Keighley Cougars look to seal play-off berth

Cougars player-coach Paul March – Picture: Charlie Perry

Cougars player-coach Paul March – Picture: Charlie Perry

First published in Sport
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PAUL March believes the Cougars stand on the brink of a "massive achievement" as they bid to safeguard their Championship status and book a play-off spot.

Heading into their penultimate game of the season at Dewsbury Rams tomorrow, March's side lie eighth and in the final play-off position.

They are three points above Whitehaven – and also Batley, who climbed out of the relegation zone into ninth after winning their appeal against a three-point deduction imposed by the Rugby Football League for fielding ineligible players on dual registration.

The Cougars had needed just one bonus point against Dewsbury to guarantee safety prior to Batley – and also Doncaster – having the RFL's decision overturned after being presented with fresh evidence.

A win against the Rams is now needed to all but guarantee safety for the Cougars as they have a much better points difference than Whitehaven, who drop into the bottom five due to a worse difference than Batley.

Anything less could leave March's side needing something from their final game at home to Featherstone – but he is confident of securing a play-off berth with something to spare.

Keighley beat Dewsbury 40-20 at Cougar Park in May and player-coach March said: "If we pick up three points this weekend, not only does it ensure our survival but it puts us in a position where we can't finish any lower than eighth.

"It's a massive week for us and we have already proved we can beat Dewsbury after putting a score on them at home.

"We've got to be prepared and the lads have had some time off due to us not having a game last weekend. That has allowed us to refresh and recharge our batteries as well as getting rid of some niggling injuries.

"They will be ready for Sunday and it's going to be a massive achievement once we secure our place in the Championship.

"Dewsbury have already cemented their play-off spot, so they are stress free. But we are still going to go there and try and keep it nice and tight as we look to try and get the result we need."

Batley entertain already-relegated Swinton, while Whitehaven host Rochdale, who are also down. But March says his men are not even thinking about what their rivals do and are instead concentrating solely on their own job.

He said: "We are in the driving seat. It's us who have to pick up three points for the play-offs. We can't be worrying about what Batley and Whitehaven are doing. All the talk going into the Dewsbury game is about us and what we're going to do."

March says his squad are in rude health, with only Brendon Rawlins set to miss out due a broken hand. The player-coach said: "Everyone else will be fighting fit. A lot of players had little niggles and the week off will have done us a lot of good.

"If we pick up three points then that's us home and dry. That's what we're going to focus on and we've done that every game this year.

"Hopefully we can look back on it and say 'yes, we've been a bit more consistent than we were last year'. But there is still a lot of work to do to ensure we are consistent every week."

Batley and Doncaster had both been docked three points by an independent tribunal of the RFL a fortnight ago after being found guilty of fielding ineligible Super League players during matches on July 27.

The clubs were found to have breached the RFL's operational rules in playing Super League duo Jacob Fairbank (Huddersfield) and Ben Crooks (Hull) respectively on dual registration after the Championship transfer deadline had passed.

The RFL say Thursday's appeals tribunal overturned the points deductions after being presented with fresh evidence relating to previous historical breaches of operational rules by other clubs who had not faced similar sanctions.

An RFL spokesman said: "The RFL accept the decision of the independent appeals tribunal and have reinstated the points deducted from both clubs.

"The new evidence provided to the tribunal will be considered as part of the ongoing review into the operational rules relating to dual-registration that will be completed in time for the start of the 2015 season."

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