KEIGHLEY Cougars remain just outside of the Betfred Championship drop zone, following a valiant display at Featherstone Rovers yesterday.

Matt Foster’s side were beaten 36-6 at the runaway leaders, having lost 50-0 at home to the same opposition with a stronger squad on the opening day of the season.

With neighbours Bradford Bulls winning 42-26 at Swinton yesterday, it is the Lions who remain in the relegation zone on points difference.

Both they and Cougars have identical records of seven wins and 16 defeats from their 23 league games, but Keighley have a points difference of -300, with Swinton faring just worse on -302.

With Newcastle Thunder all but down, the second and final relegation spot looks certain to be filled by one of Swinton, Keighley, Barrow Raiders or Whitehaven, with just two points separating the quartet with five games to go.

Keighley host Barrow at Cougar Park next Sunday, in a match that could prove decisive in the battle for survival.

Mark Kheirallah opened the scoring for Fev after 12 minutes, bursting through the middle 70 metres out for a try, with the Australian converting himself.

But the expected onslaught did not come, and after half-an-hour, that remained the only score of the game.

But Fev broke the back of their task with two late first-half tries.

Chris Hankinson broke through, before Gareth Gale picked the ball up from dummy-half to dart over, with Kheirallah brilliantly adding the extras from the touchline.

Keighley News: Mo Agoro grabbed a pair of tries for Keighley against Batley last week, but Featherstone provided trickier opposition.Mo Agoro grabbed a pair of tries for Keighley against Batley last week, but Featherstone provided trickier opposition. (Image: JT Sports Media.)

Gale then turned provider, storming down the left before offloading in the tackle for Connor Jones to run in and help himself to a converted score.

Featherstone helped themselves to a fourth straight after the interval, as John Davies scythed through the visiting defence before feeding Jones.

He dumped Keighley full-back Lewis Young on his backside before running in to score, Kheirallah adding the extras.

An excellent offload from Joey Leilua put Kheirallah in for his second score, but he missed the difficult conversion attempt to see his 100 per cent record for the afternoon disappear.

Leilua then scored himself, carving through on the last tackle on the right for an unconverted score.

But Keighley got off the mark with six minutes to go, as Sadiq Adebiyi powered through to score after some intense pressure from the visitors, with Oscar Thomas adding the extras.

Keighley News: Sadiq Adebiyi (right) ensured Keighley did not end the day scoreless against Featherstone.Sadiq Adebiyi (right) ensured Keighley did not end the day scoreless against Featherstone. (Image: JT Sports Media.)

But Featherstone had the final say, as great work down the left edge led to Gale crossing in the corner.

Kheirallah missed a third successive conversion, but it mattered little, as the hosts retained their eight-point lead over Toulouse at the summit.

Veteran Junior Sa’u is going to be key if Cougars are to survive in the Championship this season, having been particularly instrumental in the wonderful win over Batley a week ago.

And the club will be delighted to have persuaded the centre to sign a new one-year deal, the former New Zealand international having committed to the club for the 2024 season.

Tying him down to a contract was a real priority for Keighley, and the club’s director of rugby Jake Webster said: “Junior is a fantastic athlete and a complete professional.

“His influence on the group in such a short space of time has been immeasurable and I am delighted he has put pen to paper and is sticking around next year.”

It is a further boost for Keighley, following the news earlier this month that current Bulls winger David Foggin-Johnston has signed a two-year deal with Cougars.