Keighley 12, Morley 24
Following an eighth successive SSE North One East league defeat yesterday, it looks increasingly likely that Keighley will have to rely on a post-Christmas surge to avoid going straight back into Yorkshire Division One.
This derby defeat in a match in which they must have had about 60 per cent of the possession, coupled with Middlesbrough’s 17-3 victory at Morpeth, means that Graeme Sheffield’s side are eight points from safety with 14 of the 26 matches left.
However, as Sheffield pointed out afterwards, all is not doom and gloom.
They still have Scott Dyson, Craig Spencer and Stuart Inman to come back in, among others, have signed Liam McGee - Danny’s brother - from Northern and have re-signed Paul Rossi.
However, Sheffield was not overjoyed with the performance of referee Jamie Leahy yesterday.
Keighley’s director of rugby said: “I don’t like talking about referees but our referee against Beverley the previous week was out of this world.
“This week the referee seemed to be going on what he heard rather than what he saw - their No 10 (skipper Mark Chester) and one or two of their forwards seemed to be refereeing the game rather than him - and that is disappointing at this level.
“We must have had 60 per cent of the possession but Morley are a good defensive side, were well organised in midfield and their 12 and 13 (Scott Hayes and Karl Bradshaw) were very good.”
Morley’s director of rugby Pete Seabourne said: “I was equally pleased with our defence and how clinical we were in attack - we have now taken 19 points from a possible 20.
“We scored a couple of cracking tries but blew a couple towards the end going for the bonus point - but Keighley are not the third worst side that we have played.
“In fact, they reminded me a bit of where we were 12 to 18 months ago. We would do all the donkey work and then drop the ball on the line.”
Keighley, who took a calculated risk in playing their skipper Leigh Sugden after a shoulder injury but were missing Dyson (rib) and Inman (knee), had the better of the first half-hour.
Centre Ben Blackwell had four shots at goal and knocked over three of them but they couldn’t get the try or tries that their possession deserved, fly half Danny McGee being just one player to make an enterprising break.
Morley winger Simon Bradshaw replied with one penalty before the match took a decisive turn with the Maroons scoring tries in minutes 36 and 38.
Prop Paul Gabriel’s charge was capitalised on by fly half Chester, and right winger Koby Gyasi’s break through centrefield eventually brought a try for lock Tom Hanson, Simon Bradshaw converting both to make it 17-9.
Blackwell’s fourth penalty cut the deficit to five points before half-time but, despite again having a distinct edge in possession but once more not enjoying the rub of the green from Leahy, Keighley could not add to their tally in the second half.
The only points in the second stanza went to Morley via a breakaway try in the 58th minute, Karl Bradshaw scoring and Simon Bradshaw converting.
Morley blew two attempts to notch a bonus point as the light faded while Keighley, who were given a hearty reception upon leaving the field, were left to reflect on what might have been and the promise of a stronger second half to their campaign.