Vikings one step closer to Wembley
Scrum-half Tom Gilmore scored a hat-trick of tries as Widnes cruised into their first Challenge Cup semi-final for 18 years, running in 10 tries against their courageous but outclassed opponents.
The Super League side had far too much pace and power for the under-strength Championship team while skipper Kevin Brown supplied the guile to secure a 56-6 triumph that puts the seven-times winners just 80 minutes away from a first appearance at Wembley since 1993.
Keighley player-coach Paul March, watching the game on television from the Cricketers Arms just outside the ground to comply with his stadium ban, opted to send a weakened team to the Select Security Stadium, where the contest was as artificial as the playing surface.
With more important business on Tuesday, when the Cougars play a rearranged league match crucial to their battle against relegation, they had just six survivors from the team that played Halifax in their last Championship match, although only one debutant in forward Charlie Eccleston.
It was routine for the Super League team once centre Stefan Marsh broke through the Cougars' flimsy defensive line to get winger Decan Hulme over for the game's first try with less than two minutes on the clock.
With 20-year-old Gilmore finishing off a bust from prop Alex Gerrard and Brown forcing his way over from dummy half for the first of his two tries, it was 16-0 inside 10 minutes.
After a brief respite, Brown went 50 metres for his second try and, after Keighley winger Gavin Duffy went close to pulling off an interception at the other end, the clever playmaker carved out two more tries in the last 11 minutes before the break.
Winger Jack Owens plucked the ball out of the air to touch down Brown's high kick and then his long pass released Hulme on the other flank, with Marsh supporting to claim the Vikings' sixth try of the first half.
Brown was at it again a minute into the second half, after Keighley half-back Ben Stead had knocked on from the kick-off, putting substitute Willie Isa through a gap in the visitors' defence to touch down.
Owens, who took over the goalkicking from the replaced Danny Tickle, added a second conversion to make it 38-0 but the Cougars produced a spirited rally to stun Denis Betts' men.
Centre Daley Williams put his side into a perfect attacking position with a one-on-one ball steal and was on hand to take Stead's pass to cross for his side's only try.
Stead kicked the conversion and kept his side on the attack with a 40-20 kick but normal service was quickly resumed when a kick from that man Brown bounced into the arms of Gilmore for his second try.
With the Vikings lead 44-6 on 53 minutes, it was the signal for Brown to take a rest with his job done but there was no let-up from the Vikings.
Replacement Danny Craven demonstrated fleet of foot to score a sensational solo try midway through the second half, moments after being the victim of a high tackle, and Gilmore supported a break by full-back Rhys Hanbury to complete his hat-trick.