Keighley Cougars 19

Whitehaven 48

KEIGHLEY Cougars suffered a sensational second-half collapse to fall to a home defeat at the hands of Betfred League One leaders Whitehaven.

The Cougars got off to the ideal start, racing into a 14-0 lead, before an onslaught after the break sealed victory for the visitors from Cumbria.

And the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ performance has left head coach Rhys Lovegrove with plenty food for thought.

“In the first half we stuck to the systems and processes that we worked on in training but in the second half we fell back into old habits,” admitted Lovegrove.

“I’m frustrated because I can see how frustrated the players are.

“It’s tough for the boys because some of the stuff that we are teaching them is at a higher standard than they are used to, or what other clubs would expect for them.

“The attention to detail required for the systems and processes I’m trying to teach is high so that is why I’m frustrated.

“The players are getting better each week but at times it’s not showing on the pitch and it’s getting frustrating for them as they’re not getting to the levels and the limits that they expect in the timeframe allowed.”

Keighley opened the scoring through Louis Sheriff, the full-back fighting his way over after both Benn Hardcastle and James Feather had been denied.

Sheriff himself nearly scored a second for the Cougars but was penalised for crossing close to the Haven line.

Jack Miller extended the lead further, racing over after superb play from Hardcastle to create the space for his half-back partner.

Hardcastle himself added the two after Whitehaven were penalised for a dangerous tackle on Davey Dixon.

Dan Parker was placed on report for a crusher tackle before Whitehaven thought they’d scored through Andrew Bulman, the winger’s effort being disallowed for a forward pass from Sam Forrester.

Whitehaven then managed to get their first score, Dion Aiye burrowing over from a quick tap from a penalty close to the line moments after Marc Shackley was held up over.

On the sound of the half-time hooter, Hardcastle added a drop goal from a scrum to extend their advantage.

The second half saw Whitehaven run in 42 unanswered points as they left the Cougars crumbling under the onslaught.

They first caught Keighley’s right edge defence sleeping and Forrester took full advantage to skip through to go over in front of the jubilant travelling support.

The home side had a chance to restore their nine-point advantage, but superb defence denied Miller and Sheriff the opportunity to get their respective second tries.

The Cougars' defence was caught napping once again by the resurgent visitors, Aiye this time handing off a would-be tackler before forcing his way home underneath the crossbar.

Keighley looked a different side to that of the first half and Whitehaven were turning the screw, Callum Phillips breaking a tackle to skip through and dive over.

As Forrester broke and looked a certainty for a second, Davey Dixon prevented a quick play the ball to earn himself 10 minutes for a professional foul.

Forrester would then get his second, touching down a Phillips grubber after the Keighley defence failed to clear their lines.

Bulman scored the pick of Whitehaven’s tries, returning a kick on the last 80 metres unchallenged to dive home beneath the uprights.

Whitehaven’s second 40 went for good to even better shortly after, Forrester completing his hat-trick from 50 metres out after Aaron Levy knocked-on.

Phillips wrapped up the win, breaking through the defensive line to score his second before Macauley Hallett scored a Keighley consolation.

Player Ratings:

Cougars: Sheriff 6; Dixon 5; Welham 5; Hallett 5; Prell 5; Miller 6; Hardcastle 6; Coventry 5; Feather 6; Arnold 7; Parker 5; Muranka 5; Levy 5. Subs: Moran 5; Gaylor 5; Bailey 5; Wray 5.

Whitehaven: Burns 5; Thompson 5; Mossop 5; Taylor 6; Bulman 6; Forrester 7; C Phillips 6; Shackley 7; Dowsett 5; Coward 6; B Phillips 7; Gillam 6; Wilkinson 5. Subs: Aiye 8; Holliday 6; Kelly 5; Forster 8.

Cougars: Tries: Sheriff (4); Miller (11); Hallett (80). Goals: Hardcastle (3/4). Drop Goal: Hardcastle (40). Sin Bin: Dixon (57 – Professional Foul). On Report: Parker (20 – Crusher Tackle)

Whitehaven: Tries: Aiye (30, 49); Forrester (41, 62, 71); C Phillips (54, 78); Bulman (66). Goals: Burns (1/1); Holliday (7/7).

Attendance: 782

Referee: Michael Mannifield (Huddersfield)