Aire-Wharfe West Merit: Aireborough Seconds 12 Keighley Academy 17

AN UNDERSTRENGTH Keighley Academy travelled to Aireborough determined to maintain their recent form.

Just managing to field 15 players and playing up the slope in the first half, it was critical a positive start was made. After only five minutes, influential forward Steve Welch picked up an ankle injury but bravely played the remaining 75 minutes as there were no subs available.

Keighley made a good start, showing strength in the scrums and the pack making valuable metres at regular intervals. But they were unable to turn any of this positive rugby into points. The game flowed from end to end with final passes going to ground at vital times.

The stalemate was broken on the half-hour mark when the Aireborough scrum half split the Keighley defence to race away under the posts, a simple conversion giving the home team a 7-0 lead.

Within minutes Keighley hit back with a great solo try from Rossi Lacey, who raced clear from half way to score near the corner. A superb touchline conversion from Anders Hagelin made it all square.

With five minutes to go before the interval, Aireborough took advantage of the slope and, after a spell of pressure near the visitors' line, scored from a rolling maul. They were unable to add the extras as the half ended with them leading 12-7.

Determined to take advantage of the slope, Keighley started the second half brightly with a rampaging run from Josh Hannah but again they lacked the finishing touches and often strayed from the game plan, much to the bemusement of manager Loz Marklew.

Midway through the second half Keighley's pack started to dominate the scrums, with man of the match Joe Emmott again showing great maturity for his age, and Allan Hobson-Sheriff rolling back the years and leading from the front.

After a spell of pressure in the Aireborough half, Keighley were awarded a penalty which Hagelin duly kicked over to close the gap to just two points.

As the weather deteriorated, understandably so did the quality of the rugby with a lot of handling errors from both teams. Keighley's pack however continued to dominate and, after winning a scrum against the head ten yards out, showed great strength and composure to enable Hobson-Sheriff to crash over for a well-deserved try.

Another successful conversion from Hagelin gave Keighley a 17-12 advantage.

As the clock ticked down Keighley continued to command the game but were unlucky not to add to the score.

As the final whistle blew, they knew they had toughed it out and come away with an impressive victory, Welch typifying their heart by playing on through his injury for 75 minutes rather than seeing his side a man down.