Miners Rangers moved into the quarter-finals of the Conference Cup with this epic derby victory. Trailing 22-6 after being outplayed for most of the opening half, nothing other than a comprehensive East win appeared on the cards but Miners had other ideas and a remarkable second half completed another memorable comeback for the visitors at Ledgard Avenue. Miners welcomed teenager Josh Ward back into the squad whilst Liam Coleman resumed at halfback but Craig Connor and John Lloyd were both unavailable. East had Twist Lane old boys Dean Balmer and Kieran Dainty in their ranks and the in-form ex-gridiron star Jermaine Allen on the wing.
In glorious summer conditions it was Miners who started the brightest and they took the lead on four minutes after pressing the East line as Scott O’Brien’s grubber kick was fumbled by the East player back into the Miners’ captain’s hands to cut in for the try, Jonny Youds goaling. However it was all Easts from then on as Danny Kilshaw and Adam Holland ran the show for the next half hour. The home side were quickly level, Miners penalised for holding down and from the position Dainty found the gap to score beside the posts, Kerrod Selmes converting. The home side had their tails up and both Selmes and then Gavin Hunter were held up over the line before Adam Thomason forced the knock-on from Lyndon Robertson to temporarily relieve the pressure. Miners then saw a try chalked off as the pass to John Woods was ruled forward and East hit a red-hot scoring streak with three tries in seven minutes to grab firm control of the game. First Kilshaw broke down the middle and found Holland in support to outpace the defence and score, converting his own try. Then Holland broke again and had Dainty in support for his second try before Kilshaw scored a solo effort, dropping his shoulder and striding through the gap near the line for 22-6. Miners appeared sunk without trace and East sensed they had their opponents on the ropes, rushing to pack down a scrum inside the Miners’ half in the hopes of another score as the interval loomed. The try duly followed but not at the end that might have been expected as youngster Ward picked off a Kilshaw pass to sprint away from sixty metres for a try under the sticks to give Miners hope.
Ward’s introduction and that opportunistic try proved a real catalyst as Miners emerged a changed force and pegged East back deep inside their own half. The deficit was cut to four points just two minutes into the second half as O’Brien ducked under the tackles of Balmer and Brad Hargreaves and darted over the line and Miners were now in the ascendancy. They had to wait for the next score though, and chances came and went in the meantime as first O’Brien and then Lee Gittins saw their breakaway runs halted by the chasing defence and Woods’ clever chip over his opposite number was knocked forward before O’Brien touched down, but on the hour the pressure told, Ward and Youds linking up to put Martin Lewis over the line, Youds’ conversion nudging Miners back in front 24-22. There was still plenty of time for either side to snatch the spoils, and although East had been camped in their own half for much of the second period they did briefly threaten as barnstorming young forward Tom Fletcher ran hard off the bench, but Miners were in no mood to relent and they sealed the game as O’Brien grabbed two more tries in the closing minutes. First he was quickest to Youds’ cute chipped kick and managed to ground the ball and then another dummy and dart took him past the despairing defenders and over for his fourth of the game.
East – Kieran Dainty, Jermaine Allen, Carl Redford, Gavin Hunter, Mark Kay, Danny Kilshaw, Adam Holland, Dean Balmer, Kerrod Selmes, Lyndon Robertson, Lee Wingfield, Alex Robson, Mark Ballard Subs – Brad Hargreaves, Lee Rowley, Tom Fletcher, Ryan O’Toole
Tries – Dainty (10, 30), Holland (27), Kilshaw (34)
Goals – Holland 2, Selmes
Miners – Jonny Youds, Sean Pendlebury, Ross Bradley, Martin Lewis, John Woods, Liam Coleman, Scott O’Brien, Kevin Howells, Aaron Gorton, Darryl Kay, Adam Thomason, Lee Gittins, Danny Jackson Subs – Josh Ward, Tom Farrimond, David Rowlands, Shaun Marsh
Tries – O’Brien (4, 42, 76, 79), Ward (39), Lewis (61)
Goals – Youds 5
With thanks to Alan Ball for the photographs – www.facebook.com/thephotographyman