Batley Bulldogs 29, Keighley Cougars 20

Cougars player-coach Paul March was a mixture of pride and frustration after his side slipped to a narrow Kingstone Press Championship defeat at the hands of Batley today.

At a sun-kissed Mount Pleasant, Cougars were outscored by five tries to four but their spirits never sagged and they were good value for the bonus point they picked up thanks to James Haley’s last-minute score.

But March felt his men should have won, and was left bitterly disappointed with the standard of officiating, with Batley prop Alex Rowe fortunate to avoid a yellow card for a late shoulder charge on Danny Jones during the second half.

March said: “We toughed it out in the first half but we let two soft tries in before half-time.

“In the second half, however, I thought we showed a lot of character again by losing a bonus point and then regaining one.

“There were some strange decisions, and ones I’m definitely going to speak to Ian Smith about, but we’ve just got to be smarter.

“We’ve let them back into the game and we let them roll us downfield, not the referee.

“We’ll have a look at that because against better sides such as Sheffield, they got too far in front and we couldn’t claw it back but today we have managed to get a point.”

Cougars winger Paul White scored the first of his two tries in the 15th minute when he finished off expertly in the left corner and Jones converted.

They stretched their lead in the 23rd minute when Lewis Graham crossed the line after another fine break down Batley’s infamous slope.

Jones again added the extras to make it 12-0 but Batley gradually woke up and scored two tries of their own before the break to cut Cougars’ lead to two points.

First, Sam Scott barrelled over the line and then Ben Blackmore finished well after good work by former Cougars half-back Scott Leatherbarrow, with Lee Patterson’s goal making it 12-10 at the break.

Five minutes after the restart, Josh Griffin squeezed over in the left corner before White finished superbly again to make it 16-16.

But three minutes before the hour mark, Rowe escaped a sin-binning and Miles Greenwood raced downfield before sending Leatherbarrow under the posts.

Batley then wrapped up the three points when Simon Brown put over a drop goal from just two metres out in front of the posts.

Josh Lynam’s sloppy throwback from a kick from Jones was collected by Griffin, who raced 70 metres through five Cougars defenders before offloading at the last moment to put Greenwood under the sticks.

But despite this setback, Cougars did manage to secure a bonus point when Danny Jones took a long-range pass from March to send the impressive James Haley over on the final hooter.

Batley: Greenwood, Blackmore, Paterson, Griffin, A Brown, S Brown, Leatherbarrow, Smith, Blake, Gledhill, Davies, Scott, Applegarth. Interchange: Rowe, Chandler, Trout, Fairbank.

Cougars: Craven, Barnett, Cosgrove, Haley, White, Jones, Handforth, Law, Haigh, Hesketh, Lynam, Graham, Rawlins. Interchange: March, Cherryholme, Bailey, Peltier.

Referee: Warren Turley. Attendance: 640.