AFTER A couple of impressive pre-season performances, Leeds Rhinos’ youngsters were brought to ground with a bump when they were mauled 50-12 at Keighley Cougars.
Without injured duo Jordan Lilley and Mikolaj Oledzki, Rhinos were lacking both size and experience and they could not get to grips with a near-full strength Cougars outfit.
Leeds have some talented youngsters, but Keighley are a hardened Betfred League One side and were too big and strong. It was an impressive performance from Cougars, who were clearly fired up after some poor pre-season results and were every bit as dominant as the scoreline suggests.
But Leeds should have been better. They fielded six players who have featured in Super League, but their most experienced duo – Ash Handley and Jimmy Keinhorst – were in the centres and they got very little ball. When they did, both caused Cougars problems, but Leeds’ halves, Harvey Spence and Will Scrimshaw, are first-team academy players and it was a huge step up for them.
Because of that, Rhinos lacked creativity and rarely tested the home team’s defence, even when a flurry of penalties gave them an attacking platform. At the other end, Leeds were brushed off comfortably when Cougars got close to their line. Keighley had success attacking Leeds’ left-side and winger Davey Dixon scored three of their nine tries, with his centre Hamish Barnes adding two more.
Despite playing down the slope in the first half, Rhinos were on the back foot from the off and trailed 16-0 inside the opening quarter.
Dixon squeezed over at the corner for Cougars’ opening try and then Lewis Fairhurst cut through for a well-taken solo score, both touchdowns being converted by Benn Hardcastle.
The second try came when Rhinos were adjusting to the loss of winger Dakota Whylie, who hobbled off in obvious pain after just 13 minutes. Josh Lynam illustrated the physical difference when he powered over for a third try on 18 minutes.
Rhinos had one early chance when Spence’s pass put Brad Martin into a gap, but Scrimshaw, who was the only player in support, was tackled.
Keinhorst captained Leeds and got them on the board after half an hour with an interception from 30 metres out, Spence converting, but Dixon’s second try moments later made it 20-6 and Brad Nicholson touched down on the final play of the half, Hardcastle improving both. Dixon completed his hat-trick in the opening moments of the second period, but Leeds dug in for a while before Barnes went over with 15 minutes left.
Matt Bailey crossed soon afterwards and Barnes scored again, after the restart didn’t go 10 metres.
It was Brendon Rawlins’ testimonial game and he converted Cougars’ final two tries.
Leeds scored a consolation on the final play through a fine finish by Handley, Cameron Smith adding the extras.
Other than that they created only two opportunities, Keinhorst breaking clear and almost finding Ben Markland with a hack forward, and Smith opening up the defence with a chip and chase, though it came to nothing.
Keighley Cougars: Hawkyard, Dixon, Barnes, Ryder, Gabriel, Hardcastle, Fairhurst, Tahraoui, Conroy, Bailey, Lynam, Tonks, Rawlins. Subs Law, Feather, Emmett, Wright, Parker, Nicholson.
Leeds Rhinos: Whitton, Newman, Keinhorst, Handley, Whylie, Spence, Scrimshaw, Dupree, Johnson, Jordan-Roberts, Walters, Martin, Smith. Subs Hartley, Moorhouse, McConnell, Holroyd, Markland, Darley.
Referee: Brandon Robinson (Dewsbury).