Cougars 18 Rochdale 46- PLAYER-COACH Barry Eaton suffered a shoulder injury in the second half of Cougars National Rail Cup clash with Rochdale - and the importance of his contribution to the team was immediately exposed.

After a solid opening period the Hornets had started to show their superiority, but once Eaton left the field they ran riot.

The visitors powered in four tries in a 24-minute spell, leaving the young Cougar side shell-shocked and looking in disarray.

In his four games with the Cougars Eaton has shown the skill and confidence that makes him appear to have more space and more time and, more importantly, gives time and space to those around him.

Fortunately it is hoped the injury was not serious and that he will be back in time for next week's battle with Oldham, who are also still without a win in the competition.

Things started so encouragingly for Peter Roe's team with Eaton putting them on the board after just 11 minutes. He slotted a comfortable penalty attempt after the Hornets had been penalised for not playing the ball correctly - a mistake the Cougars themselves were to pay for later in the game.

Minutes later things got even better for the home fans when Darren Nixon collected a smart pass from Eaton, after he had linked with full back Matt Bramald. Nixon took on the Hornets defence and dived over in the corner, but Eaton slipped trying to make the long range conversion attempt and his kick fell short.

Despite their advantage the Keighley side did not seem to have the edge they had shown in any of their previous games, against Batley, Bradford and Halifax. To often they were guilty of trying to force moves and paying the penalty for mistakes.

A pass that flew into touch handed Rochdale the opportunity to level the scores. After being gifted possession they powered into attack with David McConnell bursting over from dummy half, and Mark McCully levelled the scores with a simple conversion.

The Hornets maintained their pressure and put Tommy Goulden in for their second try just three minutes later, with the conversion attempt bouncing back off the posts.

Even at this stage there was little to choose between the teams - except that the Rochdale forwards were much bigger than the Cougar pack.

Despite their size advantage Toby Williams was punching far above his weight with another top class performance that saw him regularly driving the opposition backwards, and finding half-gaps in their defensive line.

Phil Stephenson was also putting in a tremendous amount of work, with hooker Johnny Wainhouse also making a big impression as he regularly found himself in the thick of the action.

Bramald put the finishing touch to a sparkling break by impressive centre Mick Fogerty and after 30 minutes Cougars again held a slender 12-10 lead.

It did not last long as Lee Patterson broke from deep inside his own 20m zone to touch down with the conversion.

A silly penalty given away almost on half time presented the Hornets with another two points, but the 18-12 lead showed the powerful visiting side had not had things all their own way.

The Hornets stepped up a gear after the break and early tries from Richard Varkulis and Mark McCulley stretched their lead. When Eaton had to be replaced, after being dumped on his shoulder, the chances of a comeback had ended.

Their third try came from a clever kick through that the Cougar defence failed to chase down

Goulden added his second try and former Cougar Phil Cantillon joined other ex-locals Paul Owen and Matty Firth, to torment the home side. He put Varkulis in for his second score and was also set up Rochdale's final try that McCully finished off.

Despite the one-way traffic Cougars managed to finish with a final flourish as Stephenson linked with Wainhouse to touch down under the posts, and Richard Knight added the extra points with the final kick of the game.