TOUCHDOWN: James Craven looked to have sealed victory for the Rams with a second try on the half-hour
A PHOTO FINISH didn’t seem likely as Karl Pryce silenced critics to help the Rams into a surprising 26-point interval lead.
But a series of injuries – which reduced Dewsbury to just their starting line-up – and a whitewash second-half show from the hosting Cougars made for an incredibly uneasy climax.
Keighley were previously unbeaten in three, but found themselves in all kinds of trouble as Pryce opened and closed his try-scoring account with two in as many minutes early on.
However, following the restart, the Cougars recovered to get to within four points of damaging Dewsbury’s play-off hopes.
The hosts’ cause received a dramatic boost as in quick succession Lucas Walshaw, James Craven, Karl Pryce and Tommy Gallagher were all helped from the turf.
The Cougars were subsequently able to claw their way back into contention.
And to their credit they did so in some style, a try three minutes from time had the 937 in attendance on the edges of their seats.
The visitings Rams got off to a flying start, though, with half-back Jonathan Schofield’s booting across field for Pryce to collect incredibly in one hand before effortlessly touching down in the corner.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: Rams skipper Karl Pryce races away to finalise a two-try haul
And the former Super League star was in again moments later, capitalising on a woeful Sean Hesketh handling error to race across the whitewash. No-one was going to step the 6ft 7ins three-quarter.
Stand-off Bobbie Goulding added the extras, opening his account while making it 10-0.
And things went from bad to worse for the home side.
A towering Goulding bomb looked to have been fumbled forward by centre Gregg Scott, but fellow Ram Brad Watkinson was on hand to clear up and touch down admirably.
The Kiwi’s effort provided a wake-up call for Keighley and within a matter of minutes they slashed the deficit.
Halves Scott Leatherbarrow, the man rumoured to be Batley-bound for 2014, and Danny Jones dovetailed to send Shaw Cross Sharks head coach Joe Chandler crashing over.
But that was as good as it got for Keighley during the opening half, Leatherbarrow going from hero to zero after dropping a high Schofield kick which allowed Craven to pounce.
A prolonged period of defending their own line then led to another Rams try, man of the match Schofield again acting as the creator for a second Craven touchdown.
Another error, Jones this time the guilty party, allowed Tommy Gallagher to finish a kick through. Goulding’s goal made it 32-6.
Game over? One could certainly presume so.
But the Cougars chose not to give in, scoring a pair of tries during the opening nine minutes of the second half.
Jones and Wales international Craig Moss combined for the first, feeding through Haley.
And a second following soon after, Scott Law powering over from a Leatherbarrow pass. The latter added extras to Law’s score, moving Keighley to within four points of a bonus point.
By this point, the Rams had been reduced to just 14 fit players, with Pryce, Walshaw and Craven all sidelined.
Cougar Haley was in again during the minutes which followed, following a Jones kick which deflected back to the try-scoring centre.
The try came at a price for Keighley, though, and perhaps acted as the Rams’ saving grace as Haley left the field with a dislocated shoulder.
Haley’s setback certainly stemmed the Cougars’ flow.
And it wasn’t until the 77th minutes before they were able to again breach Dewsbury, this time Andy Shickell charging past a tired defensive line from a superb James Feather pass.
Leatherbarrow was again on target with the conversion, his fourth of the afternoon sailing over, but his efforts were to prove in vain.
Despite a nail-biting final minute, where Keighley threatened once more, the Rams somehow hung on to record a second straight win.
RAMS: Dale Morton 7; James Craven 8; Karl Pryce 8; Brad Watkinson 7; Gregg Scott 7; Jonathan Schofield 8; Bobbie Goulding 8; Stephen Nash 7; Kane Bentley 7; Ryan Hepworth 8; Lucas Walshaw 7; Scott Hale 7; Josh Tonks 7. Subs: Rob Spicer 7; Tommy Gallagher 8; Adam O’Brien 7; Makali Aizue 8.
Tries: Pryce (3, 7), Watkinson (13), Craven (22, 32), Gallagher (40)
Goals: Goulding 4/6
COUGARS: Craig Moss 7; Daley Williams 7; Elliot Cosgrove 7; James Haley 8; Paul White 7; Danny Jones 7; Scott Leatherbarrow 7; Andy Shickell 7; James Feather 8; Sean Hesketh 8; Olly Pursglove 7; Joe Chandler 8; Brendan Rawlins 7. Subs: Paul March 7; Scott Law 7; Ben Sagar 7; Matt Bailey 7.
Tries: Chandler (18), Haley (44, 56), Law (49), Shickell (77)
Goals: Leatherbarrow 4/5
Referee: Gareth Hewer
ThePress Man of The Match: Jonathan Schofield – The young half-back continues to deliver for head coach Glenn Morrison
Match Rating: 5/5
By Steve Martyn