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Thursday, 25 December 2014

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Carl Sice clinches win for Whitehaven with last-minute try

Keighley Cougars 14 Whitehaven 18: Keighley player-coach Jason Demetriou signalled pre-match that Carl Sice was Whitehaven’s dangerman, and how right he proved.

Carl Sice photo
Carl Sice

Sice touched down under the posts with less than a minute left on the clock to hand the Cumbrians a tremendous victory against a side that was unbeaten in the league at Cougar Park this term.

Indeed, Keighley’s only previous Championship One defeat in eight outings had come against Haven, at the Recre, and the sides will clash once again in the final game of the regular season, in Yorkshire, in September.

It had not looked promising for Haven when portly prop Andy Shickell, acting more like a scrum-half, collected his own chip from broken play and had the power to touch down under heavy pressure on 65 minutes.

Danny Lawton’s conversion put the hosts 14-12 up, and, after a shaky first-half, they were in the ascendancy. On the next set, full-back James Haythornthwaite scythed through, a tackle from his impressive Haven counterpart Andreas Bauer saving the visitors.

Keighley then almost crossed again, desperate defence stopping hooker James Feather, who was held up over the line.

Perhaps sensing they were letting the three points slip away, Haven suddenly picked up in attack, coach David Seeds leaving both of his hookers, Sice and Chris Smith, on the field at the same time, to sharpen their attack.

The move paid dividends after Carl Rudd dispossessed Brendon Rawlins on half-way, before an alert Smith earned a ruck penalty.

The set ended with Bauer held a fraction short. But Keighley started the game’s final set on their own line, and after they lost possession just 25 metres out, Haven piled on the pressure.

Rudd’s expert dab on the left was collected by Sice who went under the posts, Lewis Palfrey converting.

The full-time hooter sounded as Keighley re-started the game, Wiper allowing the ball to fire in to touch, leading to joyous celebrations from Haven fans.

Earlier, Haven had not made the most of their first-half superiority, playing down the slope, though it took them just four minutes to score – and what a score it turned out to be.

Lee Doran worked wonders to release Palfrey just 20 metres from his line. The stand-off carried the ball in to the opposition half before the cover closed in.

Rather than take a tackle he produced a well-weighted kick for Wiper, who gathered and crossed in the corner.

For good measure, Palfrey landed a superb conversion to get Haven off to the best possible start.

The Cougars also showed plenty of intent, loose-forward Richard Jones held a metre short of the whitewash, and after prop Luke Isakka was penalised for an incorrect play-the-ball, ex-Workington Town front-rower Ryan Benjafield touched down under the posts.

Lawton, perhaps unsettled after the ball twice rolled off the kicking tee, looked to rush his conversion attempt and crashed it against the crossbar.

The hosts forced drop-outs off consecutive sets, though there was no way through a tight defence.

And Haven should have increased their lead when Craig Calvert dived over in the corner, only to have the ball dislodged by a terrific last-gasp tackle.

But they made no mistake on 32 minutes, the classy Doran breaking the line, drawing the full-back and feeding Paul Cullnean for another score between the posts, Palfrey adding the extras to make it 12-4 at the break.

Keighley’s cause was not helped by scrum-half Luke Helliwell fumbling three times in the opening 12 minutes of the second-half.

But two minutes after Wiper had a try disallowed for offside, they hit back. Wiper produced a great tackle on winger James Hutchinson to deny the hosts a certain breakaway try.

With Haven struggling to regroup, however, the ball was moved swiftly to the opposite flank for Lawton to score.

Both teams ground out their sets for the next 12 minutes, Keighley enjoying a constant territorial advantage, before the game sprang in to life in a exciting final 15 minutes.

Whitehaven: Bauer, Hamzat, Wiper, McAvoy, Calvert, Palfrey, Rudd, Hill, Smith, Isakka, Doran, S Miller, Beattie. Subs: Sice, Cullnean, Ford, Wilton.

Tries: Wiper, Cullnean, Sice; Goals: Palfrey 3

Keighley Cougars: Haythornthwaite, Duffy, Lawton, Sagar, Hutchinson, Demetriou, Helliwell, Shickell, Feather, Benjafield, Cartledge, Pursglove, Jones. Subs: Wray, Law, Rawlins, Baines.

Tries: Benjafield, Lawton, Shickell; Goals: Lawton 1

Half-time: 4-12

Attendance: 754

Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow

Star man: Carl Sice

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