Kingstone Press League One: Hemel Stags 6 Keighley Cougars 84
KEIGHLEY Cougars head coach Craig Lingard was pleased to see his side regain their attacking edge as they returned to winning ways in stunning fashion.
The huge victory provided a much-needed boost after four consecutive defeats in all competitions.
“It’s been a tough month so this one was a lift for us,” said Lingard.
“We’ve worked all week on where we could get into Hemel and certainly down the short side we exposed areas where we could get through them.
“The left edge certainly showed that, as everyone down that side scored a few tries, and it’s good as we’ve dropped off a little on our attacking shape.
“After the Gloucester defeat we identified we were a bit defensively weak and in the weeks that followed we really focused on our defensive structure.
“The downside of that is that when you’re a part-team time like ourselves, when you focus on one area you take your eye of another, so that’s why we’ve worked on that.
“The lads did really well and it showed as we scored over 80 points.”
Lingard’s side found themselves 16-0 up after just eight minutes with Andy Gabriel getting the scoring under way after he pounced on a Matty Beharrell kick for the first of Cougars' 16 tries in the glorious sunshine.
Adam Ryder powered over from close range before Adam Brook stole the ball in a one-on-one, allowing Ritchie Hawkyard to play Josh Tonks in from eight metres out.
The Cougars extended their lead when Tonks turned provider to send Ryder over for his second before Hemel got on the scoreboard as Marcus Elliott intercepted Hawkyard’s pass and raced 80 metres to score.
The visitors looked likely to score every time they got near the Stags' line and restored their 20-point advantage when James Feather went from dummy half to find his way underneath the posts.
There was a suspicion of offside in the Cougars' next try as both Gabriel and Ryder appeared to be in front of a Beharrell kick but linked up to send the scrum half over.
The Beharrell-Gabriel combination struck once more seven minutes from half-time as Beharrell showed quick hands to get the winger over in the corner.
Brendon Rawlins had the final say of the half, taking the ball 30 metres out and scoring a superb solo effort as he fended off a number of would-be tacklers before crashing over.
Cougars started the second half in the same vain with Ryder completing his hat-trick as he raced half the length of the field to dive over in the corner.
The half-century was achieved when Hawkyard dived beneath the uprights from a Brook offload and, from the restart, Keighley worked their way downfield with Tonks offloading out of the tackle to send Brad Nicholson over.
There was a temporary lull in proceedings before the Cougars scored once more as Ryder showed great power after Gabriel kept the ball alive to fight over for his fourth try of the afternoon.
Rawlins added his second 12 minutes from time after racing over from 30 metres after Beharrell created the space – before completing his hat-trick after Hawkyard and Reece Williams were sin-binned for fighting.
There was still time for Gabriel to complete his hat-trick from a Darville break with Mike Emmett also powering over.
COUGARS: Hawkyard 8; Finigan 7; Dixon 7; Ryder 9; Gabriel 9; Brook 7; Beharrell 8; Cherryholme 7; Feather 8; Bailey 7; Sagar 8; Tonks 9; Emmett 7. Subs: Rawlins 9; Conroy 7; Darville 7; Nicholson 7
STAGS: Vincent 5; Elliot 5; Tomlinson 5; Jonas 5; Forde 5; Barlow 5; Fairhurst 5; Jowett 5; Gregory 5; R Williams 5; Thornton 5; A Williams 5; Lee 5. Subs: O’Brien 5; James 5; Axe 5; Horn 5.