Fresh from their terrific league win over the Bradford Bulls, the Keighley Cougars licked their lips at the prospect of a fourth round Betfred Challenge Cup game against a League One side who have been unable to register a single win so far in their 2023 league campaign as the North Wales Crusaders made their way to darkest West Yorkshire.
The bookies and pundits could see nothing other than a Keighley win as they gave the League One side a thirty-six-point start on the coupon. The Crusaders have eliminated Thatto Heath Crusaders and the Royal Navy in the earlier rounds while Keighley managed a narrow two-point win over Hunlet in the last round.
The prize on offer was a fifth-round visit to either Hunslet ARLFC or the Batley Bulldogs to try and win a place in the sixth-round draw and a possible trip to one of the Super League giants and the chance of a decent pay day.
With two minutes on the clock Keighley scored a simple opening try with Keenan Dyer-Dixon taking the final pass and going over in the corner. Dan Parker was wide with his touchline conversion.
The Crusaders equalised on fifteen when Dante Morley-Samuels took advantage of some good work from Owain Abel to go over in the corner. Abel added the conversion to edge the League One side into the lead. The Crusaders were really making a game of it.
Keighley struck back almost immediately as Mo Agoro leapt to take a high kick to the corner to walk in and ground without being challenged. Parker was again off target, but his side were 8-6 to the good.
A great break from Lewis Young left Crusaders tacklers in his wake before he found Billy Gaylor in support to take the full back out of the game and run in under the posts. Parker added the goal for 14-6, the Cougars starting to pull clear.
With five minutes of the half remaining the Cougars scored from the back of the scrum as Dyer-Dixon got his second, taking the ball on the overlap and diving in at the corner. Parker was unable to add the touchline conversion.
Keighley opened the second half scoring when Thomas Doyle profited from Hazzard being given ten minutes in the bin for dissent when almost immediately, he went in under the sticks against the twelve men. Parker was on target for the second time for 24-6.
Within a couple of minutes Keighley missed a tackle with some nice skill from Brandon Wood to go in at the corner. Abel was unable to put the conversion over, the Crusaders still fourteen behind.
A superb solo try from Lewis Young, jinking through the Crusaders defence, saw one full-back outfox the other to go over to score the sixth home try of the afternoon. Harvey Spence added the conversion to bring up the thirty.
Out of nothing Kieron Taylor scored a third Crusaders try as collected a delightful chip to the corner to score. The attempted conversion was wide, North Wales still sixteen adrift with nine minutes remaining.
It was too easy for Agoro to get his second on seventy-five as he walked in at the corner. Spence added the conversion for 36-14 with the Cougars well and truly into the next round.
Not a vintage Cougars performance, with a few of their stars missing, but more than enough against a North Wales Crusaders who are struggling in their league campaign. Onwards to a likely clash against the Batley Bulldogs in round five in three weeks time.
Keighley Cougars: Young (T), Dyer-Dixon (2T), Parker (2G), Storey, Agoro (2T), Stephenson, Gaylor (T), Santi, Doyle (T), Ioane, Levy, Gibbons, Spence (G). Subs: Kesik, Adebiyi, Everett, Robson. 18th Man: Tomlinson
North Wales Crusaders: Abel (G), Wood (T), Taylor (T), Reid, Morley-Samuels (T), Jinks, Fletcher, Andrade, Rainford, Hazzard (SB on 52), Barratt, Ellis, Costello. Subs: Brennan, Houghton, Matthais, Bloxham. 18th Man: Forster.
Score Progression: 4-0, 4-4, 4-6, 8-6, 12-6, 14-6, 18-6: HT : (SB), 22-6, 24-6, 24-10, 28-10, 30-10, 30-14, 34-14, 36-14: FT.
Referee: Michael Smaill.