Doncaster RL 29-20 Keighley Cougars Match Report by Joshua Chapman (@JRCSport)
KEIGHLEY Cougars surrendered a 14-point lead as they fell to defeat at Doncaster in an end-to-end match in South Yorkshire.
Despite being in control throughout the first half, a second half collapse sent the Cougars crumbling in the blazing heat and left Head Coach Craig Lingard furious with his team.
“It’s completely unforgivable,” blasted Lingard.
“You can’t put yourselves into a position where you’ve got a 14 point cushion midway through the first half and play as well as we did and end up losing the game.
“We coughed up to much possession and only completed 7 sets in that second half and you can’t play without the ball.
“We gave away two penalties with ball in hand which again is completely unforgivable and we’ve come up with 7 basic handling errors.
“It was dumb game management in the second half and it shows by Doncaster’s first try of the second half.
“It’s a last tackle penalty and 35 metres from the line when we don’t need to be conceding that penalty but we lay on in the tackle and give the referee a reason to pull us up when we don’t need too.
“We’ve gone from completing at over 90% in the first half to completing at just over 40% in the second half and against a team like Doncaster, you just can’t give them that much of the ball.”
Keighley had far the better of the opening exchanges and got their rewards as Benn Hardcastle threw a lovely reverse pass to Matthew Bailey, who marked his 100th career appearance with a walk-in try under the sticks.
Hardcastle then had two penalty conversion attempts from bang in front of the uprights. After uncharacteristically missing the first effort, he had no problem slotting over the second.
The visitors extended their lead just moments later as Brad Nicholson powered his way beneath the posts from close range with his first carry after coming from the interchanges bench.
But the home side got themselves on the scoreboard from a short kick through on the last as Jordie Hedges broke the Keighley line and sent Jack Sanderson diving over in the corner.
And Doncaster closed the gap at the interval to just two points as former Cougar Charlie Martin broke an attempted tackle to dive over.
The momentum that the hosts had picked up shortly before the interval carried into the second half and they drew level threw a Hedges penalty after the Doncaster half-back found himself on the end of a right hook from Ritchie Hawkyard.
The South Yorkshire outfit then took the lead for the first time as Sam Doherty beat Andy Gabriel in the air from a kick on the last to touch down in the corner.
Richard Horne’s side were on the front foot and extended their lead further as Russ Spiers burst through and offloaded to Kieran Cross, who raced to the line from 30 metres out.
Cougars coach Lingard was cutting a frustrated figure on the sidelines but his side got back into the arm wrestle thanks to Adam Ryder as the centre broke through, despite a suspicion of a forward pass, and marauded to the try line.
But Doncaster sealed the two points in this topsy-turvy encounter as Jordan Howden slotted a drop goal over from 20 metres out before converting a penalty on the sound of the final hooter.