Restricted March steps down and sees Cougars suffer against Oldham

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ALREADY depleted by injury, Keighley Cougars suffered a major pre-match blow when player-coach Paul March took the decision to pull himself out of the line-up with a tight Achilles after struggling during the warm-up.

“I made what I thought was the right decision for the team, but it didn’t work,” he said, following the Cougars’ heaviest defeat of the season.

Liam Darville, who was down to play at full-back, was switched to half-back to partner Adam Brook, and Jesse Sheriffe took over at No 1.

“We were disrupted by the late changes, but it was a poor performance and one we must now put behind us,” added March.

“Oldham bullied us a little bit down the middle.”

Cougars lost ground in the race to finish top of League One as Oldham roared to their eighth win in a row.

Wingers Josh Guzdek, in the first half, and Andy Gabriel, in the second half, each scored cracking tries for the visitors, but such moments of magic for Cougars fans were few and far between.

Oldham’s powerful pack started off with all guns blazing just as they had at North Wales Crusaders in the previous game.

The home side put a 12-0 advantage on the board inside 10 minutes with tries by Sam Gee and Richard Lepori.

Cougars pegged back one try when Guzdek flew in at the corner on a wide ball from Rikki Sheriffe.

But the Roughyeds regained the initiative when a Cougars attack broke down and the home side counter-attacked smartly for Jack Holmes to finish off in the opposite corner.

Lewis Palfrey landed his third conversion off the touchline and Oldham went in at half-time with an 18-4 lead, and use of the Whitebank slope ahead of them in the second half.

By the time Gabriel added to Cougars’ score with a brilliant finish on a defence-busting Darville pass, Oldham had stretched their lead to 30-4 with further tries by points-machine Palfrey and Danny Langtree, both converted by the Oldham captain.

Palfrey’s penalty added to Oldham’s lead in the closing minutes and then, in the final seconds, Liam Thompson went in for the Roughyeds’ sixth try, with Palfrey again adding the goal.

Oldham: Lepori, Clay, Tyson, Ford, Holmes, Palfrey, Roper, Neal, Owen, P Joy, Crowley, Langtree, Gee. Substitutes: M. Ward, Hughes, Files, L Thompson.

Keighley Cougars: Darville, Guzdek, R. Sheriffe, Lawton, Gabriel, Brook, P March, Law, Feather, Dickinson, D. March, Lynam, Rawlins. Substitutes: Pursglove, Bailey, Cherryholme, Tahraoui.

Referee: M Thomason (RFL).