IT’S been a long time coming, but the Keighley Cougars finally got their 'plus one party' after victory over the London Skolars.

The 38-26 home win saw the Cougars no longer on minus points following their 12-point deduction at the start of the season. It not only moved them to one point but also saw them climb from the foot of League One.

And it was Keighley's first win under new head coach Rhys Lovegrove, who was in reflective mood after the game.

“I’m pleased for the boys,” admitted Lovegrove.

“It was really important for us to get that win on the board and it will help us going forward now we’ve got that monkey off our backs.

“The thing I was happiest about was that we started wobbling in the second half, Jack Miller and Benn Hardcastle dragged it back and over the past month when we have wobbled we have fallen off and lost as a result of that, so I was really pleased that we pulled it back.

“We’re off zero points and at the starting point so the hard work starts now.”

London nudged themselves in front early when Neil Thorman converted a penalty after Keighley were pinged by the official for offside.

However, this proved to be nothing more than a mere setback in a first half dominated by the home side.

Keighley took the lead on 10 minutes when great work from Jason Muranka and Macauley Hallett created an opportunity for Jordan Parry, who marked his Cougars debut by diving over in the corner for a try.

Things did not get any better for the visitors and they found themselves temporarily a man down as Robert Tuliatu’s first action after coming onto the field was a dangerous tackle that earned him a 10-minute spell in the sin bin.

Keighley punished Tuliatu’s moment of madness with two tries during the period with a man advantage, the first coming through Muranka, who left the defence stranded after selling a dummy pass to round and score.

Jordan Aitchison then scored his first senior try for his home-town club, dragging Lameck Juma out of the line before switching direction and racing through the space created to dive over.

With numbers now again even, Will Cooke’s superb footwork put the home side on the front foot once more before the centre released Miller, who raced beneath the sticks to score.

London hit back with a try on half-time as Omari Caro produced some superb play to send Iliess Macani over on the sound of the hooter.

The second half was a scrappier affair, typified by the first try of the half as, after the home side knocked on the kick-off, Macani powered his way over.

However, two quickfire carbon copy tries sealed the win for Lovegrove’s men as Ryan Wright and James Feather shot out of dummy half in quick succession to touch down, Wright handing off a marker before Feather squeezed his way over.

Liam Scott then found a way past the whitewash on the back of a dropout for London, but any threat of a comeback was quickly thwarted by Hardcastle, who converted a penalty after the visitors were pulled for offside.

The visitors were lucky not the be reduced to 12 men once more as Elliot Jennings delayed a restart by taking a ball from the ball boy and throwing it at Hardcastle as he went to take the tap.

Mike Bishay still had time to burrow over for Skolars, but it proved nothing more than a mere consolation on a day that belonged to Keighley.


COUGARS: Aitchison 7; Parry 6; Cooke 6; Hallett 9; Welham 7; Miller 7; Hardcastle 9; Bailey 6; Cullimore 6; Wray 5; Horn 6; Muranka 8; Feather 7. Subs: Coventry 5; Thackray 7; Lynam 5; Wright 6.

SKOLARS: Barran 5; Macani 7; Caro 6; Juma 5; Jennings 5; Jy-Mel Coleman 5; Jermaine Coleman 5; J Greenhalgh 5; Thorman 6; M Greenhalgh 5; Williams 5; Hindmarsh-Takyi 5; Bryan 6. Subs: Bishay 5; Davies 5; Tuliatu 5; Scott 5.

COUGARS: Tries: Parry (10); Muranka (19); Aitchison (25); Miller (36); Wright (51); Feather (56). Goals: Hardcastle (7/7)

SKOLARS: Tries: Macani (40, 42); Scott (60); Bishay (76). Goals: Thorman (3/3); Barran (2/2). Sin Bin: Tuilatu (19 – Dangerous Tackle)



REFEREE: Mike Smaill (Leigh)


Doncaster RL 18-19 Newcastle Thunder; Keighley Cougars 38-26 London Skolars; West Wales Raiders 10-72 Hunslet RL; Whitehaven 22-24 North Wales Crusaders; Workington Town 16-26 Oldham RL.


Saturday, June 29: Coventry Bears v Doncaster RL; London Skolars v Whitehaven

Sunday, June 30: Newcastle Thunder v Workington Town; North Wales Crusaders v Keighley Cougars (14:30); Oldham RL v West Wales Raiders.