Cougars 58, Rochdale 4

New-look Cougars destroyed newly-promoted Rochdale with a ten-try rout in their opening pre-season friendly.

Paul March’s men had been left frustrated by the postponement of the previous week’s scheduled hit-out at Halifax due to a waterlogged pitch.

But they took out their frustrations on a Rochdale side who won promotion to the Championship after beating neighbours Oldham in last season’s Championship One play-off final.

There were plenty of reasons for optimism as player-coach March, who lined up in the halves alongside rookie Ben Stead, helped Keighley to establish a 36-4 interval lead.

The Cougars scored six tries in the first half and the impressive Stead converted every one of them, before adding three second-half conversion to finish with nine goals from ten attempts.

March included four of his new signings in the starting line-up in James Craven, Lewis Graham, Ross Peltier and Ash Lindsay while another new recruit – Jack Lee – was on the bench.

The club’s only other new boy – Paul Handforth, signed from Halifax – was absent along with Danny Jones.

But they were not needed as the Cougars wasted no time building up a head of steam against their Lancashire rivals.

With Andy Shickell and Peltier dominant in the front row, the hosts led inside the fifth minute when captain James Feather burrowed over from acting half.

Stead added the extras and three minutes later winger Richie Barnett grabbed the first of his two first-half scores.

Barnett looked rejuvenated as he pounced on a kick from March in the right corner to score in clinical fashion.

Four minutes later, the Cougars were dealt an injury blow when second-rower Brendon Rawlins succumbed to injury and was replaced by Ben Sagar.

Still, Keighley continued to probe and they struck again in the 13th minute when centre Elliott Cosgrove bustled over from close range.

Rochdale enjoyed some brief respite in the 22nd minute when he finished off a deft handling sequence in the right corner.

But Barnett soon bagged his second in the right corner after Rochdale’s defence was ripped apart again.

The Cougars began to move through the gears and they scored again on the half-hour mark when Craven’s fine burst and offload sent Cosgrove over the line.

Barnett then had a try ruled out for what would have been his hat-trick score – and four minutes before the break, March’s men scored again when replacement Sean Hesketh barrelled over the line.

Stead’s sixth conversion made it 36-4 and former Featherstone prospect Lee added a seventh after the break, before replacement Daley Williams went over for a brace and Danny Lawton added a late tenth.