Keighley 8 North Ribblesdale 5
There was definitely a feeling of que sera, sera for Keighley after this victory.
The elation at winning this derby to improve their hopes of avoiding relegation was soon punctured by news that Pontefract, who Keighley must overhaul in the table, had triumphed 14-3 at Scarborough.
Keighley have four games left to Pontefract’s three but the gap between Keighley in 13th place and Pontefract in 12th remains at six points, with the latter still having basement boys Acklam to play at home.
A five-point haul for Pontefract there would put them on 43 points, which would mean Keighley would have to win at least three of their last four matches, which includes trips to Doncaster Phoenix and Scarborough and home matches against Wath Upon Dearne and York.
“We’ll just keep battling on,” said Keighley’s director of rugby Graeme Sheffield, who had watched his side win a game of few chances.
On a day when intermittent showers made handling difficult, Keighley got off to a great start, left winger Sam Walker showing pace and power to score a try in the left-hand corner in the fifth minute after hooker Will Armitage had won a heel against the head in midfield.
They spurned an opportunity five minutes later, however, when Walker’s optimistic kick downfield was deflected by a Ribblesdale hand, putting all of Keighley’s forwards onside and, although they regained possession, they were not aware enough to capitalise.
Ribblesdale’s handling was suspect early doors, but hooker Ethan Henare was a distinct threat with ball in hand, and Keighley right winger Sam Blakeley was sin-binned for offside in the 13th minute after a typically powerful drive by the front-rower.
But the visitors could not profit from having a man more, nor could they take advantage of Keighley twice kicking the ball straight into touch, fly half Danny McGee and scrum half Ian Woodwiss being the culprits.
It seemed that Ribblesdale must play better in the second half, which is why them denying Keighley a try just before the interval seemed so important - but it didn’t prove to be the case.
The hosts brought on Josh Hannah for Steve Welch in the second row at half-time, Hannah having previously had a temporary run out from the fourth minute onwards as a blood-bin replacement while Leigh Sugden was having a cut above an eye attended to.
Ribblesdale’s man of the match Henare gave away a penalty in the 48th minute, which Keighley full back Ollie Mitchell slotted from an angle on the 22 to stretch the lead to 8-0.
Prop Ollie Sugden had a lively cameo off the bench for Sam Booker from the 55th minute as the home side continued to do well in the line-out and even pinch some ball on Ribblesdale’s throws.
The scrum was a different story, however, with Keighley sometimes slithering backwards as the visitors utilised an impressive bench that contained ageless prop John Thwaite and Matt Speres, first-team skipper Jonathan Richards being their other replacement.
Visiting full back Simon Bolland twice made searing breaks that came to nothing and, although McGee tried to keep them at arm’s length via kicks downfield, they did get the nudge at a five-metre scrum for No 8 Sam Boatwright to pick up and score.
Ribblesdale then had an opportunity to win it when they kicked a penalty into Keighley’s 22 but home second row David Iliff pinched the line-out ball to prevent any further late alarms and leave ninth-placed Ribb with just a losing bonus point.