Batley Bulldogs 42 Keighley Cougars 10
Cougars got their season off to a dreadful start after they were well beaten by Batley.
Playing up the famous Mount Pleasant slope, Keighley really struggled as they went in at half-time 22-4 down, with Danny Lawton going over for their only try.
Things did not get any better for the visitors in the second half as they shipped a further 20 points, despite looking to have more of a foothold in the game and at one stage having hopes of a bonus point after Paul White’s score.
It was the second time that Keighley had tasted defeat at the home of the Bulldogs this year, having also lost in pre-season.
Head coach Paul March was understandably downbeat after his first competitive game in charge.
He said: “I’m not pleased because there were certain parts of that game where we mentally switched off when something went against us and that’s where we need to try and force errors.
“We may have been 18 points down at half-time but it was tough going and we believed that we could turn it around.
“But every time we made an error they went down the other end of the pitch and scored and some of the defensive stuff was just soft from us.
“I’m a part of that as well and it’s something we need to sort out quickly.”
An injury-hit squad also did March no favours but he refused to use that as an excuse.
He added: “Building up to the game we had Brendon Rawlins, Ollie Pursglove, Jamaine Wray and Craig Moss all out long term but we’ve got a squad that should be capable of dealing with that.
“We came to the game believing we could get a result but we’ve been squashed in round one and we’ve got to look at everything now and see what we have to do differently.”
Bulldogs opened the scoring as Miles Greenwood pounced unopposed on to a Ben Black grubber underneath the uprights.
Tom Hemingway tagged on the extras and it got worse for the visitors five minutes later, as Black once again showed his craft by creating the space to play Mark Applegarth a one-two, with the Aussie stand-off finishing out-wide.
Black was back again just moments after the restart, the former Halifax player putting Alex Rowe through a hole and he found Greenwood on his shoulder to get the fullback his second.
Hemingway goaled to put the home side 16 points in front but Keighley got a chance to hit back when Gareth Potts knocked on the kick-off and they took full advantage in the resulting set.
Danny Jones’ stab to the corner was not cleared by Greg Johnson and Lawton touched down.
They looked to have further reduced the deficit when Scott Leatherbar-row’s kick found half-back partner Jones but, after consultation with his linesman, referee Gareth Hewer ruled him offside.
That was a kick in the teeth for Cougars and while they were licking their wounds, Batley were in again after Alex Walmsley began a move which saw Applegarth and Black combine to set up Potts.
Hemingway hit over the two which sent them 22-4 up going into the sheds.
The visitors started the second half brighter but a moment of sheer Super League class from St Helens’ Walmsley – who is dual-registered with Batley – saw him shrug off two tacklers and gallop 60 metres up the slope before finding Greenwood racing in for his hat-trick.
Hemingway made it six and then slotted over a penalty from in front of the posts to put the match well and truly past Keighley.
But a bonus point was still in reach and they got within eight of that when Jones’ sweeping pass out wide found White going in at the corner, with Leather-barrow goaling.
However that score kicked the Bulldogs back into life and, after Ashley Lindsay’s break set the platform, Jason Walton was on hand to latch on to Alex Bretherton’s grubber.
Hemingway goaled from the touchline and then added another two after Greg Johnson dribbled a kick through and got himself over to send Cougars into their opening home game of the season against Whitehaven on the back of a heavy defeat.
Meanwhile, the Cougars Under-23s play Feather-stone Rovers away tonight.
*Kingstone Press Cider has become the official sponsor of the Championship and Championship One for the next two seasons.