THREE weeks removed from the club being saved, the season started away at Whitehaven with near 300 Cougars fans backing the boys on a cold afternoon in Cumbria.

Tries from Matt Welham and Jack Miller put the Cougars into an early 10-0 lead, but Haven fought back and eventually had too much despite a further try from Davey Dixon from the Cougars and started their title-winning season off. But the real winners that day were Keighley.

The season then moved into March, and Keighley began to knock off the 12-point deduction as well as entering the Coral Challenge Cup in the process.

The month began with two extremely wet and muddy afternoon’s at Cougar Park but on both occasions, the Cougars overcame disappointing starts to comfortably defeat the Coventry Bears in Betfred League One before avoiding a giant-killing and seeing off Distington in the Cup to land a mouth-watering tie at home to arch rivals, Bradford Bulls.

A trip to the capital was next on the cards for the boys and they headed south to face the London Skolars.

Trailing 18-6 at one point in the second half, tries from Miller and Jason Muranka levelled the scores and even though the Cougars left with a share of the spoils, they were desperately unlucky to not leave with both. This was after Benn Hardcastle’s last- minute drop goal effort was dragged narrowly wide by the wind.

Then came a carbon copy of the final day of the 2018 season, the Cougars coming from a 12-22 deficit to break the North Wales Crusaders' hearts with a last-minute try to seal a 24-22 victory.

A breathless end-to-end affair ended with the hooter sounding as Josh Lynam broke through the Crusaders defensive line to dive over and blow the roof off the Terry Hollindrake Stand as the fantastic month of March continued.

Then came derby day against the Bradford Bulls, Alfie Seeley rose above Ethan Ryan to score and give the Cougars the lead. James Feather burrowed over and the Cougars led once more.

However, a string of contentious refereeing decisions allowed the Bulls to escape with the victory despite a heroic Keighley performance.

April saw the Cougars continue their undefeated streak with another three consecutive victories to work their way down to -1 in the points column.

Despite losing both Matt Nicholson and Lewis Wray to injury and finishing with 15 players, the half-back pairing of Miller and Hardcastle between them registered over the half the Cougars points on a warm spring afternoon in Llanelli as they saw off the West Wales Raiders 12-56 at Stebonheath Park.

Good Friday and a return to Cougar Park saw the breath-taking debut of new signing Taylor Prell as the Cougars saw off play-off-chasing Doncaster 26-18 as the overall team performance was praised following another hard-earned victory.

The following week saw a topsy-turvy affair as both the Cougars and Workington Town took the lead and collapsed to comebacks.

After racing into a comfortable half-time lead, the second period saw Workington fire out of the traps and take the lead against the odds, but they would leave empty handed for their trip back home.

Two tries in the last five minutes from Buster snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for the Cougars and moved them within a win of moving from the bottom of the League One standings.

The good times would stop there as the momentum caused by the club’s survival came to a screeching halt.

Back-to-back heavy away defeats at the hands of the Newcastle Thunder, in first the 1895 Cup and then League One followed.

Then the change of head coach from Craig Lingard to Rhys Lovegrove was made ahead of the visit of Oldham to Cougar Park.

With Lovegrove and Royston in temporary charge, despite the brief return of Phil Larder, things didn’t go to plan as the next three games brought both fixtures with title-chasing Oldham Roughyeds either side of a trip to play-off hopefuls Hunslet.

Sporting a charity edition pink kit in the pouring rain, the Cougars were well off the ball as Oldham, inspired by former Cougars full-back Ritchie Hawkyard, blitzed them despite a debut try from Louis Sheriff.

Then came the freezing and wet Friday night in South Leeds on an occasion described by many as the “worst game of rugby league ever seen” as Keighley failed to register a single point in a 34-0 defeat to Hunslet in a game which, in truth, neither side seemed bothered about past half-time.

Lovegrove was appointed to the top job on a permanent basis, but defeat to Oldham Roughyeds in a game which, in truth, the Cougars were the better side off for the most part, ended in defeat. Muranka scored the only try as the long awaited first team debut of Jordan Aitchison saw the homegrown product steal the show.

Aitchison stole the show once again the following Saturday in front of the OuRLeague cameras but would have his season ended by a hamstring injury in the home victory over the high-flying London Skolars at Cougar Park to instigate the plus one party and get the points deduction monkey off their backs.

However, defeat the following week at the North Wales Crusaders meant it was no longer mathematically possible for the Cougars to make the League One play-offs, however, they were launched into the national spotlight as #CougarPride came to Cougar Park.

Sporting rugby league’s first rainbow kits and backed by a big crowd, the Cougars showed the first glimpses off the Lovegrove system as they at times played West Wales Raiders off the park in a memorable afternoon’s rugby league at Cougar Park.

A heavy defeat away at Workington came before another trip, this time to rugby, saw the Cougars register what is for now their final victory over the season as they picked up a hard-fought triumph at the Coventry Bears.

The following game brought with it defeat to Hunslet in 80 minutes of rugby league that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons on a dark day for the sport played in miserable conditions in front of the lowest crowd of the season at Cougar Park.

Another home game the following week saw Whitehaven all but secure promotion to the Championship as 150 visitors from Cumbria saw the Cougars throw away a 15-6 half-time lead to collapse in the second period to fall to a 48-19 defeat.

The season fizzled out with defeats at the hands of Doncaster and Newcastle Thunder and a close to the 2019 campaign with all eyes now moved onto next year.

Cougars by numbers 2019 season

Most Appearances: Macauley Hallett & Jack Miller (23)

Top Tryscorer: Jack Miller (14)

Top Goal Scorer: Benn Hardcastle (59)

Top Points Scorer: Benn Hardcastle (147)

Top Metre Maker: Matt Welham

Top Tackler: Aaron Levy

Players Used: 36

Biggest Win: West Wales Raiders 12-56 Keighley Cougars (April 6)

Biggest Defeat: Workington Town 52-4 Keighley Cougars (July 21)

Biggest Crowd: 1,881 v Bradford Bulls (March 31)

Lowest Crowd: 508 v Distington (March 10)

Average Attendance: 875