HEAD coach Craig Lingard rated Cougars' first-half performance as their best in pre-season as they marked Brendon Rawlins' big day in style with a 50-12 victory over Leeds Rhinos.

Keighley, at full strength for the first time in 2018, were on the front foot from the off in the Aussie's testimonial match marking more than a decade's service at the club.

They played flowing and expansive rugby that a young Rhinos outfit struggled to contain as Keighley gained their first win of pre-season following three defeats.

Lingard said: “We spoke before the game and identified that despite it being a young Leeds side, it was a Leeds side that had put 70 points on Coventry and pushed a full strength Featherstone all the way.

“So we knew it was going to be tough but the first-half performance was certainly our best of pre-season to date.

“But it was a great day for Rawlo and there were 1266 people in the ground which was outstanding for Brendon.

“He’s been great for the club for the past 11 years but we’ve got an important season coming up and he’s got a big part to play in that so even though we’re celebrating the end of his testimonial year now, we’ve got a tough nine months coming up.”

Cougars' momentum dropped after the break and Lingard said: “It was a productive result but I was a little bit disappointed with our second-half performance.

“We weren’t as clinical in the second half and we’d put ourselves in a really good position after a first half in which we’d put 28 points on the board.

“I really wanted us to go out in the second half and take them to the cleaners but our skill levels dropped a little bit in that second half and we need to make sure that when we play our fellow League One teams we’re switched on."

The hosts opened the scoring when Benn Hardcastle offloaded out to the wing, where Davey Dixon scored with a super diving effort.

Cougars' early onslaught continued when Hamish Barnes broke downfield and, with the Rhinos defence struggling to keep pace, Lewis Fairhurst took advantage to cut through and score with ease.

From the restart, Keighley forced a drop-out from which great play by Hardcastle sent Josh Lynam powering to the line.

Leeds did get on the scoreboard when a loose pass was intercepted by Jimmy Keinhorst and the German international took full advantage to race 60 metres to score.

James Feather came off the bench in a one-off appearance following retirement to rapturous applause for Keighley, who finished the half strongly with two quick tries.

Dixon registered his second of the afternoon as he raced in at the corner after great work from Hardcastle and Barnes to create the space.

Then, on the sound of the hooter, Brad Nicholson side-stepped his way around his marker and raced to the line, despite the best efforts of Leeds full back Liam Whitton to halt the prop’s progress.

The second half was a tighter affair but started positively for the home side as Dixon completed his hat-trick.

Indiscipline began to slip its way into the game, with Josh Tonks and Keinhorst exchanging pleasantries, and the Cougars punished Leeds when, after consecutive penalties on the Rhinos line, Barnes squeezed over.

Two more quickfire tries soon followed, the first seeing Matthew Bailey maraud over from close range, before Barnes slipped the defence to seal his brace behind the uprights.

Rawlins had his moment in the spotlight on his special day by converting both tries, much to the enjoyment of the four-figure crowd.

Leeds had the final say, however, when Ash Handley raced 70 metres to score as the full-time hooter sounded.


COUGARS: Hawkyard 7; Dixon 9; Barnes 8; Ryder 6; Gabriel 6; Hardcastle 9; Fairhurst 8; Tahraoui 6; Conroy 7; Bailey 7; Lynam 7; Tonks 7; Rawlins 7. Subs: Law 6; Feather 6; Emmett 6; Wright 6; Parker 6; Nicholson 8.

RHINOS: Whitton 6; Newman 5; Keinhorst 6; Handley 6; Whylie 5; Spence 5; Scrimshaw 5; Dupree 5; Johnson 5; Jordan-Roberts 5; Walters 5; Martin 5; Smith 6. Subs: Hartley 5; Moorhouse 5; McConnell 5; Holroyd 5; Darley 5; Markland 5.