Keighley 32 North Wales 6: White’s hat-trick helps Cougars clinch play-off final with Swinton

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Paul White grabbed a hat-trick as Keighley booked their place in the League One Play-Off Final against Swinton Lions at Widnes on Sunday.

The Cougars were relegated from the Championship in highly controversial circumstances last term but they now stand just 80 minutes away from an immediate return.

White underlined his predatory instincts with a well-taken treble as Keighley turned on the style in the second half after the opening 40 minutes ended in stalemate at 6-6.

The opening try came from White when he scampered clear from distance before North Wales forward Alex Thompson levelled matters midway through the first half with a long-range score of his own.

Full-back Tommy Johnson converted but after the restart Paul March’s side assumed complete control as they took their visitors to the cleaners to book their final spot against Swinton, who overcame York City Knights to set up the winner-takes-all showdown.

White grabbed his second four minutes after the restart and then completed his hat-trick three minutes later to put 
Keighley firmly in the ascendancy.

His exploits saw him reach the 30-mark for the season in the try-scoring stakes and in the 50th minute Keighley breached the Crusaders’ line again.

This time, veteran half-back Paul Handforth illustrated his class with some delightful play to create a try for forward Matty Bailey to cross the line.

Player-coach March then scored in the 53rd minute in what marked his final appearance at Cougar Park as he prepares to retire at the end of the season.

Andy Gabriel, who last week broke Nick Pinkney’s club record in scoring tries in nine consecutive games, extended that to 10 matches as he sauntered clear to score with two minutes left to play.

That wrapped up a thoroughly good afternoon’s work for the Cougar Park outfit, who on the evidence of their second-half 
display look a decent bet to emerge victorious again in Sunday’s final.

After a season of tragedy which saw popular playmaker Danny Jones pass away at the age of just 29, it would be fitting for Keighley to achieve promotion back to the second tier.

Keighley Cougars: Guzdek, Gabriel, Lawton, R Sheriffe, White, Mitchell, Handforth, Law, D March, Dickinson, Lynam, Rawlins, Lindsay. Substitutes: Cherryholme, Bailey, P March, Tahraoui

North Wales Crusaders: Johnson, Reardon, Roets, Jullien, Oakden, Ashhall, Dallimore, Walker, Hudson, Burke, Thompson, Peat, Wild . Substitutes: Reid, Moulsdale, Duffy, Hobson

Referee: Sam Ansell (RFL).