It’s Derby Day At Cougar Park – Bradford Preview

Keighley Cougars v Bradford Bulls Match Preview by Joshua Chapman (@JRCSport)

Date: Sunday 11th March

Time: 3:00pm

Venue: Cougar Park, Keighley

After differing results in the Challenge Cup a fortnight ago, the Cougars and the Bulls collide head on in their first competitive derby for 42 years after both’s League One fixtures last weekend fell victim to the ‘Beast From The East’.


The Cougars suffered a second-half collapse and crashed out of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup as a result away at North Wales Crusaders. Four first tries, a double from Brendon Rawlins with efforts from Josh Tonks and Ritchie Hawkyard, put Keighley in control at the interval. The second half though left Craig Lingard furious as the Cougars conceded 24 unanswered points to exit the Cup at the first hurdle.

Bradford progressed into the Fourth Round of the Challenge Cup with a 82-6 rout of the West Wales Raiders. John Kear’s side ran in 15 tries on the day at Odsal with Elliot Minchella starring with a 5-try haul. Gregg McNally, Ashley Gibson and Liam Johnson all crossed for a brace apiece with further tries on the afternoon coming through Steve Crossley, Ethan Ryan, Callum Bustin and Dane Chisholm.


Craig Lingard makes one change to the 19 man squad that exited the Cup in Wrexham as Lewis Fairhurst comes in to the side in place of Jose Kenga. Josh Lynam serves the second game of his two-match suspension after the postponement of last Sunday’s scheduled trip to Newcastle. This game comes too soon for both new signing Perry Whiteley and the returning Davey Dixon with the foursome of Cameron Leeming (Knee), Liam Senior (Back), Dan Parker (Hand) and Trae O’Sullivan (Concussion) all missing through injury.

John Kear is expected to give Dane Chisholm an hour of action as he continues his return from a serious knee injury sustained last May. George Flanagan is in line to make his debut for Bradford after joining the club early last week from Hunslet RL with the pair of Liam Johnson and Vila Halafihi both included after knocks sustained against West Wales Raiders in the Bulls’ last outing.

The side who handles the pressure, atmosphere and tension that comes with a massive derby fixture such as this one will be team that comes out on top and takes the 2 points and bragging rights come the full-time hooter at Cougar Park. However, Benn Hardcastle and Matty Beharrell will come toe-to-toe with Joe Keyes and Dane Chisholm in a battle between arguably the two best half-back partnerships that the third tier has to offer.


COUGARS: Aaronson, Bailey, Barnes, Beharrell, Conory, Emmett, Fairhurst, Gabriel, Hallas, Hardcastle, Hawkyard, Law, Lumb, Nicholson, Rawlins, Ryder, Tahraoui, Tonks, Wright.

BULLS: Bustin, Chisholm, Crossley, Flanagan, Garside, Gibson, Grant, Halafihi, Hallas, Johnson, Keyes, McNally, Milton, Minchella, Peltier, Pickersgill, Ryan, Smith, Wood.


Keighley Cougars Head Coach Craig Lingard: “It’s going to be a very difficult game. We’ve got to try and be strong down the middle, keep knocking the sets out.

“Bradford are going to try and pressure us, so we know we’ve got to keep the ball, and we’ll be looking to play to our attacking strengths.

“I’m not going to go back over what happened last time we played Bradford, we’ve got to look forward rather than looking back over that.

“It’s a derby, it’s going to be feisty at times, it’s going to have a lively atmosphere.”

Bradford Bulls Head Coach John Kear: “We’ve had a great practice. We only have to cast our minds back a month to going to York.“It was a cup final atmosphere and a very high standard game against quality opposition. We only have to look back to that for our muscle memory and our thought process. I think that will stand us in good stead.

“It’s going to be tough because they are a good team and they’re on their own ground. It’s a local derby and there is some feeling between Keighley and Bradford that is well-documented and any derby brings with it a higher intensity and that’s what we’ll get.

“Cougar Park is a ground where the fans are really packed on top of the players and if we equal the crowd that went to York then it will make for a great atmosphere.

“I’m just looking forward to a special day, especially as it’s one day in 42 years!”


The man in the middle for this Betfred League One derby at Cougar Park this Sunday afternoon is Billy Pearson from Barnsley. Pearson was scheduled to referee the Cougars’ postponed fixture at Newcastle Thunder last weekend and was also the man in the middle for the Cougars’ 28-0 pre-season home defeat to the Batley Bulldogs back in January.


After both teams were disrupted last week by the weather brought by the ‘Beast From The East’ this derby fixture provides the perfect opportunity for both to get back into action. The Cougars will be looking to bounce back from the second half performance that cost them the game at North Wales while the Bulls will look to continue the form from their victory over West Wales. It promises to be a tasty afternoon of Rugby League at Cougar Park between these two local rivals.

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