Keighley Cougars 42 Barrow Raiders 58
IF CRAIG Lingard had any hair, he would probably have ripped it out by the time the hooter sounded for the final whistle of this incredible encounter.
Cutting a frustrated figure throughout, the Cougars head coach saw his side fall to a fourth defeat at the hands of Barrow in 2017 in an enthralling game of rugby league.
The two sides shared 17 tries and 100 points between them on a night where the many neutrals taking advantage of a special £5 ticket offer will have definitely got their money's worth.
Both sides had a short turnaround for this midweek game – brought forward due to Barrow's Challenge Cup involvement – and it was Raiders who seemed to be least affected by it in the first half as they raced into a 30-6 lead.
Keighley clawed the deficit back to 30-18 by the break but they were always playing catch-up in the second half and victory proved beyond them.
“I’m pleased we’ve played well in attack but I’m massively disappointed with our defensive effort,” said Lingard.
“I don’t think that playing twice in four days affected the game as those who turned out following Sunday’s game (against Coventry) had declared themselves fit, so you expect them to give you that 100 per cent effort.
“We played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the second half but I was massively frustrated at half-time as you can’t give a side as good as Barrow a 30-point head start and expect to get back into the game.
“We gave ourselves belief with the two late scores in the first half but defensively we just weren’t good enough.”
Joe Bullock got the first six points of the evening in the third minute as he crashed over from close range but the sides were soon level as Brendon Rawlins pounced onto a Matty Beharrell grubber.
The visitors then turned up a notch as Lewis Charnock grabbed the first two of a personal four-try haul as he outstretched his arm over the line before dancing through to cross next to the posts.
Shane Toal then scored on the back of great work from Declan Hulme with Charnock completing a first-half hat-trick as he finished a flowing Barrow move.
Karl Ashall then converted a penalty before the Cougars suddenly sprung into life with Matthew Bailey first scoring on the back of four consecutive penalties.
Emmerson Whittel marked his return from injury with a try, pouncing on a loose ball after Vinny Finigan had forced an error from Toal.
Barrow extended their lead with the second half's first meaningful attack as Luke Cresswell scored from a free play despite the best efforts of Davey Dixon to deny him.
Keighley then scored from a free play of their own as the unlikely source of a Rawlins kick allowed Harry Aaronson to race over in the corner.
The Raiders must have thought they’d ended the game as a contest after Toal touched down his own grubber moments before Ryan Fieldhouse raced over unchallenged from a scrum.
But Cougars wouldn’t give up the ghost as they scored two quick-fire tries in similar fashion as Scott Law and Mike Emmett both exposed gaps in the Barrow defensive line to touch down underneath the posts.
Toal then dived over in the corner to complete his hat-trick, with Rawlins responding by wrapping up his brace after throwing two dummy passes to create the space for himself to touch down.
Then came a big talking point in the game as Sean Kelly was dismissed for a late challenge in the air on Toal. However, the crowd was left stunned when Toal avoided any action for a punch on Kelly while he was laid on the ground.
Charnock then completed a manic evening as he raced over for his fourth.
Cougars, who visit Doncaster on Sunday, have dropped to seventh in the League One table but they were boosted by rivals Hunslet, who have played a game more, losing 24-22 to expansion club Oxford.
COUGARS: Aaronson 6; Finigan 5; Dixon 5; Ryder 5; Gabriel 5; Milner 5; Beharrell 6; Law 5; Conroy 6; Cherryholme 5; Whittel 5; Rawlins 6; Emmett 5. Subs: Bailey 5; Kitson 6; Kelly 5; Nicholson 5.
RAIDERS: Fieldhouse 5; S Toal 6; Hulme 5; Stack 6; Cresswell 5; Charnock 7; Ashall 5; Bullock 5; Mossop 5; Wilkes 6; Morrow 5; D Toal 5; Aspinwall 5. Subs: Dawson 5; Walker 6; Deurden 5; Marwood 5.