Keighley Cougars 26, Leigh Centurions 28
Paul March was left disappointed and proud in equal measure after Keighley Cougars slipped to an agonising last-gasp defeat at the hands of leaders Leigh in the Kingstone Press Championship.
Centurions winger Adam Higson scored with two minutes remaining to hand the visitors the points and leave player-coach March bitterly frustrated.
His men pushed Paul Rowley’s side every inch of the way and they were on course for a momentous victory until Higson went over in the corner.
March said: “We’re massively disappointed. We didn’t start well again but we dug in deep and we played for each other.
“We deserved the three points but it wasn’t to be again. I’m proud of every one of them.”
The Centurions had won their previous three games by landslide margins and, after the visitors opened the scoring in their first set, March’s men looked to be next on the receiving end.
But Cougars were unlucky not to get the win after a gutsy second-half showing, where Danny Jones’ 68th-minute penalty goal put them on the brink of a famous victory.
The performance, though, certainly put a marker down to the rest of the league, and March was delighted with the way in which his side played.
However, despite being overjoyed with the performance, he could not hide his frustration with the result.
March added: “We stood up, and that’s the standard we’ve set now. We’ve just got to go into every game believing we can achieve something this year.
“It was always going to be a big challenge. On paper, they’re probably the best side in this league.
“But it was a challenge that we thought that we could overcome and hopefully we’ve shown everyone else in this league that we can compete with the bigger teams.
“It’s probably two points lost rather than two points gained.”
It was a bad start for Cougars as Bob Beswick took Tom Spencer’s pass to force his way over the line past Richie Barnett.
Martyn Ridyard converted to make it 6-0 inside two minutes but Cougars steadied themselves and claimed their first try of the game in the ninth minute.
Paul Handforth’s exquisite long pass found Barnett in space and he stepped inside past Liam Kay before touching down for a try which Jones converted.
Leigh’s class continued to shine through as Jones’ loose pass saw Stuart Littler create a try for Ryan Brierley, and Ridyard put them 12 points up with the boot.
That scoreline did not deter Cougars’ spirit, and five minutes before the break they cut the deficit. Handforth danced around a couple of would-be tacklers and found full back James Craven in support.
Jones added the conversion, but Ridyard managed to slot over a penalty just before the break to make it 20-12, which would prove crucial in the end.
Cougars came out in the second half by far the better team and they were first over.
Danny Jones found Daley Williams back on the inside for the 50th-minute score, Jones again adding the extras to make it 20-16.
The Centurions managed to relieve the pressure as Higson squeezed his way in at the corner on the back of Brierley’s pass.
Once again, though, the home side replied after a sublime offload from Neil Cherryholme saw Jack Lee over the line.
Jones levelled things up with the boot and later slotted a penalty to give Cougars the lead. But then Higson cruelly went over to give Leigh a dramatic late victory.
Keighley Cougars: Craven; Barnett, Lawton, Williams, White, Jones, Handforth, Shickell, Haigh, Hesketh, Lynam, Rawlins, Lindsay. Interchange: Sheriffe, Cherryholme, Graham, Lee.
Leigh Centurions: McNally, Higson, Littler, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Spencer, Beswick, Aspinwall, Sarsfield, Goulden, Barlow. Interchange: Wilkes, Penkywicz, Emmitt, Haggerty.
Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow.
Half-time: 12-20. Attendance: 1,309.