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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Whitehaven beat Keighley to make it two wins from two

Keighley Cougars 12 Whitehaven 16: Whitehaven made it two league wins from as many outings with the grittiest of victories at Keighley yesterday.

Seb Martins photo
Seb Martins

The opening success at home to York last week was a positive introduction to the Championship, but this win at Cougar Park was on another level.

There was one moment of brilliance from dual-registered ex-Great Britain winger Ade Gardner, which led to a try for Cain Southernwood.

But in the main, this win was down to a dogged determination to prevail in a battle of attrition in the mud.

Naturally, their forwards led the way, French international Seb Martins showing plenty of strength down the middle, while fellow prop Paul Jackson never stopped working.

Behind the pack, full-back Neil Thorman was super-safe in the slippery conditions, making metres on almost every carry with a wicked side-step. And he is only going to get better when the grounds dry out.

St Helens pair Gardner and forward Ant Walker also played their full part, young Walker showing why he is closing in on Super League with some bruising tackles.

The signs were promising in the opening moments when winger Richie Barnett fumbled Jamie Rooney’s kick and big Martins was first on the scene to collar him.

The first 20 minutes were fairly even, neither side able to gain an advantage on the wet surface, James Newton diving on a dangerous Keighley grubber kick on his try line and Rooney snuffing out another chip in to Haven’s danger zone.

Haven broke the deadlock on 23 minutes, Scott McAvoy going within two metres of the line before Lee Paterson jumped in to dummy-half and crossed on the short side.

Two minutes later, Gardner showed why he was a first-choice for St Helens for so long when he broke from his own half.

There seemed little room but he somehow cut through a pace and found Southernwood in support for the try. Rooney slotted the extras to give his side a 10-0 lead.

Jackson lost the ball on the next set, Gardner darting out the line to put a big shot on dangerous full-back Paul White, who was lingering with intent.

Haven closed the half on a high, a Walker tackle prompting an error and Sice kicking through, with winger Gav Duffy tackled behind his line.

Keighley visibly lifted at the start of the second-half, Ryan Smith nipping over from dummy-half next to the posts, to hand Scott Leatherbarrow a simple conversion.

They looked to add their tally moments later when Gardner went up for a high bomb. He landed safely though could do little about being bundled back behind his line by Barnett.

Gardner then forced an error at the other end, gifting Haven a set deep in Keighley territory.

Southernwood’s attacking kick was caught in heavy traffic, though his next one was better, forcing a dropout.

Haven added to their lead on the hour mark, Sice jabbing through and Thorman seemingly first to get his hand to the ball amid a sea of bodies.

Rooney improved the try to make it 16-6, though Haven could not rest on their laurels, and within three minutes the Cougars had hit back.

The tackle looked to have been completed as the hosts attacked Haven’s line, though when the ball flew out, hooker James Feather did not hang about to ask questions and dived over for his side’s second try, Leatherbarrow again goaling.

The score ensured an exciting finale, and it was Haven who were pushing hardest for winning pay in the closing 15 minutes.

There was no way through, and when Keighley broke from deep there seemed a genuine chance they would snatch the victory.

But Gardner dashed across from the opposite wing and Thorman did wonderfully well to get between two attackers and intercept.

Keighley had one last chance when with less than two minutes left on the clock, Newton tried a rash off-load on half-way and lost possession.

As they had done throughout, however, Haven remained resolute and held on to maintain their terrific start to the season.

There’s no doubt Gardner and Walker were highly effective for Haven, and hopefully the club can continue to benefit from the use of such quality Saints players this term.

But it begs the question, if Ade Gardner can’t get in the team, just how good must St Helens be?

Whitehaven: Thorman, Fleming, McAvoy, Parker, Gardner, Rooney, Southernwood, Jackson, Newton, Martins, Clarke, Wilson, Paterson. Subs: Sice, Houghton, Cameron, Walker.

Tries: Paterson, Southernwood, Thorman; Goals: Rooney 2

Keighley Cougars: White, Barnett, Lawton, Williams, Duffy, March, Leatherbarrow, Hesketh, Feather, Shickell, Chandler, Martin, Sagar. Subs: Emmit, Smith, Law, Shepherd.

Tries: Smith, Feather; Goals: Leatherbarrow 2

Referee: George Stokes

Attendance: 712

Star man: Neil Thorman

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