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Winless Cougars lack confidence
Kingstone Press Championship Keighley Cougars 10 Swinton Lions 20 Cougars’ winless streak continued as they lost out to fellow strugglers Swinton at Cougar Park.
Even though they dominated territory and possession for large parts of the game, tries from Sean Hesketh and Paul White were not enough for Paul March’s men.
Despite securing their third consecutive bonus point, Keighley coach March was under no illusions that his side need to improve drastically.
“Individual errors cost us dearly and it was a disappointing performance and a disappointing result, especially in that second half,” said March.
“We got back into the game and played some high tempo at times but mistakes just proved too costly.
“Not turning that pressure into points is affecting us big style. Our reactions are down and we prepared all week and end up putting in a performance like that.
“It’s not fair on the supporters who are watching us against a side we should have put away.”
March wants to bring a new attacking dimension to Cougars’ play but he admitted a lack of confidence was proving a hindrance.
He said: “We need to build some confidence, and it’s low at the minute and you can tell in our play.
“We look conservative out there instead of expansive and, on the back of that, when we haven’t built up that pressure we’re forcing things and coming up with errors because we aren’t putting the points on the board.
“The Castleford link-up means that we can always bring more quality players in but if we’re low on confidence, then that won’t affect us too much.
“It’s up to ourselves as individuals and me as coach to get this team lifted.”
Keighley were once again able to call upon Castleford duo Jake Emmitt and Charlie Martin, while the visitors fielded Warrington quartet James Mendeika, Brad Dwyer, Ryan Shaw and Danny Bridge.
The opening quarter was a scrappy affair, with seven penalties coming in the first ten minutes.
It took Joe Chandler to finally bring the game to life when the second row galloped through a gap and was held up a yard away from the line. That gave James Feather a quick play-the-ball to feed in Hesketh, who barged over for the opening score.
To say they were only 4-0 up, Cougars were providing plenty of attacking enterprise and should have been further ahead.
But, just as the home side looked to have been in prime position to extend their lead, the Lions pounced.
Danny Jones’s searching ball out wide went to the floor and Swinton broke clear down-field, which eventually led to Watson and Gavin Bennion combining to play in Mendieka for the touchdown later in the set. Shaw converted to give the visitors the lead going into the sheds.
Swinton then took that momentum into the second half, with Mark Smith’s inside ball bamboozling the Keighley defence and finding Bennion, who crashed over. Shaw added the two to give them an eight-point lead.
Cougars then got themselves back into the game after March’s cut-out pass found White charging in at the corner. Leatherbarrow hit home the conversion from the touchline to cut the deficit to two.
But it was not long before the visitors regained their advantage. David Mills did the damage, the big prop forward taking full advantage of some soft defence and bullying his way through four tacklers before touching down.
The home side were now having to play on the edge, with two passes from Jones almost going into the hands of ex-Super League speedster Kevin Penny but the winger put both chances down.
Andy Shickell and Feather also found themselves held up over the line, as the Swinton defence held strong for five consecutive sets.
That possession came to nothing and the game was then won for the Lions when a penalty, followed by dissent from Jones, led to Shaw having a pop at goal, which he deliberately took his time over before adding the extra two.
A short kick off saw Keighley win the ball back and Hesketh was another man to be held up over the line before the visitors toughed out the rest of the match to end their winless run.