Keighley Cougars 25-24 Bradford Bulls Match Report by Joshua Chapman (@JRCSport)
KEIGHLEY Cougars retained the Joe Phillips Memorial Trophy as they defeated the Bradford Bulls in the most dramatic of circumstances.
The Bulls, being watched for the first time by new coach Geoff Toovey, twice surrendered a twelve point lead before Matty Beharrell, who put pen to paper on a new contract this week, put the winning drop goal over with 90 seconds left on the clock.
Head Coach Craig Lingard said: “I’m more pleased with the attitude of the players than the result.
“We went 24-12 down and could have easily capitulated and just rolled over but we didn’t and then when we went in front, we dropped the ball ten meters off our own line and again, we could have rolled over and let them score to win the game.
“We need to work on our completion rate though, we got it back to 49% in the second half but a lot of the errors we made were when we had good ball, we dropped the ball and made a forward pass with the line open so looking back at the result we should have probably scored a lot more points than we did today.
“In Matty Beharrell we’ve got a good half back and there is no point having a good half back if you’re not prepared to keep hold of them and we’ve identified the players we want to keep for next year as we don’t want to just build over 12 months, we want to build for the next two or three years.
“But, I was really pleased with our never say die attitude and our scramble defensively was good so I’m really pleased with how we played today.”
The Bulls broke the deadlock on the afternoon after five minutes when Leon Pryce showed two dummy passes to the Cougars defence before sending Joe Keyes through a gap who in turn offloaded to Colton Roche who crossed from close range.
Things threatened to boil over moments later when Josh Tonks put in a high shot on Pryce with referee Liam Moore having decisions to make once more just moments later after another big shot, this time on Keyes.
The visitors doubled their lead on the 16 minute mark however when after Andy Gabriel spilt a bomb from Keyes, James Mendeika was quickest to pounce getting the offload away to Joe Lumb who raced round beneath the uprights.
Lingard’s interchanges then flipped the game on its head with Sean Hesketh powering over from close range before Liam Darville got a superb offload out the tackle to Nathan Kitson who brought the teams level.
Bradford had the lead at the interval however when James Bentley broke through a tackle to send Ross Oakes 60 metres in front of a healthy travelling support.
After a tense start to the second half, the Bulls opened up a twelve point lead once more as Keyes showed great footwork to side step through the Cougars defensive line and send Ilies Macani crashing over from a metre out.
A moment of comedy ensued as the restart was delayed after a Canadian Snow Goose found its way onto the pitch only to fly away after work from Darren Greenwood and referee Moore.
The Cougars sprung back into life with two tries in three minutes the first of which saw Andy Gabriel intercepted an Oscar Thomas pass and showed his speed to race 85 metres unchallenged to dive over just to the left of the posts.
The home side then saw Beharrell catch his own exquisite chip over the top on the last tackle before passing the ball to former Bull Emmerson Whittel who found a gap in the line to race through and score.
The victory in this thrilling derby was secured with 90 seconds left to play when after winning a penalty ten metres out from the Bradford line, the ball fell to Beharrell who calmly slotted over from 12 metres to retain the trophy at the expense of the Cougars bitterest rivals.