Keighley Cougars 22

Newcastle Thunder 32

KEIGHLEY Cougars' valiant last-day performance proved to be in vain as a five-minute spell late in the day proved the difference in a defeat to Newcastle Thunder in Betfred League One.

On reflection following the game, however, head coach Rhys Lovegrove was proud of his side’s efforts on the afternoon and proud despite a difficult season.

“I’m proud of how they have presented themselves across the year as a group of young men,” he admitted.

“Last week we played the same system and went through the same processes but with more unforced errors and allowed Rangi Chase to come over the top and unfortunately we did the same today late in the game and QLT (Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e) took full advantage to win the game.

“In the last six to eight weeks they’ve been working hard to reach the bar that I’ve set and whilst some weeks it hasn’t come off for them, the effort has been there.

“As a team you’re seeing glimpses off that bar and you’re seeing it more and more, so it was just pleasing for me that the determination and the skill set that they have been working on in a performance like today.”

It appeared as if it was going to be another long afternoon at the office following hammerings at the hands of Whitehaven and Doncaster as Newcastle raced into an early 10-point advantage.

Joel Edwards was the mastermind of both tries as two breaks of attempted tackle allowed him to race downfield and put first Alex Clegg over in the corner, before an offload out of the tackle sent Nick Newman racing unchallenged to dive over to the left of the uprights.

The Cougars were showing signs of life throughout, though, and got back into the game through Taylor Prell as he burrowed his way over from close range to touch down.

It appeared Prell’s effort was in vain as the visitors restored their advantage as consecutive penalties for Thunder allowed them to pressure the line and get Kieran Gill over in the corner.

Jason Muranka was denied through outstanding last-ditch Thunder defence but on the brink of the interval, Kieran Moran ran onto the ball and crashed over beneath the crossbar.

Keighley started the second half as the better side and turned the game on its head as two quickfire tries saw them take the lead.

Will Cooke’s grubber left the Newcastle defence at sixes and sevens from which Davey Dixon pounced on the loose ball to touch down and level the scoreboard.

Prell scored his second to put the Cougars in front for the first time, breaking and racing 80 metres under pressure to dive home behind the sticks.

Aaron Levy spilled under pressure close to the line with Christopher Cullimore held up as the hosts went for the kill to extend their lead further.

From the turnover following Cullimore’s attempt, Newman broke the Keighley line and sent the ball west where Clegg was on hand to touch down his second off the afternoon from Gill’s offload.

Keighley then self-destructed defensively, and it allowed the visitors to turn the game around and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

After Rhys Clarke levelled the scoreboard when the Cougars were penalised for offside, the restart saw Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e break the defensive line and free the ball to the supporting Gill who squeezed over for his second.

The restart saw the man they call ‘QLT’ break the line once more, this time offloading to the supporting Newman, who in turn raced home for his brace and to seal victory for the team from Tyneside.

Player Ratings: Cougars: Seeley 5; Dixon 6; Prell 7; Hallett 5; Parry 5; Gaylor 6; Miller 6; Coventry 7; Feather 5; Hallas 5; Muranka 5; Cooke 7; Levy 6. Subs: Moran 7; Cullimore 6; Bailey 5; Barlow 5.

Thunder: Young 5; Taulapapa 5; Wright 5; Gill 8; Clegg 7; Laulu-Togaga’e 6; Newman 7; Edwards 7; Ollett 5; Luckley 6; Fitzsimmons 5; Clarke 5; Mustapha 5. Subs: McAvoy 5; Simons 5; Blanke 5; Aldous 5.

Cougars: Tries: Prell (22, 51); Moran (39); Dixon (48). Goals: Miller (3/4)

Thunder: Tries: Clegg (4, 60); Newman (19, 74); Gill (26, 71). Goals: Clarke (3/6); Wright (1/1).

Attendance: 825

Referee: Liam Staveley (Bradford)

Betfred League One results: Coventry Bears 0-72 Whitehaven; Hunslet 20-34 Oldham Roughyeds; Keighley Cougars 22-32 Newcastle Thunder; North Wales Crusaders 36-18 London Skolars; Workington Town 4-30 Doncaster.