York Wasps 2, Keighley Cougars 26

Northern Ford Premiership

Two tries by Keighley Cougars in the closing stages of the first half proved the turning point as York Wasps sank to another Easter defeat at Huntington Stadium yesterday.

In a repeat of Friday's hammering by Doncaster, York had been equal to their opponents for much of the first half.

Indeed, they led 2-0 through two Mark Cain field goals until five minutes before the interval.

But in that crucial spell the damage was done, most of it by tricky winger Max Tomlinson. He broke through some weak Wasps tackling from halfway before releasing his centre Graeme Hallas for a try under the posts.

Then two minutes later he collected a high bomb which was missed by York full-back John McCracken and shrugged off five half-hearted tackles to score himself.

With Nathan Antonik converting both, it gave Keighley a valuable 12-2 interval lead which proved too much for the Wasps to overcome in the second half.

As driving rain and wind played havoc with both teams' attacking play in the second period, the game deteriorated into a succession of handling errors.

It hadn't been exceptional in the first half either with unforced errors spoiling any chance of flowing rugby.

But York still held their own and for the first 35 minutes looked more than capable of ending Keighley's seven match winning run.

Keighley were the most inventive in attack though, and should have scored after six minutes when Jason Lee went over in the corner only for the final pass to go forward.

After Cain had edged York ahead with a field goal after 10 minutes, Matt Woodcock was unlucky when he hacked a loose ball 50 metres but just couldn't reach it as he tussled for possession with Keighley full-back Dean Hanger.

Cain's second field goal attempt just sneaked over the bar to increase York's advantage but the substitution of scrum-half Gareth Dobson, who had taken a knock to the head, proved decisive.

Kevin Gray switched from the centre to scrum-half and, although he tried admirably, the pattern was lost from the Wasps attack.

Cain still tried to create chances with a variety of kicks and one had to be scrambled dead by Lee with Chris Judge waiting to pounce.

But the Cougars always looked the more likely scorers and got that vital double before the break.

York came out fighting in the second half and Cain's kick straight from a scrum was well chased by McCracken and Woodcock, forcing some desperate defending from the Cougars.

Unfortunately the Wasps were up against a mounting penalty count as referee Paul Lee made his usual array of questionable decisions.

Two of those penalties, one for offside and one for a high tackle, allowed inspirational loose forward Martin Wood to edge Keighley further ahead with two simple kicks in front of the posts.

Then came another two-try burst in the space of three minutes which killed off York's dying hopes. Wood found Hanger charging through on the burst to score wide out before Jason Ramshaw dived over from acting half.

Alan Pallister was sin-binned for dissent in the run up to that last try, and York were soon down to 11 men when Lea Tichener was sent off for fighting.

As the fisticuffs increased towards the end of the game, he was joined in the early bath by Keighley prop Steve Hall who was also dismissed for fighting.

A disappointing end to a disappointing game which will not make pleasant video viewing for coach Garry Atkins when he returns from America this week.

York: John McCracken, Matt Woodcock, Andy Preston, Kevin Gray, Max Ryce, Mark Cain, Gareth Dobson, Craig Forsyth, Alan Pallister, Steve Hill, Chris Judge, Andy Hill, Paul Darley. Subs (all used): Leroy McKenzie, Lea Tichener, Spencer Hargrave, Mick Hagan.

Keighley: Dean Hanger, Max Tomlinson, Graeme Hallas, Richard Smith, Jason Lee, Danny Seal, Nathan Antonik, Steve Hall, Jason Ramshaw, Alan Boothroyd, Paul Harrison, Ian Hughes, Martin Wood. Subs (all used): Paul Owen, Matt Walker, Phil Stephenson, Mick Slicker.

Referee: Paul Lee (Tyledesly)

Attendance: 1,048