Miners Rangers opened their 2016 league season with a hard-fought win over one of the clubs who had pushed them so hard in 2015. With both Miners and Mayfield making a number of changes to their squads from last year this mild but overcast early spring afternoon saw Sam Peet make his open age debut for the home side after returning from Swinton whilst there was a first appearance of the year for Danny Jones, although Darryl Kay missed out as he recuperates from injury. Mayfield handed league debuts to Australian duo Sean Watkins and Rhys Carruth whilst player-coach Matt Calland, surely coming close to the NCL record for most venerable player, showed his qualities remain undiminished as he worked to good effect alongside fellow coach Sam Butterworth.
Mayfield roared out the blocks and opened the scoring inside the first three minutes, Miners spilling a kicked clearance inside their own 20m and from the resultant scrum Mayfield applied the pressure for Butterworth to play the deft kick behind the line, Watkins in hot pursuit to touch down behind the posts, Butterworth adding the routine extras. The game became an arm-wrestle with both sides probing for openings but it was Miners who struck next, Harry Gagen making good yards on a break from inside his own half, drawing the cover and putting his centre Brad Hargreaves away to finish off from 40m out, Ian Mort levelling matters with the goal. The introduction of the strong-running substitute Peet proved the turning point of the half as his pace and power made the breaks down the right flank. First the youngster seemed set to score himself after he broke clear and almost waded through the tackle of the fullback, but had support on hand from Jimmy Muir and finally Andrew Groves to finish off, then another Peet burst set up the position for Scott O’Brien to provide the perfect pass on the last tackle, Groves slicing through on the angle to score next to the posts, Mort with the two further conversions and 18-6 at the break.
Miners almost added to their tally early in the second half as Tommy Parkinson blasted through and with support either side of him he passed to Muir, who was somehow hauled down just short by Lewis Sheridan, the tremendous covering tackle also dislodging the ball as Mayfield survived. Their reprieve didn’t last long though and Miners soon extended their lead, creating the overlap as Connor Ratcliffe linked in at the left to score another six-pointer.
That appeared the decisive score as Mayfield, despite the promptings of Paul Brearley, seemed at low ebb but they soon found a second wind, aided by Miners’ indiscipline as the final quarter became a titanic battle once more. With Declan Sheridan a lively presence as replacement hooker the visitors offloading game, born of desperation to get back into what appeared a losing cause, began to pose real problems for Miners. Calland dived in at the left corner flag to give them some hope and when Butterworth finished off neatly from close range, Aiden Gleeson goaling, the game was right back in the balance. With Miners also down to twelve men following Gagen’s sin-binning the home side were on the back foot but scrambling frantically on their line, twice seeing Mayfield denied try claims as kicks in goal just ran dead before they could be touched down. With four minutes remaining the visitors were within four points, Lewis Sheridan finishing off to give them real hope, but Miners somehow held out to confirm a winning start to the season.
Miners – Andrew Groves, Ian Mort, Brad Hargreaves, Lee Gittins, Harry Gagen, Jimmy Muir, Scott O’Brien, Chris Bower, Danny Jones, Martin Gray, Tommy Parkinson, Connor Ratcliffe, Tom Farrimond Subs – Jordan Hill, Matt Astley, Sam Peet, Mick O’Boyle
Tries – Hargreaves (12), Groves (28, 38), Ratcliffe (55)
Goals – Mort 4
Sin-Bin – Gagen (58, holding down, team warning)
MoM – Sam Peet
Mayfield – Lewis Sheridan, Jack Sampson, Liam Whalley, Matt Calland, Rhys Carruth, Paul Brearley, Sam Butterworth, Gareth Ellison, Callum Ogden, Aiden Gleeson, Sean Watkins, Callum Marriott, Simon Moore Subs – Declan Sheridan, Jack Rush, Mark Biggins, Nick Hargreaves
Tries – Watkins (2), Calland (59), Butterworth (72), L Sheridan (77)
Goals – Butterworth, Gleeson
MoM – Paul Brearley
Referee – Harry Neville