Date: Sunday 21st June
Venue: Cougar Park, Keighley
After easing to victory last time out against South Wales, the Cougars’ welcome Rochdale to Cougar Park as the top two in the division go head to head.
Last Time Out
The Cougars eased to a 66-6 victory over basement club South Wales Scorpions.
Andy Gabriel grabbed a hat-trick with Danny Lawton and Adam Brook both crossing for a brace. Handforth, Ash Lindsay, Josh Lynam, Rikki Sheriffe and for the first time in nine years, Neil Cherryholme all scored to complete the rout.
Rochdale stunned North Wales to leave Wrexham 14-12 victors in a game overshadowed by controversy.
Despite an early try from veteran Wayne English, North Wales went into the closing stage leading the game 12-10 before Dale Bloomfield crossed late on to win the game. However, replays suggest that Alex Thompson’s ankle break was deliberately done by a Hornets’ defender.
Jode Sheriffe (Achilles) is ruled out for the remainder of the season following the injury sustained early on against the Scorpions. Matthew Bailey is likely to return in his place with Paul White (Holiday) also pushing for a return to March’s squad.
Rochdale are still without injured trio Dave Hull, Gareth Langley, Mike Ratu and Matty Dawson, who is named in parent club St Helens squad for their fixture with Castleford.
The back rows for both clubs are pivotal in the key battle for this Sunday’s clash; Josh Lynam, Brendon Rawlins and Ash Lindsay are a mixture of youth and experience and have been in top form throughout the year. Danny Bridge, Tony Suffolk and James Tilley could find this game harder than most.
What The Coaches Say
Keighley Cougars Player-Coach Paul March said: “It was one of those games where people expect you to put a score up and if we hadn’t they’d be saying South Wales have performed well. It was a sticky one to get over, I’m pleased we got through it. But it has come at a bit of a cost with Jode Sheriffe likely to be out for a fair bit with a ruptured achilles.
“We go into the game against Rochdale without him and it’s going to be a tough game. The league positions say we’re the form sides. They had a good win last week after a poor performance against York, so we’re going to have to be on our guard. We know a lot about them, they came down with us last year, so we played them a couple of times, and they’ll know a lot about us. We need to prepare well, like we always do, and obviously the best team on the day will win the game.”
Rochdale Hornets Coach Ian Talbot said: “It wasn’t the best performance against North Wales last week but a fantastic result. In games like that it’s not about how you play, it’s about picking those two points up and doing what you have to do to get those two points and the lads did it.
“It’s like going from the frying pan into the fire this week. North Wales are one of the best teams in the competition, as are Keighley. They’re runaway leaders at the minute so I hope we can go there, put in a performance and try and peg them back a little bit.”
The Cougars are on form and look capable of sweeping all before them where as the Hornets bounced back from defeat at York to beat North Wales, but this will be a game that Rochdale will need to put 110% into to stand any chance – Keighley by 14.