Keighley Cougars 12 Dewsbury Rams 20

Cougars slipped to their second friendly defeat inside five days tonight after Dewsbury registered a deserved win from a hard-fought encounter.

Player-coach Paul March had seen his men beaten 18-16 at Barrow last Sunday and they narrowly lost again as Glenn Morrison’s Rams ran in three second-half tries.

March had fielded a mixture of youth and experience at Craven Park and handed Paul Handforth his home debut tonight.

Handforth had made his first appearance in a Cougars jersey at Barrow alongside the player-coach.

Tonight he partnered rookie half-back Ben Stead, while James Craven lined up against his old club having joined Cougars from Dewsbury during the off-season.

Indeed it was a strong Keighley line-up featuring players such as Elliott Cosgrove, Richie Barnett, Andy Shickell and James Feather.

The visitors, who host the Bulls at the Tetley’s Stadium on Sunday, left out former Super League stars such as Karl Pryce and Wayne Godwin.

But they wasted no time building up a head of steam at what was a sparsely-populated Cougar Park.

Their early pressure told when full back Jordan Grayshon scampered over the line in the seventh minute to open the scoring.

The visitors continued to probe as they went in search of a second try but Cougars, to their credit, refused to buckle.

They fashioned precious few try-scoring opportunities themselves and Dewsbury almost claimed their second seven minutes before half-time.

Replacement Aaron Brown hacked the ball forward and Kieran Hyde reached out to nearly touch down.

But on the stroke of half-time, Cougars were rewarded for a spell of pressure when Sean Hesketh barrelled over from close range from Handforth’s pass.

Stead added the extras to send Cougars in at the break with a scarcely-deserved 6-4 lead.

But Dewsbury took control after the break with three second-half tries.

Ten minutes after the restart, Matthew Haggarty played in Greg Scott, who crossed from close range.

Three minutes later, Shaun Robinson crossed again after bursting past Craven in the left corner with a powerful run.

With 11 minutes remaining, second-rower Jason Maranka added a fourth before Josh Lynam powered clear for a late second.