KEIGHLEY RUFC’s hopes of winning the Counties One Yorkshire title are officially over with one league game left to go this season.

They were top of the tree for much of the season, but a major wobble a few weeks ago, where they lost to Bradford Salem and Pocklington in consecutive matches, has cost them dearly.

Near-neighbours Salem did the double over Keighley this season, including inflicting a first home defeat on Dan McGee’s side in nearly five years, and that has proved decisive.

Keighley thumped already-relegated Harrogate Pythons 45-5 on Saturday, but ideally needed the top two, Salem and Wetherby, to lose as well.

Both won though and the bonus-point victory for leaders Salem put them six points clear of Keighley, meaning the latter now cannot mathematically catch the former.

The league winners will go up automatically, meaning a final-day shootout between Salem and Wetherby, who are separated by just a point.

Whoever does finish second, and there is still a very slim chance that could be Keighley, if they get a bonus-point win on the final day at home to Hullensians and Wetherby blank against Beverley, is highly unlikely to be promoted.

A number of second placed teams in the Counties One Yorkshire equivalents across the country will go up based on their final points total, but the competitive nature of Keighley’s division means a final total of 83 from 22 games will almost certainly not be enough for them.

As for Saturday's game, which saw young back row Ellis Jones make his debut Keighley kicked off into a gale, the ball being blown back into the 10 metre zone where Pythons collected and drove the game into Keighley territory.

After a couple of phases Keighley were penalised for offside with the resultant kick taking the Harrogate team to the five-metre line.

After a series of penalties against Keighley, the home team fed the ball to the left where a fine pass picked out their winger who broke the defensive line to score the game’s first try on 6 minutes.

Despite their excellent start, this was the only time in the game that the home team threatened the Keighley line and the rest of the afternoon became a defensive battle to keep the score down.

From the restart, the visitors soon had Harrogate on the back foot, driving play deep into home territory.

A fine back row move involving seven players took the ball to Taylor Prell, who handed off two defenders before offloading for Meegan to score on 10 minutes.

Keighley were now dominating both the set piece and open play, and on 16 minutes a series of drives took the ball to the Pythons line, where the excellent Uren picked up and drove over for Keighley’s second try, which was converted by Meegan.

Relentless Keighley pressure whenever Pythons had possession resulted in far too many handling errors from the home team, allowing the visitors to dominate possession and territory.

After further gains by the forwards, another back row move took the ball to Jones.

His give and go took out two defenders before a fine offload from the tackle put in centre Sean Kelly for Keighley’s third try, with Meegan adding the extras.

From the restart Keighley were soon back on the front foot with both forwards and backs combining to keep the pressure on the home team.

Having driven the ball close to the line, Keighley’s backs released Kelly who danced through four attempted tackles before scoring his second try close to the posts, which was converted for a 24-5 half-time lead.

The second half proved no easier for Pythons although they defended superbly against a much stronger team.

After only two minutes, after a series of drives by the forwards, Keighley released the backs.

Superb interplay between Kelly and his fellow centre Adam Horsfall put in replacement winger Sam Blakeley to score a converted try close to the posts.

On 55 minutes another fine backs move saw winger Blakeley take the ball 40 metres out.

After sidestepping two would be defenders on the left wing, he cut inside and rounded the final defender to score a superb individual try close to the posts, the extras added for 38-5.

Keighley were still dominating all areas of play but were kept at bay for long periods by the tenacious Pythons defence, who never gave up.

Eventually on 70 minutes a penalty for holding on close the Pythons’ 10 metre line was quickly tapped by Jack Atkinson.

He rounded two defenders on the right wing to score Keighley’s final try on 70 minutes, converted from wide out by Meegan to give a final score of 45-5.

There is no fixture this weekend for Keighley, before they play the final game of the league season at home to Hullensians on April 6.

They then embark on their Papa John’s Cup journey with a trip to Widnes RUFC on April 13 and play Bradford Salem in the final of the Yorkshire Shield on May 18 at Doncaster Knights’ Castle Park ground.