KEIGHLEY are clear at the head of the early-season standings after prevailing in the clash of the only two unbeaten sides in the section. 

The Cougars owed their success to a hugely impressive recovery from 8-0 down after only ten minutes, emulating the pattern of their 22-14 victory in the Betfred Challenge Cup last February. 

The match, which was preceded by a Hunslet Legends game arranged on behalf of Hall of Famer Steve Pryce, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, was also notable for the presence of descendants of Lucius Banks who, after being signed by Hunslet in 1912, became the first man of colour to play professional Rugby League; the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Al Garthwaite, was another honoured guest and presented the player’s grandson, Richard Lucius Banks, together with wife Annie and sons Adam and Danny, with the Banks’ heritage certificate.

It seemed that the Parksiders’ celebrations were set to continue when, on the back of some sparkling expansive rugby, Hunslet shot into an 8-0 lead inside the first ten minutes.

Josh Jordan-Roberts crashed over, following an impressive set, in the third minute, Matty Beharrell adding the extras. And the lead was extended when, following a high challenge on Harry Williams, Beharrell landed the resultant penalty. 

But the introduction of Keighley substitutes Alex Bishop, Lewis Hatton and, for his 100th Cougars appearance, Daniel Parker heralded a transformation in fortunes.

Bishop, in particular, began to carve openings in Hunslet’s defence and, aided by a sequence of penalties, the Cougars were in the ascendancy by the break, when a 20-8 lead had been established.

Mark Ioane opened the visitors’ account on 22 minutes and, shortly after the half-hour, Bishop crashed in, also under the posts, a subsequent skirmish leading to an ‘on report’ referral.

Jack Miller improved both scores to nose Keighley in front, and the half closed with a blistering brace for Billy Walkley, Miller missing the target each time from wide out. 

Ellis Robson scythed over nine minutes after the restart, off Bishop’s smart ball, before Hunslet raised hopes of a recovery when Alfie Goddard dotted down in the corner after good work by Jimmy Watson and Williams. But, after another `on report’ decision when a couple of players came together, the Cougars ended the home bid in compelling fashion.

Aaron Brown bustled over off Kyle Kesik’s telling ball and, following the sin-binning of Hunslet’s Jude Ferreira for delaying a restart, Keighley made the most of the extra space with late tries for Junior Sa’u and Robson, Miller converting the first from the touchline in a five-goal haul.

Cougars coach Matt Foster said: “We started slowly and Hunslet were impressive in the early stages, shifting the ball from side to side. It took us ten minutes to get into it but we then began to gain momentum. 

“But not many teams come to Hunslet and score 42 points.”