KEIGHLEY Cougars have suffered a bitter blow in their relegation battle, with youngsters Joe Gibbons and Tom Nicholson-Watton returning to parent club Leeds.

With the Rhinos struggling for availability, second row Gibbons and prop Nicholson-Watton are both back at Headingley, with the latter named in the squad for Saturday’s Super League trip to Catalans Dragons.

Cougars could have done with the pair this weekend, as they host Halifax Panthers in their final home game of the Betfred Championship season, with the club sat just two points above the drop zone with two games to go.

Keighley are fully understanding of Leeds’ decision though, saying: “Unfortunately, Leeds have hit a point where they are extremely down on available players for upcoming fixtures and (head coach) Rohan Smith has had to make the tough decision to pull both players back.

“Cougars would like to thank both Joe and Tom for their excellent contributions to the club during their time here and both men leave the club with fantastic reviews from all the rugby staff and we are excited to see them progress their careers.

“We would also like to thank Leeds Rhinos and in particular, (general manager) Matt Cook for helping us facilitate these loan signings during the summer.

“Both Keighley and Leeds are keen to develop this relationship which we believe is only in its infancy.”