Conference Challenge Trophy Final
Leigh Miners Rangers 42 v 14 Wigan St Patricks
LEIGH MINERS RANGERS retained the Conference Challenge Trophy with a 42-14 victory over WIGAN ST PATRICKS.
Tries by Jonny Youds (2), Scott O’Brien (2), Jimmy Muir, Tony Doyle & Andrew Groves with Youds kicking 7 conversions.
Miners Rangers chose the perfect setting to produce their most complete display of the season to rout St Pats and retain their Conference Challenge Cup crown. In bright and breezy autumn conditions on an immaculate Sports Village pitch, Miners showed both sides of their character with an immense first half defensive performance followed by a scintillating second half attacking display to finally overwhelm their derby rivals.
After both sides had enjoyed a fortnight’s break from league action Miners were able to recall Liam Coleman, Lee Gittins, Darryl Kay, Adam Thomason and Gary Gittins, who had all missed recent weeks through injury or international commitments, whilst Pats had former Miners’ favourite Ryan Smith returned from his own injury absence. Despite the indecently early kick-off as game one of the Kingstone Press Championship finals day, a noisy crowd had assembled with both teams receiving good backing and in for the bulk of the first half the Miners’ supporters saw their favourites with their backs to the wall and digging in heroically as Pats pounded at the line. The breakthrough came on ten minutes in bizarre circumstances, Jonny Youds with a rush of blood as he tried to clear his lines and instead losing the ball on collision, Anthony Griffiths unable to believe his fortune as he simply dropped on the spillage for the opening try, converted by Brad Smith. Further Pats’ scores appeared inevitable but Miners hung in grimly, Sean MacDonald leading a fine defensive effort and Youds just managing to get to a kick through ahead of Smith. Midway through the half and Miners were level, the irrepressible Jimmy Muir cutting through inside his own half and sending Lee Gittins storming away, the stand-off following in support to take the return pass and finish off under the sticks, Youds goaling. Pats would have been stunned to be on terms at the break, such had been their dominance, so imagine how they would have felt to be in arrears, as Miners went ahead on the stroke of half time. A determined chase to Scott O’Brien’s clearing kick saw Anthony Atherton dragged into touch near his own line and from the scrum the ball was moved right for Youds to beat his man and cut in at the corner for 10-6.
Initially Pats continued to boss proceedings early in the second half and they were level when Phil Glover forced his way over from a scrum near the Miners’ line, but immediately the Leigh side went back in front, Tony Doyle stealing possession from the restart and play moved left where O’Brien found Youds running from deep through the gap to score a six-pointer. The game was turned on its head now and Miners scored twice either side of the hour through captain O’Brien to seize full control. The first was a sensational team effort, Muir, Lee Gittins and Youds taking play from inside their own half and O’Brien taking the final pass to finish off under the posts. The second was all his own work, twisting through the attempted tackles and then stretching out to dot the ball down for 28-10. Pats managed to conjure up a slick try of their own as Atherton, indefatigable as always, chipped the line and regathered before flinging the ball wide for Matt Charnock to score at the corner, but the belief had been sucked from them and the final ten minutes piled on the agony. Youds added a penalty before Miners finished with two more tries. First Doyle scored the try he had been searching for when he spotted the gap near the line and cut through to score, then Andrew Groves rounded proceedings off as he finished off from good passing from Thomason and O’Brien to complete an excellent lunchtime’s work for Miners.