Whitehaven v Keighley Cougars Match Preview by Joshua Chapman (@JRCSport)
Date: Sunday 2nd July
Venue: Recreation Ground, Whitehaven
Despite a battling second half performance last Sunday, the Cougars are looking over their shoulder in the battle for a top eight finish ahead of the Super Eights and must do things the hard way as they head to Whitehaven for the first of the Cumbria double header.
LAST TIME OUT:
Leading 19-0 at one point, it appeared plain sailing for Whitehaven but a Doncaster comeback saw the Marras cling on for a 25-20 victory to extend their undefeated run to ten games. Tommy Holland, a brace from Jordan Burns and a drop goal from Steve Roper but Richard Horne’s Doncaster came fighting back only for a Jesse Joe Parker try to put breathing space between the two and seal the two points.
The Cougars fought valiantly in the second half but the damage was done in the first half as they slipped to a 18-25 home defeat to York. Trailing 22-0 at the break and down to 12 men following Josh Tonks dismissal, a Davey Dixon brace as well as tries from Brad Nicholson and Andy Gabriel saw Keighley claw their way back into the game, but it was top big a mountain to climb.
Whitehaven Player-Coach Carl Forster had to make a number of late checks on players fitness during Thursday evening’s training session but the pair of Elliott Miller and Lewis Brown, who both missed the victory over Doncaster through injury, return from injury for Sunday’s visit of the Cougars but Glenn Riley is still ruled out.
Craig Lingard will still be without Vinny Finigan (Ankle), Scott Law (Groin) and Ritchie Hawkyard (Facial) through injury and they are joined in the treatment room by Brendon Rawlins (Concussion) and Will Milner (Toe) but Sean Kelly comes into contention following supension. The quartet that have been charged by the RFL Disciplinary this week are available with hearings not taking place until Tuesday evening.
Whitehaven pose an experienced half back pairing in Paul Crook and Steve Roper who know how to get the job done whatever the cost at this level as shown last season with both being a part of the Rochdale Hornets squad that upset Toulouse to be promoted as League One Champions. They will provide the sternest test to date for Matty Beharrell and his half-back partner.
WHITEHAVEN: Aiye; Brown; Burns; Calvert; Crook; Dalton; Forster; Green; Holland; Holliday; McAvoy; Miller; Newton; Parker; Roper; Shackley; Taylor; Tilley; Worthington.
COUGARS: Aaronson; Bailey; Beharrell; Brook; Cherryholme; Conroy; Darville; Dixon; Emmett; Feather; Gabriel; Kelly; Lynam; Milner; Nicholson; Ryder; Sagar; Tonks; Whittel.
Whitehaven Player-Coach Carl Forster: “I was just pleased we saw it through against Doncaster and overall I thought we deserved it.
“When I look at where we are now and how things were looking in the pre-season games, it’s been a great turnaround and the players have been magnificent. We just have to keep that going now right the way through to the end of the season.”
Keighley Cougars Head Coach Craig Lingard: “We have two tough games coming up in Cumbria but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves after losing to York.”
“We were 22-0 down at half-time and down to 12 men after Josh Tonks was sent-off – and we had played poorly.
“But we weren’t talking about damage limitation at half-time. The aim was to go out and score the tries to win the game. In actual fact, we made a good go of it and our defence, despite our handicap, was great as we didn’t conceded another try.
“We will have a look at the video, which might be embarrassing in the first half for some of our players, but then we will go again at Whitehaven.
“Newcastle went above us after their win on Sunday so we lost ground and need to make amends in Cumbria.”
The referee for this Kingstone Press League One Round Thirteen fixture at Cougar Park is Marcus Griffiths. Sunday’s game will be the second time in the 2017 season that Griffiths has officiated the Cougars with his previous appointment coming back in March as the Cougars fell to a shock 46-22 defeat away to the University of Gloucestershire All Golds.
The Cougars top eight aspirations are now teetering on the edge following the disappointing ill-disciplined defeat to the York City Knights last Sunday. Whitehaven are in red hot form and have only been beaten by the Toronto Wolfpack to date in League One and look a very different side to the one that the Cougars put to the sword in pre-season. It will be as tough a test as they come at his level on Sunday for Linners and his men but with the possibilty of players being suspended this coming Tuesday ahead of the trip to Workington, it’s looking like a must win for the Cougars.