Miners went down to an agonising defeat in front of a packed crowd at the Sports Village as local rivals Leigh East delivered the perfect tribute to departed club legend John Lewis. In a thrilling game that could have gone either way the sides were locked at 10-10 with less than ten minutes remaining, which may well have been a fair outcome, but a frantic finale saw East, inspired by Miners’ old boy Martin Keaveney, take the spoils.
On an emotional evening at the Sports Village Miners named an unchanged side from the win over Siddal the previous weekend whilst East had two Twist Lane old boys in the form of Keaveney and fullback Kieron Dainty, who enjoyed a fine match against his old club. It was the former Miners’ custodian who came closest to opening the scoring early on as he broke through but was halted by a fine trysaving tackle by Adam Thomason. The danger wasn’t passed though as East were in a good scoring position and Sean Pendlebury had to show quick reactions to gather Adam Holland’s kick after it deflected off Thomason behind the try-line. Still East enjoyed the early pressure and after Kerrod Selmes’ bomb caused havoc – a recurrent theme on the night – the Miners’ defence had to scramble superbly the keep their line intact.
After surviving all that early pressure it was especially frustrating that the visitors finally cracked from an attacking position of their own. Thomason sought to force the error as he charged down Selmes’ attempted clearance in the East twenty but the ball rebounded perfectly for Andrew Groves to gather and storm down the right and although Miners managed to halt his break he flipped the ball out to the supporting Gavin Hunter for the opening try.
Miners searched for a reply and came close when Darryl Kay surged over the line but lost possession under pressure, and after both sides were reduced to twelve men when Tom Farrimond and Hunter were sin-binned for a scuffle the visitors came agonisingly close to a leveller when Ross Bradley kicked on an East knock-on on half way and dribbled the ball towards the line only for it to bounce against the post and back for the chasing defence to hack to safety.
The 4-0 lead became a more commanding 10-0 just three minutes into the second half as all eyes were on the giant Paul Rafferty as he charged for the line only to slip the pass to the unattended Selmes to saunter under the posts for a six-pointer the stocky Australian converted himself. However Miners roared back and finally got across the whitewash when Bradley got the pass away for Pendlebury to squeeze in at the corner. With twelve minutes remaining the scores were level, Bradley again involved and his pass was deflected into the hands of Darryl Flannery to score in an almost identical position, Scott O’Brien with the conversion from the touchline. Level at 10-10 and with Miners appearing the stronger the visitors were undone in controversial circumstances, Lee Gittins penalised under the shadow of his own posts when in possession after being adjudged to have fouled his tackler and with Selmes suffering from cramp it was Keaveney who took the responsibility to slot over the penalty. Miners then had a spell of pressure searching for the winning score but were picked off as Easts held firm then broke away, Keaveney popping over a field goal and then as desperate times called for desperate measures on the final play, Flannery tried to kick through the defence inside his own twenty only for the ball to fall to Sam Grainey to gather up and score beside the posts.
East – Kieron Dainty, Andrew Groves, Gavin Hunter, James Noon, Kevin Murphy, Adam Holland, Kerrod Selmes, Paul Rafferty, Martin Keaveney, Lee Rowley, Shaun McDonald, Alex Robson, Sam Grainey Subs – Adrian Dootson, Brad Hargreaves, Lyndon Robertson, Ryan O’Toole
Tries – Hunter (25) Selmes (43) Grainey (80)
Goals – Selmes, Keaveney 2
Field Goals – Keaveney
MoM – Alex Robson
Miners – Sean Pendlebury, Chris Barlow, Lee Gittins, Ross Bradley, Darryl Flannery, Martin Lewis, Scott O’Brien, Craig Connor, Tom Farrimond, Darryl Kay, Adam Thomason, Shaun Marsh, Danny Jones Subs – David Rowlands, Gary Gittins, Darryl Appleby, Kevin Howells
Tries – Pendlebury (55) Flannery (68)
Goal – O’Brien
MoM – Ross Bradley
Referee – Michael Mannifield
More images here, thanks to club photographer Chris Lee