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Win Or Bust In Race For The Eights – Oxford Preview

Keighley Cougars v Oxford RL Match Preview by Joshua Chapman (@JRCSport)

Date: Sunday 16th July

Time: 3:00pm

Venue: Cougar Park, Keighley

After rescuing a point, and the season, in dramatic circumstances in the second of the Cumbria double header last weekend the Cougars return to home turf to face Oxford on the final day of the regular season in a game which the Cougars must win in order to achieve a top eight finish ahead of the Super Eights.


A sensational second-half comeback with 12 men saw the Cougars overturn a 22-4 deficit at the break to draw 30-30 away at Workington Town. An Andy Gabriel try at the full time hooter rescued the point on the back of fellow second half efforts from Sean Kelly, who scored a brace, Ritchie Hawkyard and Adam Ryder despite losing Brad Nicholson to a dismissal for punching in the 53rd minute.

Oxford were also in Cumbria but had a bad night at the office as they were thrashed 80-10 at the hands of the Barrow Raiders. Tim Rumford’s side conceded 14 tries on the evening at the J F Hornby Stadium but did get two consolation efforts through Harrison Brough and Harvey Burnett as a 13th place finish heading into the League One Shield campaign was confirmed.


Craig Lingard will be without Aidan Scully (Finger) and Sean Kelly (Knee) who join Vinny Finigan (Ankle) and Will Milner (Toe) on the treatment table heading into the visit of Oxford. Scott Law (Groin) returned to full training this week but won’t be risked against Oxford with Trae O’Sullivan made available by Batley. James Feather and Hamish Barnes both return after missing the trip to Workington last weekend through suspension.

Tim Rumford could be forced into more changes as Oxford prepare to play their fourth game in fourteen days at Cougar Park this Sunday. Adam Dent, Jordan Gill and Anthony Cox could all return after being rested in Cumbria. Zimbabwean back-rower Judah Mazive comes in on dual-registration from Wakefield Trinity whilst former Cougars Fran Welsh and Aaron Nicholson are both expected to feature.


Oxford’s biggest threat to any side throughout this season to date has been hooker Casey Canterbury who brings fast play around the ruck and explosive play, with a temper to match, to games which has troubled the top teams including Toronto. Canterbury will provide a test for both James Feather and Nathan Conroy this Sunday and could cause the Cougars real damage if not contained.


COUGARS: Aaronson; Bailey; Barnes; Beharrell; Brook; Conroy; Darville; Dixon; Emmett; Feather; Gabriel; Hawkyard; Lynam; Nicholson; O’Sullivan; Rawlins; Ryder; Sagar; Whittel.

OXFORD: Biscomb; Brooker; Burnett; Canterbury; Cox; Dent; Gill; Hayes; Hyde; Joynt; Kay; Mazive; Moules; Newbould; Nicholson; O’Callaghan; Payne; Welsh; Windley.


Keighley Cougars Head Coach Craig Lingard: “How the Workington game finished will give us a lot of confidence.

“We’re treating it as a victory – we’ve snatched a ‘victory’ from the jaws of defeat and that has kept our season alive.

“It’s down to us now. All we’ve got to do on Sunday is win and we’re in the eight, and I think we can challenge anyone in there.”

Oxford RL Head Coach Tim Rumford: “I back myself to do a job coaching and to help grow the game in Oxford.

“It’s cost me money to do it. The level of commitment for high up is non existent and I think people need to realise that if it wasn’t for Super League clubs, there would be no expansion teams.

“It needs looking at. If I end up getting into trouble, but it makes a few people listen, I’ll cop it.


The referee for this Kingstone Press League One Round Fifteen fixture at Cougar Park is Brandon Robinson from Dewsbury. Robinson is no stranger to either side after refereeing the Cougars on numerous occassions throughout his career to date and also taking charge of Oxford’s fiery defeat to Toronto in the Wolfpack’s historic first home game back in May. His last appointment for Keighley came in last month’s comfortable home victory over the soon to be re-branded South Wales Ironmen.


The Cougars top eight aspirations are still in their own hands after Andy Gabriel’s dramatic last second try to rescue a point at Workington. With 8th position still only Craig Lingard’s sides on point difference and the resurgent North Wales Crusaders facing Coventry Bears elsewhere on Sunday, only a victory over Oxford will secure a top eight finish heading into the Super Eights which begin in a fortnight’s time. It’s all or nothing for the Cougars come 3pm.

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