Cougars 26, Leigh Centurions 28
Paul March was left disappointed and proud in equal measure after the Cougars slipped to an agonising last-gasp defeat at the hands of Kingstone Press Championship leaders Leigh.
Centurions winger Adam Higson scored with two minutes remaining to hand the visitors the points and leave player-coach March bitterly frustrated.
His men pushed Paul Rowley’s table-toppers every inch of the way and they were on course for a momentous victory until Higson went over in the corner in the 78th minute.
March said: “We’re massively disappointed. We didn’t start well again but we dug in deep and we played for each other.
“We deserved the three points but it wasn’t to be again. Yet I’m proud of every one of them.”
It was a bad start for Keighley as Bob Beswick took Tom Spencer’s pass to force his way over the line past Richie Barnett.
Martyn Ridyard then converted to make it 6-0 to the Centurions inside two minutes – but the Cougars steadied themselves and claimed their first try of the game in the ninth minute.
Paul Handforth’s exquisite long pass found Barnett in space and he stepped inside past Liam Kay before touching down for a try which Danny Jones converted.
Leigh’s class continued to shine through, however, as Jones’ loose pass saw Stuart Littler create a try for Ryan Brierley and Ridyard put them 12 points up with the boot.
That scoreline did not deter Cougars’ spirit and, five minutes before the break, they cut the deficit.
Handforth danced around a couple of would-be tacklers and then found James Craven in support.
Jones added the conversion but Ridyard managed to slot over a penalty goal just before the break to make it 20-12, which would prove crucial in the end.
The Cougars came out in the second half by far the better team and they were first over as Jones found Daley Williams back on the inside for the 50th-minute score.
Jones again added the extras to bring the home side within two points.
The Centurions managed to relieve the pressure as Higson squeezed his way in at the corner on the back of Brierley’s pass.
Once again though, the hosts replied after a sublime offload from Neil Cherryholme saw Jack Lee over the line.
Jones levelled things up with the boot and later slotted over a penalty to give Cougars the lead.
But with time running out, Higson cruelly went over on the edge again to give Leigh a dramatic late victory.
Despite the outcome, March said: “We stood up and that’s the standard we’ve set now.
“We’ve just got to go into every game believing we can achieve something this year.”
Cougars: Craven. Barnett, Lawton, Williams, White, Jones, Handforth, Shickell, Haigh, Hesketh, Lynam, Rawlins, Lindsay. Interchange: Sheriffe, Cherryholme, Graham, Lee.
Leigh Centurions: McNally, Higson, Littler, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Spencer, Beswick, Aspinwall, Sarsfield, Goulden, Barlow. Interchange: Wilkes, Penkywicz, Emmitt, Haggerty.
Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow.