Sunday 23rd April 1995

Cougars clinch second division championship.

 

HIGHFIELD 4 – COUGARS 104

Scenes of delight, jubilation and total ecstasy said everything about this celebration victory – and the pride of the Cougars.

Phil Larder’s team had a point to prove and played with passion to send Highfield to their heaviest defeat of the season, and Keighley’s biggest victory of all time.

The celebrations started even before the final hooter with 4,000 Keighley fans cheering everyone of the Cougar players, cheering the directors, and even cheering the Highfield players who refused to lie down despite the onslaught from a rampant Keighley side.

But it wasn’t just the score which was incredible, it wasn’t just the Championship or the Super League arguments, or the huge exodus of Cougar fans over the Pennines, it was the message to Maurice Lindsey and Rupert Murdoch that Cougarmania is alive and will not be beaten.

All elements in the rags to riches story of a poor struggling club which dragged itself up by its bootlaces to the brink of the big time, were pulled together like a marvellously scripted play.

It was a joy to behold the players and their performance, the fans and their passion, and the pride of the directors.

They proved the Super League needs the Cougars. They won’t see anything so passionate, dramatic or entertaining at places like Paris, Sheffield or London, even Widnes or Bradford Northern could not produce such an atmosphere on their best day.

Everyone who was there, from the youngest children to pensioners, who have supported the club through the lean years, will remember Spotland, April 23rd, 1995.

It wasn’t a game, it was an event, an historical event that will live on in the memories of thousands of Cougar fans.

Highfield didn’t throw in the towel, they just weren’t good enough, and there are not many clubs in the entire game which could have survived against Keighley on this day. The Mersey-side team kept going and were able to get on the scoresheet, Shaun Dolan collecting his own chip kick on the 72nd minute. That brought the score to 92-4, and there wasn’t really time for a comeback!

But it did begin to look as if they were going to stop the Cougars passing the 100 mark, until Jason Ramshaw ripped through the defence.

His fantastic support play brought him two tries in the last three minutes, Simon Irving converted them both. The extra points not only gave Keighley the clubs highest score but also beat the record for the highest ever away win in the game’s history.

At times they scored at will, four tries in the second half came direct from Highfield kick-offs – the Cougars were that good.

The writing was on the wall from the sixth minute with Gareth Cochrane going over after good work by Andre Stoop, Ian Gately and Brendan Hill.

Simon Irvine struggled with his early kicks, nearly all the tries were scored out wide. He scored five from 10 attempts, all conversions, in the first half and also bagged the second try.

After that the flood-gates opened. Andy Eyres got the first of his hat-trick with a classic wingers side-step. He was followed over by Neil Kenyon, Chris Robinson and Nick Pinkney who score a hat-trick in less than nine minutes.

Martin Wood and Ramshaw finished off the half in style and at 50-0 at the break everyone was wondering if the magic 100 mark could be reached.

Seven tries in the first 18 minutes made that look a possibility, but Highfield managed to apply the brakes. This, if anything, hightened the tension and when Ramshaw scored his third try everyone in Spotland went wild.

Brendan Hill steam-rollered his way over the line in the 41st minute. Eyres completed his hat-trick, but the try of the game came in the 49th minute. Keith Dixon collected from the kick-off ten metres from his own line, broke away, passed to Pinkney who fed Eyres, he looked certain to score, but got the ball back to Pinkney who dived over.

Dixon completed another fine try, this time off a Daryl Powell break. Powell got his first for the club in the 53rd minute, as the Cougars looked irresistible. Wood went over from close range, but after that only one other try, inevitably from Pinkney, came in the next 18 minutes.

But Ramshaw had his own part to play in this chapter of Cougar history with those final two tries which now seemed to be ordained by fate.

Larder was delighted:” What a way to go out. It was good to win in such style, but we have been playing good rugby all season. There are no players in Rugby League who work harder and they deserve this victory”.

Director Alan Clarkson, a former Keighley player was almost moved to rears: “This was just like Wembley. It was great to see all the fans, all the kids enjoying