as it’s always hard for half-back when their first touch of the football leads to an intercept try for the opposition,” Kelly added. “He took control today and like Nathan showed tremendous willingness to create things.
“Looking at other areas of our team, the forwards went as expected by carrying the ball hard and doing the tough stuff up the middle. There were still one or two brain explosions and we saw that in the last few minutes.
“We had a penalty but the referee has turned it over into their penalty because we lacked a bit of discipline. That ultimately leads to the situation where Swinton get over the 50-point mark and these are the situations where we have to be kinder to ourselves in our discipline.”
Alongside Rusling, stand-off Nathan Conroy was impressive on his debut with Luke Collins also in a Cornwall shirt for the first time at hooker.
Replacing Jake Lloyd who suffered an elbow injury against West Wales, Collins slotted into the team seamlessly.
One of Cornwall’s star signings during the winter, Collins only linked up with his new team on Monday after his rugby union commitments finished in Holland.
“I was happy with Luke’s match minutes,” Kelly revealed when asked about the former Balmain Tigers academy player. “He played long minutes in the game and his defence was excellent. Going forward, I think he will be a massive plus for us.”