Featherstone Rovers Under 20’s Match Report by Joshua Chapman (@Chapalar)
The Keighley Cougars Under 20’s side travelled to the Big Fellas Stadium in buoyant mood following back to back home victories over South Wales Scorpions and the Leigh Centurions.
The currently settled look to Paul March’s first team following the Doncaster victory meant that Dean Muir had no fewer than ten first team players to call upon for this fixture. The ten in question were Craig Moss, Gavin Duffy, Rob Hawthorne, Richie Barnett, Ben Stead, Lewis Reed, Joe Parkinson, Ryan Patchett, Ben Sagar and Matt Bailey. These gave the Under 20’s a fierce look at league leaders Featherstone.
The vastly experienced Cougars outfit got the game under way from a Jordan Aitchison kick off and this saw the two sides exchange possession in the opening five minutes off the game with some fantastic tackling being the talking point off the game before the first real attack on the Cougars line saw prop Nathan Harper find his way over underneath the sticks.
Cougars won a penalty on their own line but couldn’t make it count with Rovers winger, Brad Knowles-Tagg, collecting the ball and opting for a quick tap on the twenty which made some valuable metres for the hosts but they were kept out after Ben Helliwell was dragged into touch by the hard hitting Cougars defence.
The Cougars then went searching for the score which would bring the game back level and thought they were in after winger Gavin Duffy broke the Rovers line after escaping a tackle before being punished for being greedy and not opting for the offload to Kyle Akrigg. The Cougars then went for a different approach on the fifth but Ben Stead’s kick was too strong for Richie Barnett and found it’s way into touch.
The Cougars were being punished for switching off repeatedly and after Ben Helliwell broke the line, Tom Hodson thought he was in for the home side’s second try off the evening but was brought back after it was ruled he had collected the ball from a forward pass.
The Cougars then got themselves back into the game when with their next attack on the Rovers line they kept the ball alive before a pass from Rob Hawthorne found its way to the Cougars reigning Player of the Year, Craig Moss, who crossed for the Cougars opener. Ben Stead then missed the conversion to keep the gap at two points.
The Rovers retook the lead after the Cougars kept out both Sam Wright and Ben Helliwell on the line before some clever passing moves punished the lack of defence out on the width with the ball flying over the head off Ethan Hawksworth into the hands of Danny Holmes who crossed in the centre to extend the Rovers lead.
The Cougars wouldn’t lie down and raced straight back into the game as Joe Turton’s attempt to beat Richie Barnett to the ball saw the Fev winger spill it into touch and from the resulting scrum the Rovers halted Matt Bailey on the line before a pass to Rob Hawthorne saw the young centre go over the line with Ben Stead adding the extras.
The Rovers nearly extended their lead once again from yet another Ben Helliwell break as the resulting play saw Jack Pickerill allowed time and space to make a grubber kick which just had too much whizz on it for Brad Knowles-Tagg who was unlucky not to touch down as the ball just beat him and went into touch.
The Cougars then brought the game level heading into the half time break as a Liam Mackay kick went straight into the Cougars defensive line with centre Rob Hawthorne opting to offload to speedy Stand Off Jordan Aitchison who raced seventy metres unchallenged to cross underneath the sticks allowing Ben Stead to bring the game back level heading into half time.
The second half got underway with Kyle Akrigg knocking on from the Jack Pickerill restart with the Rovers thinking they’d crossed again from the resulting scrum but Danny Holmes effort was ruled out by the referee after he judged that Sam Wright knocked on in the previous tackle.
The Rovers continued to pressurise the Cougars defensive line as well as the Cougars try line before they finally found their way over as the Cougars defence were convinced they’d kept prop Nathan Harper short of the line but the referee ruled the prop had crossed for his second try of the evening before Tom Hodson converted to open the Rovers a six point lead.
The Rovers then raced into an eighteen point lead. First an unpunished knock on by the referee allowed Jack Beddis to take advantage and race underneath the posts before Ben Helliwell put in a fantastic eighty metre solo effort making light work off all Cougars defenders in his wake to extend the lead. Tom Hodson added the two on both occasions.
The Cougars second half collapse would get no better as with an hour on the clock at the Big Fellas Stadium some more fantastic Rovers play saw Kurtis Jackson, who had just come off the interchanges bench, fight his way over the Cougars line with Hodson adding the extras once more.
Dean Muir’s experienced outfit went looking to get back into the game as Jordan Aitchison was held ten metres short off the Rovers line but some panic passing off the ball saw Ethan Hawksworth caught short on the wing as he was one metre too far back and knocked on when it seemed easier to catch the ball and cross in the corner.
Play was then halted for a short period of time after Rovers second rower Duane McRea was injured in back play during a Cougars attack which would see them lose the ball from a turnover but some fantastic work by Jordan Aitchison see the standoff steal the ball back before sending Rob Hawthorne crashing over for his second off the evening. Ben Stead was then unsuccessful with the conversion.
Cougars were then caught short from the restart as the ball bounced off the bar and found its way into touch resulting in a goal line dropout by Jordan Aitchison which would reward the Rovers with possession back immediately. Play was then stopped once again for a Rovers injury, this time with Kurtis Jackson going off with a suspected head and/or neck injury.
Brad Knowles-Hogg stole the ball from an unsuspecting Ethan Hawksworth before some clever link up play saw Ben Helliwell offload to Joe Turton allowing the winger to get in for the try on his third attempt off the evening. Tom Hodson was unsuccessful in adding the extras.
The game then seemed to drizzle out under the lights to full time with both sides clearly tired out on the Big Fellas Stadium surface and the Rovers tried desperately in vain to extend their lead even further for a more comprehensive victory. They even survived a late Cougars attack stopping Jordan Aitchison from breaking before Ethan Hawksworth was held short before eventually getting over the line. Ben Stead added the extras to end the game.
Cougars: Moss, Duffy, Akrigg, Hawthorne, Barnett, Aitchison, Stead, Reed, Parkinson, Patchett, Eccleston, Watson, Sagar. Interchanges: Lumb, Hawksworth, Courtney, Bailey.
Rovers: Hodson, Knowles-Tagg, Holmes, Helliwell, Turton, Mackay, Pickerill, Humphries, Teasdale, Harper, Ormonroyd, McRea, Beddis. Interchanges: Jackson, Wick, Wright, Crowther.