St Helens 42
THEY are natural optimists at Keighley. Any club in the north of England's drought-belt which sports a sign reading "team bath filled with Yorkshire Water" must be.
The reserves of optimism in this Regal Trophy second-round tie were soon depleted and drained, however, by a St Helens side with the happy knack of coming away with points virtually every time they contrived an attacking position, and the Cougars' 18-match unbeaten run came to an end.
Proud possessors of the best defensive record in the league before yesterday, Keighley had a share of the early play that promised a cup-tie as old- fashioned as the steam railway that runs down the Worth Valley to Oxenhope. Encouraged by an exuberant crowd, the First Division leaders dominated long periods of the game territorially, but could not match the Saints' ability to seize their opportunities,which has made them the highest scorers in the league.
The difference was apparent as early as the seventh minute when Bobbie Goulding's low kick eluded Darren Appleby and Keith Dixon for Scott Gibbs to open the scoring. The Cougars, roared on by their enthusiastic crowd, gave as good as they got, going close through Andy Eyres and Ian Gately before Daryl Powell's pass and Martin Wood's pirouette brought them their equalising try.
But then Goulding and Paul Loughlin released Anthony Sullivan to maintain the Welsh wing man's productive sequence - he has scored eight tries in three games now, and 18 in total this season - and, before half-time, Goulding, who finished with five goals in a man-of-the-match display, had also gone over and Gibbs had claimed his second.
Goulding again exploited the vulnerable channel to his left, allowing Loughlin to send in Chris Joynt after Keighley had wasted a chance when Powell's pass to Appleby went to ground early in the second half.
A dank, drizzly afternoon could have turned into a Saints deluge, but, to their credit, Keighley hung in, Jason Critchley scoring in the corner from Jason Ramshaw's pass. When the tireless Wood constructed a try for Eyres with a well-judged kick, there was even a hint that Keighley could even cause the Saints some alarm. But then the gap between First Division optimism and Championship opportunism came into play once more, Powell putting out a pass and Loughlin scooping it up to score.
Joey Hayes went 75 yards for his try and Joynt charged over for a well- deserved second in the last minute, leaving the Saints to repair to a bath at least partially filled with Yorkshire water knowing that they will be in the draw for the third round tomorrow.
Keighley: Tries Critchley, Eyres, Wood; Goal Dixon. St Helens: Tries Gibbs 2, Joynt 2, Goulding, Hayes, Loughlin, Sullivan; Goals Goulding 5.
Keighley: Dixon; Eyres, Pinkney, Appleby (Foster, 48), Critchley; Powell, Robinson; Gately, Ramshaw, Tupaea, Doorey, Cochrane (Cantillon, 58), Wood.
St Helens: Prescott; Hayes, Gibbs, Loughlin, Sullivan; Hammond, Goulding; Foggerty (Moreley, 53), Cunningham, Dwyer, Pickavance, Matautia (Northey, 56), Joynt.
Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).