Whitehaven were given a clear indication of how difficult an immediate return to the Kingstone Press Championship could be during an eight tries to nil defeat in their opening pre-season game at fellow League One promotion hopefuls Keighley.

Whitehaven, relegated from the sport’s second tier at the end of last season, were given some alarming warnings of the amount of work to be done, albeit against a West Yorkshire side with the benefit of one full game already under their belts.

The Cougars ran in 16 tries against National Conference League amateurs Hunslet Warriors the previous week but were expected to be given a much sterner test by Carl Forster’s new-look West Cumbrian side.

With both clubs rated equally at 14-1 to take the title in a division likely to be dominated by extensively funded Canadian newcomers Toronto Wolfpack, few expected there to be a huge gulf between the teams but events, especially in a one-sided first half, proved worrying otherwise.

Forster, opting not to play himself, took virtually his whole squad down to Cougar Park, meaning a first appearance in Haven colours for young half-back Lewis Brown, who joined on a three-month loan from the Salford during the week.

Keighley, who missed out on the play-offs by one place and just a single point in 2016, took advantage of their previous week’s encounter and rocked a rusty looking Whitehaven with four tries in the opening quarter.

Handling errors and a slightly predictable lack of sharpness enabled the Cougars to dominate, with Whitehaven barely getting out of their own half in the opening quarter, by which time they already trailed 20-0.

Cougars winter signing Matty Beharrell chased his own kick to open the scoring after Jordan Burns had been forced into touch after fielding a deep and well-placed sixth tackle kick.

Vinny Finigan (twice) and Davey Dixon then scored further tries on opposite flanks as Whitehaven struggled to cope with their hosts' relentless attacking.

Burns finally crossed in the corner for Whitehaven after half an hour but was horrified to be brought back for an adjudged forward pass in the build up.

Keighley quickly made their visitors pay with Sean Hesketh scoring from close range and Beharrell adding his third goal.

Cougars’ half-backs maintained the pressure with a selection of well-judged kicks which kept full-back Elliot Miller and both wingers Shane Pattinson and Burns on their toes right up until the half-time hooter.

There was little more for the sprinkling of hardy visiting fans to savour in the opening exchanges of the second half with more errors and penalties again handing the Cougars healthy field position.

Keighley continued to try and play as expansively as the soft going would allow but proved less productive, although Haven’s pack still toiled and made even less progress down centre field.

Mike Emmett finally got the scoreboard rolling again by burrowing over from close range, with Danny Lawton, having taken over from the now rested Beharrell, missing the kick.

Whitehaven were then made to pay for a short kick-off with Emmerson Whittel fielding cleanly and setting Nathan Kitson free to run under the posts from just over the halfway line.

The one-way traffic continued with Rawlins crashing over as Haven compounded their woes with more handling horrors and a couple of unnecessary forward passes.

The Cumbrians best spell came in the final ten minutes but they were still unable to break down a well-drilled home defence, which set the standard that Forster’s men must try and match in their remaining three pre-season games and then onwards into the new campaign.

Glenn Riley escaped most of the criticism but was forced off early in the second half with a cut ear that needed stitching, while former Kells stand-off Tyrone Dalton, new signing from Rochdale James Tilley and Miller also earned praise for their efforts.

Keighley: Hawkyard, Dixon, Casey, Ryder, Finigan, Brook, Beharrell, Cherryholme, Feather, Bailey, Lynam, Tonks, Rawlins. Substitutes: Kitson, Davey, Dunne, Lawton, Nicholson, Emmett, Whittel, Hesketh, Darville.

Tries: Beharrell (4), Finigan (8, 15), Dixon (19), Hesketh (33), Emmett (55), Kitson (57), Rawlins (63).

Goals: Beharrell 3/5. Lawton 2/3.

Whitehaven: Miller, Pattinson, Taylor, Parker, Burns, Dalton, Crook, Shackley, Newton, Worthington, Moore, Maudling, Tilley. Substitutes: Calvert, Roper, Allen, Holliday, Holland, Riley, Scott, Brown.

HT: 26-0

Penalties: 8-7

Referee: Liam Staveley

Attendance: 455

Star Man: Tyrone Dalton