Try-hungry Cougars run riot to send Stags home empty-handed

Match action from Hemel Stags' defeat to Oldham earlier this season. Picture (c) Kevin Read
Match action from Hemel Stags' defeat to Oldham earlier this season. Picture (c) Kevin Read

Keighley Cougars scored 13 tries as they secured a place in the Kingstone Press League One promotion final with a crushing 68-16 win over Hemel Stags in the final game of the regular season.

James Feather led the way with four tries at Cougar Park, while Andy Gabriel also ran in a hat-trick and both Brendon Rawlins and Scott Law crossed twice.

Danny Lawton also kicked eight goals as the Cougars sealed second spot in League One and set up a play-off date with Oldham for a place in the Championship next season.

Keighley kicked off but it was Hemel who got straight down to business and started to build pressure on the Cougars’ defensive line. A penalty for offside saw that defence breached when James Woodburn-Hall went over for the opening try on five minutes, with Charlie Lawrence converting to give the Stags a 6-0 advantage.

The home side woke up to reply three minutes later as Hamish Barnes finished in style. Lawton missed the kick and so the Stags still held a slender lead.

Nothing changed until the 20th minute, when a solo try up the centre of the pitch by the vastly experienced Feather and conversion by Lawton meant the hosts took a 10-6 lead.

That lead was increased by six points 15 minutes later when a repeat set of six tackles got second rower Rawlins in a position to crash over for a converted try.

Keigley playmaker Paul Hanforth set up a score in the right corner for Gabriel but back came Hemel; right on the hooter a high bomb from Lawrence was caught by Michael Brown before the ball came out to Nathan Darby who scooted over. Lawrence made the conversion and the Stags went in six points down.

The first try of the second half would be crucial and it went the way of the Cougars; a Keighley player clearly lost the ball in the tackle but the official adjudged that a Hemel player had ripped it out. The result was Gabriel going over for a harsh try.

Hemel came back again, though, and after a good drive by Darby a high kick by Lawrence was plucked out of the sky by winger Simon Hrbek to go over in the right corner. Lawrence missed the difficult kick.

The Hemel defence tired from here on, however, and two Keighley tries in three minutes set the tone for the remainder of the game; the first going to Josh Lynam and the second to Feather.

Big prop Scott Law then scored two tries in as many minutes, while hooker Feather got his hat-trick with a well taken try on 70 minutes and it was clear Keighley were romping home to victory.

Three more tries to Rawlins, Handforth and finally Josh Guzdek – the last one just as the hooter sounded – was cruel on the Stags who had fought all the way until the end and deserved to come away with a much closer result.