Newcastle Thunder 34-8 Keighley Cougars Match Report by Joshua Chapman (@JRCSport)
THE Cougars’ play-off hopes are hanging by a thread following a second consecutive League One Super 8s defeat on the road, this time at the hands of Newcastle.
The defeat leaves the Cougars top five aspirations out of their own hands much to the annoyance of Head Coach Craig Lingard.
“The last two performances have been nothing short of pathetic and it simply won’t ride with me,” said a furious Lingard.
“It’s frustrating as we’ve passed up a real golden opportunity and the way we started and finished the game have highlighted that we’re quite a few players away from where we need to be.
“We shouldn’t be in the position we are now where we’ll be relying on a favour from Newcastle at Doncaster next weekend, we should have been winning today’s game and then beating Workington looking towards the Barrow game.
“So it’s still mathematically possible but you’d say it’s highly unlikely we’ll make the top five now.
“But today has showed that there are a number of players within the squad not ready to compete at this level.
Keighley thought they had opened the scoring when Ali Blair spilled the ball and Matty Beharrell raced round beneath the posts, only for the referee to rule the first knock-on had come from a visiting player.
It would be Blair who scored the first points of the afternoon as, following a penalty, the Cougars left a bus-sized gap open down the right wing, from which the Thunder winger took advantage.
Blair then doubled both his and Newcastle’s tally as he walked the ball home after excellent work from Lewis Young to break the line.
The game was brought to a halt in the 28th minute when Keighley centre Ben Sagar required urgent treatment to a wound, meaning the doctor could not be pitch-side, and as a result the match commissioner entered the pitch to stop play.
With the game restarted following a 26-minute delay to proceedings, Sean Kelly was penalised for holding down in the tackle and Benn Hardcastle stepped up to convert the two points.
The second half began with Beharrell racing through to chase his own chip over the top and, despite the ball being knocked back by Steve Snitch, the referee ruled that it was a knock-on by the Cougars half.
Thunder soon gave away three quick penalties, resulting in a team warning, to invite Keighley pressure on the line and were punished when a brief lapse in concentration saw Brendon Rawlins race through to get over.
Craig Lingard’s side now sprung into life and a second try quickly followed as the Newcastle defence held strong before Adam Ryder managed to squeeze over in the corner.
Yet that was as good as it got as Evan Simons was denied from close range but the Cougars defence could not repeat the trick to stop Derrell Olpherts turning over from the play the ball.
Hardcastle then converted his second penalty kick of the afternoon from close range as Keighley were penalised for interference in front of their own posts.
Newcastle finally sealed the contest when Liam McAvoy powered his way over from five meters out to open up a 20-point margin between the sides.
There was then still time for a try on debut from Alex Bielby, who took advantage of a rare Andy Gabriel error to score.