For the second year in a row, Keighley Cougars earned a narrow Betfred Challenge Cup third round win at Hunslet.

Last year saw the Cougars make it through with a 16-14 win in south Leeds, while this time around, Matt Foster’s men edged out their hosts 22-14.

And it was a captain’s performance from Ellis Robson, whose two second-half tries proved key to Keighley’s victory, as they came back impressively from 10-0 down.

Hunslet almost replaced relegated Keighley in the Championship for 2024, finishing second in last year’s third tier only to suffer a shock preliminary final defeat to North Wales Crusaders in the play-offs.

With both sides seemingly fairly evenly matched therefore, it always looked likely to be a thrillingly close contest, which is what proved to be the case.

Keighley lined up with a strong side, which included prop Will Maher, who was making his 150th career appearance.

But he and his team-mates were unable to stop Jude Ferreira from giving Hunslet the lead yesterday with a quarter of an hour gone.

The centre’s try was converted by former Cougars half back Matty Beharrell, before kicker turned finisher.

Hull-born pocket rocket Beharrell crossed the whitewash for the home side’s second try on 21 minutes, though he was unable to add the extras to his own score.

Keighley finally got points on the board through a Charlie Graham try after 27 minutes, though Jack Miller was unable to land the subsequent conversion attempt.

The experienced Oscar Thomas then crossed the line just before the break, but half-back partner Miller missed from the tee again, meaning the hosts reached half-time with a narrow 10-8 lead.

Keighley News: Oscar Thomas (second left) is hugged after his vital score just before the interval yesterday.Oscar Thomas (second left) is hugged after his vital score just before the interval yesterday. (Image: JT Sports Media.)

Keighley came out firing after the break, with Robson’s first try of the afternoon on 43 minutes giving the visitors the lead for the first time in the match.

But Miller missed yet again, meaning Cougars’ advantage only stood at two points.

Just before the hour mark, Robson dived over for his second score of the day to put Keighley 16-10 in front.

Thomas took over the kicking duties this time, but he also missed, meaning Hunslet only needed a converted try to level the scores.

But Adam Ryder finished the home side off, with the centre scorching through for a sensational length of the field try with 10 minutes to go.

At the fifth time of asking, Cougars added the extras, with Thomas converting to give his side a 12-point advantage.

Keighley News: Adam Ryder slides in to finish off his wonderful length of the field try.Adam Ryder slides in to finish off his wonderful length of the field try. (Image: John Victor.)

Hunslet’s afternoon went from bad to worse when former Cougar Toby Everett was shown a red card for a reckless tackle on Mark Ioane.

To the home side’s credit, they kept going with 12 men, and were rewarded with the final try of the game when Jack Render scored in the corner with two minutes to go.

Beharrell was unable to land the tricky conversion attempt from out wide, which crucially meant Hunslet did not get within a converted score, which would have allowed one last desperate attempt to draw level.

Cougars saw out the closing seconds of the game to claim that 22-14 win, but they will have their work cut out if they want to progress any further in the Challenge Cup.

They will be hosting Championship heavyweights Featherstone Rovers in the fourth round in a fortnight, after James Ford’s side unsurprisingly dismantled amateur side Thatto Heath Crusaders 72-0 yesterday.

But Keighley’s focus for now will be on the Bradford Bulls, with the neighbours taking each other on at Cougar Park in the 1895 Cup this Sunday, with a place in the quarter-finals the reward for the winner.