KEIGHLEY COUGARS rookie Ben Stead says the memory of playing in a televised Challenge Cup quarter-final will always stay with him, regardless of any criticism coming the club’s way.
The young scrum-half was one of a raft of inexperienced players thrown into their game against in-form Super League side Widnes Vikings on Thursday night.
Player-coach Paul March fielded a largely second-string team for one of the West Yorkshire club’s biggest matches in recent history, citing the need to keep his powder dry for Tuesday’s league trip to Whitehaven given the importance of securing Championship survival for 2015.
Predictably, the part-timers fell 56-6 against their professional hosts but home-grown Stead, who set up Keighley’s sole try with a lovely pass, converted and then kicked a 40/20 to catch the eye, maintains it was beneficial.
“It was a great experience and somehting I’ll remember forever,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“That’s especially for me as I’ve not played much this season so it was a fantastic opportunity to get in there and do that.
“It’s only my second game. I debuted at Leigh last season and that was my first match this year.
“The experience some of the lads will get, speeding up our processes and playing on that stage, is only going to help us.
“It’s such a big year for the club and the priority is to stay in the Championship and then we push on from there. The aim then is to be playing against Super League teams more often.”
Stead, 21, has found chances hard to come by due to experienced Wales international Danny Jones and ex-Castleford half-back Paul Handforth.
On Thursday night, he came up against ex-England stand-off Kevin Brown, who gave a creative master-class.
“Again, that’s a great experience,” said Stead, who first joined Keighley in the Under-8s.
“He’s a top class player and it was great to play against people like that. Opportunities like this are good for me as obviously they (Jones/Handforth) are class players, too, so I’ve just got to work hard to try pushing my way in.”
University student Stead said the team always had belief.
“We went with the idea we’ve got strength in depth,” he said.
“Everyone who put a shirt on wanted to give 100 per cent even though it was always going to be tough. We were nervous. I was nervous at the time when I got told I was in but I was more excited to play.
“We gave a good account of ourselves and to put Daley (Williams) over was a bonus for me, too.”