One of Miners’ best performances of the season went unrewarded as league leaders Thatto swooped late on.
Just four days after surrendering tamely to the league’s basement side, Miners produced a memorable display to come close – but agonisingly not close enough – top toppling the league leaders. Typical of champions elect, Thatto simply refused to acknowledge defeat despite being outplayed for long spells of this thrilling midweek contest and snatched victory with almost the last play of the game, way into the depths of an extensive period of stoppage time.
Miners were missing Darryl Kay and Adam Thomason on international duty but welcomed back Andrew Groves whilst Connor Partington and Luke Murfin returned to lead an immense forward effort and youngster Mark Nicholson made an impressive debut at open age from the under-18s.
Thatto opened strongly and Miners were soon forced onto the back foot with the visitors opening their account inside nine minutes, fullback Shaun Quinn linking in to the attack and finding young centre Corey Lee with an overlap to score at the right corner, Quinn adding the extras. That could have been the signal for Miners to go into their shells but instead the opposite happened, led by an outstanding pack challenge with Gary Gittins, Partington and substitutes Murfin and Nicholson making good yardage with some ferocious drives. That redoubtable forward play brought its reward with two tries to put the home side ahead. First Gittins surged to the line and despite being wrapped up by a number of defenders he continued his charge and crashed over the whitewash, Jonny Youds goaling. The home side hit the front when Partington angled his run and stormed onto a short ball ten metres out, blasting through the tackles to score at the left hand side of the posts for another six pointer. Right on the interval Miners had a commanding lead when some expansive play down the right saw Groves beat his man down the wing and dive over at the corner flag.
16-6 became 20-6 ten minutes into the second half as Jonny Carroll forced his way over at the left corner for a try and Miners appeared in control but Thatto showed they weren’t ready to throw their hand in with two tries in almost as many minutes as the game entered its final quarter. Firstly some expansive passing along the line put robust centre Adam Walsh over then within minutes it was game on as Lee found space at the right corner to go over the line and close the Miners’ advantage to four points. Despite being rocked back on their heels the home side continued to play the better rugby and look the more dangerous, Youds and the effervescent Jimmy Muir making breaks with the latter almost in as he evaded Quinn’s challenge but was felled metres short by the chasing Mick Ledger. Miners had a chance to ensure at least a draw but Youds dragged his penalty attempt wide from 30 metres out and in the depths of stoppage time, added on for a nasty-looking injury to Heath youngster Jack Jones, the visitors condemned Miners to an undeserved defeat. Miners were penalised for crossing on half-way and from the penalty the visitors marched downfield and Jamie Tracey burst through the gap down the right channel and stormed over the line, Quinn inevitably adding the testing conversion to secure the points for Crusaders.
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