A second-half Whitehaven onslaught saw the West Cumbrians overcome the Keighley Cougars and saw Haven to remain two points clear at the top of the Betfred League One table.

The Marras got off to the worst possible start as they conceded a penalty and allowed Keighley to camp themselves on their line, Louis Sheriff forcing his way over from close range.

It was proving a nightmare start for Gary Charlton’s men and, after Sheriff nearly scored a second, they fell further behind as Benn Hardcastle exposed a gap in the defensive line to send Jack Miller racing through, despite the best efforts of Jordan Burns to deny him.

Whitehaven then gifted Keighley two points, spilling the ball on the last tackle and allowing Matt Welham to break before the scrambling defence lifted Davey Dixon above the horizontal position in the tackle. Hardcastle converting from 40 metres out.

Keighley’s Dan Parker was placed on report for a crusher tackle, but Haven failed to make the fresh set of six count, again knocking-on just metres from the line.

Andrew Bulman then thought he had Haven’s first points of the afternoon when he touched down in the corner, the touch judge however stepped in to rule the effort out for a forward pass in the build up from Sam Forrester.

Marc Shackley tried his luck in getting the visitors onto the scoreboard, put the captain was held up over the line by the Keighley defence.

But, from the play the ball they earned a penalty and Dion Aiye used his experience to take a quick tap and burrow over from close range.

Then on the sound of the half-time hooter, Whitehaven conceded a scrum from which Hardcastle took the ball and put over a one pointer for the hosts.

Haven got off to a dream second half start, as they caught Keighley’s right edge defence sleeping and Sam Forrester took full advantage to skip through to go over in front of the jubilant travelling Marras support.

The Cougars defence was caught napping once again by the resurgent visitors, Aiye this time handing off a would-be tackler before forcing his way home underneath the crossbar.

Keighley looked a different side to that of the first half and Whitehaven were turning the screw, Callum Phillips breaking a tackle to skip through and dive over.

Then as Forrester broke and looked a certainty for a second, Davey Dixon prevented a quick play the ball to earn himself ten minutes for a professional foul.

Forrester would then get his second, touching down a Callum Phillips grubber after the Keighley defence failed to clear their lines.

Andrew Bulman then scored the pick of Whitehaven’s tries, returning a kick on the last 80 metres unchallenged to dive home beneath the uprights.

Whitehaven’s second 40 went for good to even better shortly after, Forrester completing his hat-trick from 50 metres out after Aaron Levy knocked-on.

Callum Phillips then wrapped up the win, breaking to score his second before Macauley Hallett scored a Keighley consolation.

Match Facts

Whitehaven: Bruns, Bulman, Mossop, Taylor, Thompson, Forrester, C Phillips, Shackley, Dowsett, Coward, B Phillips, Gillam, Wilkinson.

Subs: Aiye, Holliday, Kelly, Forster.

Tries: Aiye (30, 49), Forrester (41, 62, 71), C Phillips (54, 78), Bulman (66). Goals: Burns (1/1); Holliday (7/7).

Cougars: Sheriff, Dixon, Welham, Hallett, Prell, Miller, Hardcastle, Coventry, Feather, Arnold, Parker, Muranka, Levy.

Subs: Moran, Gaylor, Bailey, Wray.

Tries: Sheriff (4), Miller (11), Hallett (80). Goals: Hardcastle (3/4). Drop Goals: Hardcastle (40). Sin Bin: Dixon (57 – Professional Foul). On Report: Parker (20 – Crusher Tackle)

Referee: Michael Mannifield (Huddersfield)

Attendance: 782