KEIGHLEY stay second in Counties One Yorkshire following an exciting 29-29 draw at Wetherby, writes Tony Burns. 

The visitors had two first choice props missing and it was going to be tougher still against a big, well drilled Wetherby pack.

However, the reshuffled front row with usual hooker Declan Hampson at tighthead and Jake Parkinson stepping in at hooker gave a superb account of themselves and secured enough ball to make this an excellent and close game of rugby.

After a frenetic opening where both teams kept the ball in hand as much as possible, it was Keighley who made the first breakthrough.

After a series of powerful drives took the ball deep into Wetherby territory, quick hands spread the ball to the left where full back Alan Ebbrell joined the line wide out and powered through the stretched defence to score, converted by Alex Brown.

From the restart Keighley failed to secure the ball and although they repelled the ensuing Wetherby attacks, they were penalised when a player went off his feet at a ruck, giving three points to Wetherby.

Within a minute Keighley had collected their own kick-off and after driving into the opposition 22 had a penalty of their own for Wetherby hands in the ruck, Brown restoring the seven-point lead.

Keighley quickly allowed Wetherby back into the game. After a penalty kick to the right five-metre line, Wetherby secured their lineout and their hooker joined the back of the maul before diving through a gap to score a well-worked forwards try, which was converted for 10 all.

Yet again Keighley, determined to keep the ball in hand as much as possible, drove play deep into Wetherby territory, a penalty leading to a five-metre line out. Hampson’s pinpoint lineout ball to Max Wild was passed to second row Eddie Keighley, whose quick hands fed the ball back to Hampson who dived over in the corner, the conversion by Brown narrowly missing from the touchline.

From the restart a box kick straight into Wetherby hands allowed a lovely kick out to the right winger, who cut inside three Keighley defenders before finally being tackled five metres out by Oliver Snowden. However, Jake Parkinson was yellow carded.

With a man advantage, Wetherby chose to scrummage on the five-metre line. Keighley were quickly penalised as their pack were driven back. However, the Wetherby scrum half chose a quick tap but knocked on, giving Keighley some relief.

Visiting prop Sam Booker was also yellow carded. Against 13 men, Wetherby soon exploited the extra space with their tighthead prop driving through the stretched defence to score, converted for a 17-15 lead for the hosts.

Wetherby were soon down to 14 men themselves as a final pass from the Keighley backs was illegally knocked down. Brown kicked to the five-metre line, and after a series of forward drives had narrowed the Wetherby defence, quick hands and a looping final pass to the wing allowed Ben Parkinson to score in the lefthand corner, superbly converted by Brown to give Keighley a 22-17 half time advantage.

In the second half, Wetherby’s clever kicking down the slight slope kept Keighley pinned back for long periods. A 50 22 kick gave Wetherby a lineout in the Keighley 22 from which they were soon awarded a penalty, kicked to the five-metre line. From the ensuing line out and maul, Wetherby’s hooker drove over the line for his second try, converted for a 24-22 lead.

Wetherby spread the ball superbly through their backline for an excellent try in the corner for their left wing. The conversion was missed.

Play was stopped due to a head injury to a Wetherby player and the momentum was temporarily lost.

It was now Wetherby defending their own line which they did superbly, however relentless Keighley pressure finally told with the excellent Oli Snowden breaking through to score under the posts, converted by Brown to bring the score level at 29 all.