Miners Rangers booked a place in the third round of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup with a hard-fought win over Division One Milford. In cold and rainy conditions which were far-removed from the previous Saturday’s league encounter with Siddal, this was an attritional battle against a highly-rated Marlins side who are favourites for promotion this term, and whilst the weather dictated that fast and flowing rugby was at a premium, there was still much to entertain the crowd, not least some monumental defensive efforts by both teams. Ultimately Miners were just that bit tighter defensively and more clinical in attack to take their chances and earn a place in Wednesday’s third round draw.
The Leigh side were forced to make one change with Liam Coleman unavailable and Ryan Monaghan stepping in, but that entailed a number of positional changes with Ross Bradley moving to back-row, John Woods to centre and Adam Thomason taking Coleman’s place at stand-off. Milford had Luke Reeves on the bench with Jack Pickles coming into the pack, and their coach Paul Cook had been a beaten Wembley finalist with Bradford Bulls in 1996.
The trench-warfare nature of the game was established from the early exchanges and it wasn’t until after the twenty minute mark that Miners posted the first score, Scott O’Brien and Jonny Youds taking play right and then on the next play the ball worked all the way across field for Woods to storm his way in at the left corner. On the half hour Miners extended their advantage when the lively Jimmy Muir, an influential presence off the bench, dummied his way down the right and then produced the angled pass for Martin Lewis to cut back inside and brush his way through for a try improved by Youds and 10-0. Milford’s problems were compounded when Richard Hume was sin-binned for an off-the-ball challenge on O’Brien but the Leeds side showed spirit and were denied a try when centre Matt Harding, an eye-catching 6ft2 presence in the threequarters, burst to the line but was ruled to have been held up over the whitewash.
It was always likely that a Miners score soon after the break would prove critical and that was exactly what happened as Miners opted to run a penalty in the Milford half and O’Brien sent the outstanding Lee Gittins through for the try beside the posts, Youds goaling, and that score seemed to take a lot of the sting out of the game as the remainder of the half was defence-dominated. Indeed Milford never threw in the towel and enjoyed long spells of possession only to be thwarted by a tigerish defensive effort well-led by Danny Jackson, Kevin Howells and Gittins. Miners appeared set for a hard-won clean sheet and would have been frustrated to concede in the manner they did, the home side losing the ball on half way and Josh Parle scooping up and immediately kicking to the corner where Arron Jones-Bishop just won the race to ground the ball for a consolation the Marlins deserved.
Miners – Jonny Youds, Andrew Groves, Martin Lewis, John Woods, Ryan Monaghan, Adam Thomason, Scott O’Brien, Kevin Howells, Danny Jones, Darryl Kay, Ross Bradley, Lee Gittins, Danny Jackson Subs – Jimmy Muir, Tom Farrimond, Jonny Carroll, Shaun McDonald
Tries – Woods (23), Lewis (30), Gittins (41)
Goals – Youds 2
Sin-Bin – Lewis
MoM – Lee Gittins
Milford – Ryan Oxtoby, Danny Mills, Matt Hayes, Matt Harding, Arron Jones-Bishop, Adam Fairhead, Josh Parle, Sam Morton, James Coates, John Elkington, James Barry, Jack Pickles, James Barker Subs – Luke Reeves, Shane Tasker-Howard, Richard Hume, Antony Ward
Try – Jones-Bishop (77)
Goal – Parle
MoM – John Elkington
Referee – Stephen Race
Photos thanks to Alan Ball – www.thephotographyman.co.uk / facebook.com/thephotographyman