Yorkshire Division One: Keighley 3 West Leeds 45

IT IS a tradition in rugby union clubs for the results from your division to be read out to an expectant audience in the clubhouse on a Saturday tea-time.

First of all, holding a dodgy microphone that comedian Norman Collier would have loved, senior fixture secretary Alden Phillips had a go and then former assistant coach Kenny Dyson (twice).

Eventually, via a mixture of half-heard teams and scores when the microphone did deign to work and the tried and trusted method of shouting across the room (Kenny is good at that), the punters managed to reel in the scores from Yorkshire Division One.

The end result was that Keighley, who had begun the afternoon with such optimism and led with a 12th-minute Jack Atkinson penalty, had failed to build on their home victory over Old Crossleyans the previous week.

A performance that their director of rugby Russ Gibson described as “lacklustre” left Keighley third from bottom, while West Leeds – relegated last season and also having to endure a massive fall-out within the club – rose to third from top.

Keighley’s head coach Danny McGee said: “It was a complete turnaround from the week before – the buzz beforehand, the team performance, the individual performances.

“It was 180 degrees and very disappointing. The sin-binnings could have had an effect but it was the defensive shape and the missed tackles which put us under pressure.

“The sin-binnings were the least of our worries. I am not a psychologist but I have been asking the lads why they were so flat.

“The flatness wasn’t there last week and it was the same team bar one and the same good, hard training sessions on Tuesday and Thursday.

“It is just the mentality sometimes but we move on, we go again. They are a good set of lads, they have a good team spirit and it is not the end of the world.”

As for West Leeds, who have now won nine of their 11 league matches against Keighley, McGee said: “They are a good team, well drilled and did the basics right, which we didn’t. They made less mistakes than us, made their tackles and put the points past us.”

It wasn’t a good afternoon on the injury front either for Keighley as full back Matthew Langstaff hyper-extended his arm and flanker Tom Willson, in the last knockings, injured his left ankle.

Apart from losing a line-out on West Leeds’ 22 – a fault that plagued them more than once – Keighley started well, with lock Leigh Sugden looking lively on his seasonal debut, and took the lead when winger Atkinson, on the comeback trail after a serious knee injury, popped over a penalty.

However, the yellow card that second-rower James Fox received for a high tackle on centre Sam Neave in the 17th minute started a downward slide that Keighley were never able to stop.

Before the former Baildon player got back on the pitch, West Leeds had scored three tries and were firmly in charge at 19-3.

The visitors immediately moved the ball right for winger Sam Marshall to score and he made it a brace four minutes later when Keighley centre Sean Kelly came out of the line to try and intercept, with West Leeds full back Keir Breakwell adding both conversions.

In the 26th minute, referee James Gray also sin-binned Keighley centre James Tillotson for a deliberate knock-on, meaning that they only had 13 players on the pitch when prop Rab Watts scored the visitors’ third try.

With Fox back on, Keighley didn’t help themselves as the half drew to a close by failing to find touch with a penalty kick and losing another line-out just outside the West Leeds 22.

A tangle of legs, resulting in Marshall falling to the floor, could have resulted in a penalty try, but it came soon after anyway for an offence in the red zone, with the seven points giving West Leeds a 26-3 interval lead and the four-try bonus point.

West Leeds lost scrum half Jake Barnett to a ‘dead arm’ at half-time, with Jamie Cockin coming on, but the good continuity that the visitors often showed was again in evidence early in the second half.

Langstaff went off in the 50th minute in considerable pain and the home side’s main threat to West Leeds’ line seemed to be either Sugden or the equally workmanlike Kelly.

Quick feet by winger Eliah Chitiyo gave him the visitors’ fifth try in the 57th minute, with Keir Breakwell adding the extras, and Watts joined Marshall on the two-try ledger five minutes later after flanker Lewis Bromley had run through a yawning gap.

Full back Breakwell also converted that to make it 40-3 and although Keighley kept trying to the end, potential tries were chalked off for forward passes by Alan Ebbrell and Willson.

Sugden went close from a Lucas Uren tap penalty in the 68th minute and hopes of a home try were raised further when Bromley was yellow carded for persistently being offside, but West Leeds still scored when short-handed as hooker Tim Pickersgill went over in the 76th minute.

All that remained was a great defensive catch by Tillotson and Willson’s injury in what was largely an afternoon to forget for Keighley, who host ninth-placed Goole on Saturday.

West Leeds head coach Andy Neave admitted: “We have had a tough time on the field and off it in the past year, but North One East is a tough league.

“But we have galvanised over the summer and come together, with the same 26 lads or 28 lads coming down every week and worked really hard.

“We have taken the pressure off the lads by not setting a target but as a coaching group we want to finish in the top half.

“This was our best performance of the season, having done it 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there beforehand.

“All sin-binnings can damage the defensive side whether it be defending a catch and drive or in terms of numbers. We have had it ourselves a few times.”

As for Keighley, Neave said: “If they had scored in those first 10 minutes when they had a lot of possession and we held out really well then you never know.

“It could have been 10-0 and it could have been a different ball game but we managed to get a turnover and took it from there.”