Keighley Cougars up the ante for run-in

DONNY GOOD SHOW: Danny Jones is mobbed after scoring for Cougars in their win over Doncaster. Picture by Charlie Perry

DONNY GOOD SHOW: Danny Jones is mobbed after scoring for Cougars in their win over Doncaster. Picture by Charlie Perry

First published in Sport

COUGARS player-coach Paul March says his side are treating all their remaining fixtures as play-off matches as they bid to safeguard their Championship status.

March’s men ended a run of three straight defeats when beating Doncaster 44-32 on Sunday and this weekend they head to Sedgley Park RUFC to face struggling Swinton Lions.

This Sunday’s match represents another opportunity to move a step closer to safety in a season when the bottom five teams will be relegated.

Having stopped the rot against Doncaster, March says Cougars will continue to approach matches with the same do-or-die intensity of a play-off encounter.

March, whose side lie one place above the drop zone, said: “The win over Doncaster sets up for the rest of the season, especially after three disappointing results of recent weeks.

“It was good to get back to winning ways but it was all about the three points rather than the performance.

“We got a sixty-minute performance out of the game and can take that into this week’s game against Swinton.

“On paper our run-in looks decent but teams have already showed in this league that anybody can beat anybody.

“We’ve got to make sure that we prepare well and be focused on the job in hand.

“We’ll take each week as it comes. We’ve got Swinton this week and then Barrow and North Wales Crusaders after that.

“Everything is geared towards Swinton so hopefully we can get the gameplan and execution right to come away with the win.”

Cougars are desperate to avoid the drop ahead of next season’s major restructuring of the game.

March added: “It’s not just a massive time for the game, it’s also huge for each individual club and if we can achieve what we set out to achieve then it will be massive for the players and the club as a whole.

“We’ve already spoken about knockout football in these last six games and that’s round one out of the way.

“If we do finish in the top eight and reach the play-offs, we will be in a position where we have already played six rounds of knockout football and we’ll be ready for them as well.

“These next three games are crucial to where we want to finish, especially as teams around us are playing each other.

“They will be taking points off each other, so as long as we keep picking up points then we will hopefully get to where we want to be.”

March has had talks with a number of his players about deals for next season but rubber-stamping the contracts is difficult until the club know what division they will be competing in.

He said: “We’ve spoken to a few players already about re-signing for our club.

“A few have agreed, but they haven’t put pen to paper yet because everything is on hold until we know where we are.

“I am confident we will stay up and I’m sure every player that has agreed a contract already for next year will be fighting tooth and nail to make sure we stay up and their contracts are honoured.”

Key prop Andy Shickell picked up a knock against Doncaster but is expected to be passed fit while centre Elliott Cosgrove could return after recovering from a fractured eye socket.

Cosgrove is expected to feature in tonight’s Under-20s clash against Featherstone at the Big Fellas Stadium (kick-off 7.45pm).

March added: “There are a few little niggles and Shick got a bit of a knee in the back after a storming run at the weekend.

“But those little niggles tend to go to the back of your mind when you’re winning.”

Shickell, meanwhile, and centre James Haley earned inclusion in the Championship Team of the Week for their outstanding displays against Doncaster.

Shickell gave a towering performance in the front row while Haley bagged a hat-trick of tries.

Cougars’ Under-20s lost 40-16 at Leigh last Thursday, with Liam Coe, Aaron Levy and Jack Kennedy on target and Ben Stead kicking two goals.

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