Miners staged the late, late show as Johnny Lloyd’s try five minutes into stoppage time helped them beat league leaders St Patricks to end the club’s Olympic Family Fun-Day in style.
Despite the unseasonally cold conditions and the persistent rain the club had enjoyed their family event with the volunteers from Miners and Think Ahead Community Stroke Group working like Trojans to ensure the day was a success, and when it was handed over to the players they didn’t disappoint. Whilst the weather might not have been ideal for the fluent, passing rugby that both sides have a reputation for it did produce a compelling and gripping match from first whistle to last. St Pats were missing a number of key players with Dean Hatton and ex-Miners star Ryan Smith both sidelined alongside prop Anthony Gallear, but the Wigan side made light of these absences as Ian Schofield came in at fullback and Anthony Atherton reverted to the halves whilst Marlon Alker came in to the front row. Miners welcomed Lee Gittins back after his appearance for Leigh Centurions the previous weekend whilst Dave Rowlands returned in place of the injured Danny Jones. Adam Thomason, having survived the week in Ibiza, was on the bench with Liam Coleman starting in his place.
Pats appeared to settle the quicker and they had a try chalked off when Schofield threw out a forward pass to Danny Mason, but fifteen minutes in and the Wigan side had the breakthrough, Atherton kicking to the right wing on the last tackle and as the Miners’ defence stood off the ball bounced back towards the visitors for Jim Brown to gather and sprint in from thirty metres out. Miners responded in determined fashion and were level when Scott O’Brien and Lloyd combined to send Jonny Carroll charging through the defensive line for a try converted by Jonny Youds. Three minutes later and the home side were ahead in bizarre fashion, Coleman drilling a kick through on halfway and the ball cannoned off the defence, into Coleman and forward again into Schofield’s hands but as the Wigan fullback slipped the ball popped out of his grasp and straight into the hands of Coleman, who managed to contain his surprise and sprint in for the try, Youds goaling. At 12-4 the game was turned on its head but Miners were grateful to a try-saving tackle by Thomason on Mason three minutes before the break to maintain their advantage.
Inevitably the league leaders were going to respond after the break and they struck following sustained pressure on the Miners’ line. Play was held up as the influential prop Kris Ratcliffe sustained a head injury but when the game resumed Pats made the immediate breakthrough, Declan McLoughlin sending Tony Suffolk striding through, Schofield goaling. The game became more scrappy as the tension and the conditions told on both teams and with seven minutes remaining it seemed St Pats had the winner, lively substitute John McCoy stabbing a clever kick through and the ball sitting up for fellow replacement Danny Pyke to gather it and cut inside the wrong-footed defence to score a try he goaled himself and 16-12. Half-chances came and went for Miners but the final twist in the tale came five minutes into stoppage time as Jimmy Muir, impressive off the bench, stabbed a kick behind the line on the last and as the Pats defence tried to shepherd the ball dead Lloyd charged through and just about claimed the touchdown before the ball ran dead. Youds’ conversion had Miners back in front and although there were still a few hairy moments before the end it proved a remarkable winner for the Leigh side.
Miners – Jonny Youds, Sean Pendlebury, Lee Gittins, Ross Bradley, Jonny Carroll, Martin Lewis, Scott O’Brien, Kevin Howells, Tom Farrimond, Darryl Kay, Liam Coleman, Shaun Marsh, David Rowlands Subs – Jimmy Muir, Aaron Gorton, John Lloyd, Adam Thomason
Tries – Carroll (24) Coleman (27) Lloyd (80+5)
Goals – Youds 3
MoM – Jimmy Muir
Pats – Ian Schofield, Andy Higham, Tom Woodcock, Danny Mason, Jim Brown, Anthony Atherton, Declan McLoughlin, Marlon Alker, Anthony Griffiths, Kris Ratcliffe, Reece Sedgewick, Liam Gannon, Simon Atherton Subs – John McCoy, Andy Marsh, Danny Pyke, Tony Suffolk
Tries – Brown (16) Suffolk (56) Pyke (73)
Goals – Schofield, Pyke
MoM – Anthony Griffiths
Referee – Darren Hayes
All pictures thanks to Alan Ball and Mike Aspinall (final photo)