Miners Rangers booked their first Grand Final for eight years as they earned a spot at Widnes against Siddal with this tumultuous game against third-placed Mayfield. After finding themselves 16-6 behind barely twenty minutes into the game Miners appeared destined for another afternoon of chasing shadows but the league leaders rallied superbly, turning the tide to lead 18-16 at the break and then with a monumental defensive effort to gradually blunt the Mayfield attack after the interval, albeit the game was never quite comfortable for the Leigh side.
Coming into the game in red-hot scoring form and backed by two drummers and a posse of Hawaiian-shirted reprobates, Mayfield stormed out of the blocks although they required an inadvertent helping hand from their hosts as a loose Miners’ pass inside the 20m was a gift for Matt Calland to sneak in for the try goaled by his fellow player-coach Sam Butterworth. With the skyscraping stand-off Paul Brearley invariably managing to smuggle the offload away, and willing hard runners such as Joe Quanici, Callum Marriott and Liam Whalley on hand, Mayfield were playing at a high tempo but Miners clawed their way back into contention when they managed to exert some territorial pressure of their own and from that position Danny Jones delayed the pass expertly for Jimmy Muir to slice through at pace and score beside the posts, Jonny Youds goaling. Straight from the restart and it was back to square one though, the planned kick short causing consternation in the Miners defence and as they hesitated Brearley swooped in to regather and in the same movement flick the pass out for Lewis Sheridan to score out wide, Butterworth again with the goal. When Miners were penalised inside their own half Mayfield were in again as the ball was shipped right and Declan Sheridan was in at the corner and 16-6. Miners were under the pump but they prevented further damage and then turned things round completely before the interval as Mayfield were reduced to twelve men, Eric Johnson sin-binned for a late shoulder-charge and in his absence Miners scoring twice. Firstly from a scrum Scott O’Brien and Youds worked a wrap-around and the space was created for makeshift winger Ellis Grimes to crash in at the corner, Youds goaling. Then with the final play of the half O’Brien took matters into his own hands as he cut through from 25m out to touch down for another six pointer.
The lead was extended early in the second half as Muir put Brad Hargreaves in for a try at the corner and then Youds added a penalty for an off-the-ball tackle, but it was in defence where Miners were now gaining the real ascendancy as they gradually subdued the Field dangermen of Brearley and Adie Gleeson, whilst Grimes enjoyed the better of a fine duel out wide with Dave Wood. But Mayfield have points-scoring potential across their side and when they won a penalty as Miners played the ball incorrectly Quanici booted the play deep into Miners’ territory and from the position Johnson charged over for the try. With the conversion fading short Miners still held the six-point lead and that was extended further with a well-worked score, O’Brien with the kick behind the line and Muir sliding in to touch down, O’Brien converting with Youds forced from the field with a shoulder injury. The game was in no danger of fizzling out quietly though and tempers flared late on after Gleeson lost the ball on half way, Quanici in particular taking exception to the Miners’ schadenfreude as a prolonged altercation ended with the Fijian loose-forward sent off and team-mate Todd O’Brien, and Miners’ Danny Jackson, in the sin-bin. Mayfield did have the final word when Declan Sheridan showed a clean pair of heels from 30m out, but it was just too late as Miners held out to earn their final place.
Miners – Shaun Dowie, Ellis Grimes, Brad Hargreaves, Jonny Youds, Gareth Paine, Jimmy Muir, Scott O’Brien, Chris Bower, Danny Jones, Matt Astley, Tommy Parkinson, Mick O’Boyle Subs – Tom Farrimond, Darryl Kay, Martin Gray, Connor Partington
Tries – Muir (12, 70), Grimes (36), O’Brien (39), Hargreaves (53)
Goals – Youds 4, O’Brien
Sin-Bin – Jackson (76, fighting)
MoM – Scott O’Brien
Mayfield – Lewis Sheridan, Rob Kershaw, Dave Wood, Matt Calland, Declan Sheridan, Paul Brearley, Sam Butterworth, Callum Marriott, Todd O’Brien, Adie Gleeson, Liam Whalley, Eric Johnson, Joe Quanici Subs – Seta Tala, Komah Naulumatua, Nick Hargreaves, Jack Rush
Tries – Calland (4), L Sheridan (13), D Sheridan (16, 78), Johnson (62)
Goals – Butterworth 2
Sent-off – Quanici 76 (repeated punching)
Sin-Bin – Johnson (34, shoulder charge), O’Brien (76, fighting)
MoM – Adie Gleeson
Referee – Michael Mannifield