Keighley Cougars 20 Hunslet 12

CRAIG Lingard admitted victory over Hunslet was 'massive' after Cougars jumped into the League One play-off places with a hard-fought late victory.

The game was a tight affair, only settled with little over a minute remaining when Brad Nicholson turned his way over for his second try of the afternoon.

“It was a scrappy game but the two points were the most important thing,” said head coach Lingard.

“Some of our skill levels let us down and we were just a little bit off in certain areas. Our last pass let us down and there were numerous occasions where our skill levels cost us tries.

“This week was massive, not only because it took us into the top five but to back up the win at Hemel because if we’d have lost on Good Friday we’d have been four points behind Hunslet which is huge even at this early stage.

“The win takes us level with Hunslet in the table and keeps that momentum going as we want to keep beating and taking points off the sides you’ll look to be finish around you.

“It’s a scrappy win but it’s a win nonetheless.”

Fresh from a routing of Hemel, the Cougars started in the same attacking frame of mind and broke the deadlock early on.

A Matty Beharrell kick into the air caused chaos within the Hunslet ranks and allowed Adam Ryder to pounce for his tenth try of the season.

Hunslet hit back though in similar fashion as Joel Gibson left a kick hanging in the air and, despite the best efforts of Andy Gabriel, the ball fell back into the visitors' hands – allowing Mufaro Mvududu to touch down.

From the restart, there was a sickening clash of heads between opposite numbers Ritchie Hawkyard and Jimmy Watson, which resulted in both players' afternoons being bought to a premature end.

The game was delayed for a lengthy period to allow both men to receive treatment, with Hawkyard since requiring plastic surgery to repair his mouth.

Brendon Rawlins was then placed on report after being deemed guilty of a dangerous throw.

Hunslet drew level in bizarre fashion as the referee judged that Sean Hesketh – who has only recently left Cougars – had knocked on, but his touch judge called a ball steal, which then saw the referee change his mind and allow Joe Sanderson to convert.

The visitors took a six-point lead into the interval – Liam Mackay showing great footwork to break the Keighley line and eventually offload to Sanderson to cross next to the posts.

With the Cougars going down the hill, their flowing attacking style under Lingard began to slowly seep back in as Beharrell showed quick hands to create the space to allow Nicholson to stroll in under the uprights.

Keighley took the lead for the second time when Hunslet conceded back-to-back penalties on the home line and, with defences very much on top, Beharrell opted to take the two points on offer.

The game was on a knife-edge with both sides throwing away opportunities to take the clash by the scruff of the neck but it was the home side that delivered the killer blow.

On the back of a scrum ten metres from the Hunslet line, Nicholson took a pass out of the tackle and proceeded to side-step around a defender before touching down.


COUGARS: Hawkyard 6; Finigan 5; Dixon 6; Ryder 7; Gabriel 5; Milner 5; Beharrell 6; Cherryholme 5; Feather 5; Bailey 6; Lynam 5; Tonks 6; Emmett 6. Subs: Rawlins 5; Conroy 6; Sagar 5; Nicholson 7

HUNSLET: Watson 5; Ince 5; Wilson 6; Mvududu 6; Duffy 5; Gibson 5; Sanderson 6; Reed 5; Tebb 5; Carbutt 6; Normington 5; Mackay 6; Flynn 5. Subs: Ansell 5; Flanagan 6; Kenga 5; Hesketh 5.