Hemel Stags suffered a heavy 54-20 Championship 1 defeat at the hands of Keighley Cougars at Pennine Way on Sunday afternoon.
Both Hemel and Keighley went into the game on the back of a win in last week’s opening fixtures, but it was the Stags who knew they would be the underdogs against a Cougars side tipped by many for promotion.
In the end the visitors ran out winners by a large margin, with three tries in the final 10 minutes proving cruel to the hosts.
The first score went to Keighley after four minutes when Paul Handforth passed to Josh Lynam to cross the line, with Danny Jones converting.
Hemel fought straight back, testing the Keighley defence to the full. On 16 minutes a 40-20 by Jymel Coleman brought more Hemel pressure and it was big forward Eddie M’Baraga who crashed over. BJ Swindells’ kick brought the scores level.
It didn’t take long for Keighley to regain the advantage, however, as Jones went over to take his personal tally for the Cougars to over 1,000 career points. His conversion added another two to the total.
Hemel replied with a good attack that saw Coleman held up over the line, but they did score on 25 minutes when Alex Anthoney intercepted a Keighley pass 25 metres out and ran the length of the field unchallenged to score.
Man of the match Handforth scored four minutes later, jinking through the Hemel defence to touch down, and three minutes later he notched up a second by collecting his own kick through. The ever reliable Jones converted both efforts.
Hemel thought they had scored just on the stroke of half-time when Malaki Lloyd-Jones looked to have gone over, but the effort was chalked off when a touch judge reported seeing a ball steal in the build-up.
The first half had been a very even affair but, eight minutes into the second period, Hamish Barnes was fed by Handforth to extend the Keighley advantage.
Further tries by Duffy, White and Darby sealed the win for Keighley, with Hemel not having an answer to the visitors’ size and pace. Jones was in form with the boot which piled further misery onto the Stags.
Hemel did come back fighting, though, and bagged two tries in two minutes; Hunslet loanee Nathan Darby crashed in on 64 minutes before a good break by Olpherts enabled Liam O’Callaghan to go in easily.
Keighley had the last word, though, with second tries for Duffy, Barnes and Lynam to give a distorted full-time scoreline.