Keighley Cougars 30-22 Doncaster RL Match Report by Joshua Chapman (@JRCSport)
KEIGHLEY Cougars started their defence of the League One Cup with a hard-fought 30-22 victory to progress to a quarter-final tie away at Barrow Raiders.
It was a fiery end-to-end game which produced ten tries and two sin-bins but the Cougars did enough to start the competitive season with a victory.
Head Coach Craig Lingard said: “The lads showed some great determination and came out in the second half and realised there was a lot of errors that they could have improved on.
“I think we tried to throw the game away at times throughout the second half as we had Doncaster on the ropes and could have delivered the knockout blow but we didn’t and left it until squeaky bum tie to seal the victory.
“The sin-bins were bound to have an effect on the game when a side is down to 12 men for twenty minutes, it takes a lot out of them.
“Certainly with the first sin-binning we didn’t take advantage of it but we did with the second as we completed our sets better and challenged their defence a little bit more.
“There’s still a lot of work to do and we’ll look to improve on today when we face Fryston on Saturday.”
After a scrappy opening, Doncaster broke the deadlock when, from a play the ball, Liam Welham exposed the space to dive over from close range.
Charlie Martin, who scored the Cougars’ winning try in the final of this competition last May, marked his return to Cougar Park with a sin-bin after a shoulder charge on former team-mate Will Milner.
Lingard’s side took advantage of the extra man with Adam Ryder taking a pass ten metres from the Doncaster line and handing off a number of would-be tacklers to bring the home side within two points.
But the visitors went into the interval with an eight-point lead when Zac Braham got the offload out of the tackle to Kieran Cross who marauded his way through to touch down.
The second half began with Doncaster again reduced to 12 when Jordie Hedges was shown yellow for a spear tackle.
The home side showed no mercy down the slope and, from the resulting penalty, Andy Gabriel cut inside off the wing and weaved his way over for his first try of the afternoon.
Fran Welsh then gave Keighley the lead for the first time as he marked his debut from the bench by showing great strength and power to turn his tackler over and get the ball down on the line.
Sean Kelly marked his return to competitive action after a 21-month injury absence by showing great vision from dummy half to squeeze his way over the Doncaster line.
The game appeared to be settled when Kelly and Matty Beharrell linked up to send a ball wide to Gabriel on the left wing. He had the freedom of Keighley to seal his brace.
Doncaster threatened a comeback with Martin getting his outstretched arm over before Iafeta Palea’aesina powered over underneath the uprights from a metre out to set up a grandstand finish.
But it would be the Cougars who sealed the victory in the closing stages.
After collecting a James Feather grubber underneath the posts, the ball was spilled. From the resulting free play, Emmerson Whittel was quickest to the ball and managed to get over next to the posts.