HAVING been close to folding before the start of the season, Keighley Colts have been crowned Yorkshire Under-17 League champions.

With only 12 players initially, the youngsters were short of numbers but the decision to combine the under-17s squad with the under-16s has reaped rewards.

After merging together, they went on to win all ten of their league matches, culminating with a 34-5 win at Old Brodleians in the wind and snow on Sunday.

With 55 points out of 60, they have won both home and away against all teams, securing five bonus points on the way.

They are now hoping to put the icing on the cake when they play Dinnington in the Yorkshire Plate final on March 12 at Selby.

"Discussion took place with our under-16s to help out, which they did, and eventually resulted in them joining together completely, resulting in the lads bonding and forming a very strong side," said Keighley director of rugby Russell Gibson.

"The hard work of the lads and the coaches coming together is a testament to the dedication of all."

Team manager Duncan Grant said: "The last five months have taught them not only how to play as a team but how to play as a squad, rotating players and supporting one another through matches and through training, stepping up while team-mates are on Yorkshire duty and growing in independence.

"The Rose Cottage policy of developing youth is paying off and the future for the senior section is looking bright."

Keighley's flourishing juniors has not gone un-noticed, with players being selected at representative level.

Ryan Gibson has been picked for Yorkshire under-17s/under-18s, while Ethan Lawrie has earned county under-16 selection. Both have also featured in the Yorkshire Carnegie youth ranks.

Meanwhile, Keir Welch, Leon Hobson-Sheriff, Jack Rodbourne, Ben Ellis and Adam Kemp have been involved in the England Rugby Developing Player Programme (ERDPP).

Russell Gibson added: "It really bodes well and is part and parcel of Keighley's development programme and the extra coaching through Jonny Harrison and Ian Simons. It's really paying dividends."

Gibson paid tribute to the whole coaching and management team, who include: Steve Welsh (head coach), Duncan Grant (backs coach/manager), Nigel Curr (backs coach), Alan Hobson-Sheriff (forwards coach), Neil Scott (forwards coach), Graham Field (manager), Rob Willson (manager), captain Tom Willson (who took over from Ryan Gibson due to school, Yorkshire and Carnegie commitments).