The invincible Keighley Cougars from 2022 were stepping up into the Championship under exciting head coach Rhys Lovegrove an star signing Luke Gale.
Visiting Cougar Park were the favourites for the Championship this season and Featherstone Rovers more than justified that favouritism as they routed Keighley 50-0.
It was the Gareth Gale who made the first mark of the game as he crossed over in the corner following brilliant footwork and a smart offload from newly signed Chris Hankinson.
Hankinson had swapped the Pink City with Toulouse for Featherstone but he was incredibly busy in the first half, lining up to kick five times and making four of them.
The other four first-half tries saw young Riley Dean, on loan from Warrington, cross over twice and with the first he highlighted his size as he reached over following a short powerful line.
That was quickly followed by two more short bursts from Brad Day and then skipper James Lockwood, with Featherstone dominating territory and possession.
Chisholm’s kick dead was quickly punished and it was Dean again who showed some footwork as opposed to force to make it a wide margin of 28-0 at half time.
The half-time break was much needed respite for Keighley but Rovers were quick to get going again as Gale crossed over in the corner once again just three minutes into the second-half.
What followed was a more competitive period showing glimpses of Rhys Lovegroves exciting attacking style.
McKenzie Yei, the Papua New Guinea World Cup star, will be a fan favourite for Rovers this season and it was his huge hits, constant offloads and persistent running that kept Keighley pinned in.
It seemed that the tide could turn when Toby Everett laid a huge hit on Yei however Everett’s excitement from that hit got the better of him and he went high on Caleb Aekins 30 seconds later earning Everett 10 minutes in the bin.
It was Yei who then profited, as the PNG prop crossed over to make the game 38-0 just minutes before Josh Hardcastle also nabbed a try himself.
If the game wasn’t already over at half-time it was the 10 minute period during which Featherstone had the man advantage that secured it, the game was gone by the hour mark and simply becoming an exhibition for Sean Long’s men.
During those final 20 minutes another new signing for Featherstone ran one in, Connor Jones making a brilliant line break and teeing up the supporting full back Caleb Aekins who crossed over under the sticks.
A resounding 50-0 loss to kickstart life in the Championship, one Rhys Lovegrove was quick to chalk this game off and look forward to Widnes away on Sunday.
“I was pleased with some of our execution with the ball in hand but when a team get a roll on against you it’s extremely difficult to identify that and counter it. The boys are back in Wednesday and it’s my job to find the positives in that performance and break it down for the boys.”
“We shouldn’t forget some of our boys have only played 20 minutes in pre-season and this was Featherstone’s sixth game this year. We have work to do and assess where this game got away from us.”
Kyle Trout – Knee Issue
Sadique Adebeyi – Passed HIA to check