The Curtain Comes Down – York Preview

Keighley Cougars v York City Knights Match Preview by Joshua Chapman (@JRCSport)

Date: Sunday 11th September

Time: 3:00pm

Venue: Cougar Park, Keighley

With defeat at Barrow ending the Cougars play-off aspirations, the curtain comes down on the 2016 season and the Paul March era as York City Knights visit Cougar Park in the final round of the Kingstone Press League One Super Eights.

LAST TIME OUT:

Keighley Cougars hopes of a top five finish were ended as they fell to a 26-18 defeat away at the Barrow Raiders. Three first half-tries sent the Cougars into half-time trailing their hosts 18-0 and despite second half tries from Ritchie Hawkyard, Will Milner and James Feather proved nothing more than consolations as a Chris Hankinson penalty and Anthony Bate try wrapped up the two points for the in-form Cumbrian outfit.

York City Knights will play their second game in four days on Sunday after falling to a 28-36 defeat at home to Doncaster RL on Thursday evening. The Knights fell to pieces at the off and trailled their visitors 0-30 at one point the second half, however, the Knights staged a dramatic comeback to get within a whisker of snatching a dramatic victory but a later Doncaster try was enough to condemn James Ford’s side to defeat.

TEAM NEWS:

Paul March is set to be without Darren Hawkyard with the rib injury that kept him out of last Sunday’s defeat to Barrow with Scott Law facing a check on his fitness after pulling out of the warm-up in Cumbria with a sternum problem. Paul Handforth is a doubt with a knee injury that has kept him out for the last month whilst Hamish Barnes is also doubtful with a hematoma on his leg, Brendon Rawlins should play once more after coming through unscathed against Barrow.

York come into the game less than 72 hours removed from their defeat at home to Doncaster on Thursday evening but will be without Austin Buchanan and Mark Applegarth who sustained injuries in Sunday’s win against the London Skolars with Micky Learmonth coming back into contention after being unavailable against the Dons. The Knights are expected to rest players not at 100% though ahead of the beginning of the play-offs in a fortnights time.

KEY BATTLE:

The last time these sides met in July, the battle between Sam Smeaton and Hamish Barnes in the centres stood out after Presley v Handforth in Blackpool and Wilkinson v Hawkyard in March, however, Smeaton and Wilkinson have since moved on from the Knights and Handforth and Barnes are both doubts for this one so the key battles could be in the pack as the Knights in-form forward Brett Waller comes face-to-face with fellow wrecking ball Ross Peltier, who will be looking to go out on a high ahead of his move to Bradford.

THE COACHES:

Keighley Cougars Head Coach Paul March: “It was a stop and start game and that’s probably the story of our season. We made far too many errors in their half, gave them a lot of field position and a lot of ball.

“There’s no pressure on us because we can’t make the play-offs but it’s our last home game of the year and we want to send the boys out there to enjoy themselves.

“It’s going to be an emotional game for us as it’s my last game in charge and this group of players aren’t going to play together again.”

York City Knights Head Coach James Ford has yet to comment.

THE REFEREE:

The referee for this Sunday’s fixture at Cougar Park is Callum Straw from Castleford. Straw has been a regular appointment for the Cougars throughout the 2016 campaign with this fixture being his sixth Keighley game of the year, his last coming last month as Paul March’s side were defeated 18-4 at Rochdale, a game in which Straw dismissed Paul White for punching.

PREDICTION:

Cougar Park is a notorious bogey ground for the Knights and with many the Cougars team looking to send Marchy, and is some cases themselves, out on a high on Sunday against what is thought to be a not 100% Knights squad on the back of a two and half day turnaround, you’d have to fancy the Cougars to finish 2016 on a high, but it’ll still be close. – KEIGHLEY BY 8.

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