Miners Rangers produced a commanding performance to get their automatic promotion challenge back on track as they inflicted only the second defeat of the season on champions-elect Thornhill. After successive defeats Miners had seen their five point advantage over Lock Lane whittled down to just a single point but this strong showing was just what the doctor ordered as the team responded positively to those setbacks. It will still be a nervy final three matches as Lane continue to hang on to Miners’ coat-tails but if the Leigh side can reproduce this form in those remaining games then they should ensure an immediate return to the top flight without recourse to the play-offs.
Miners opened strongly as Thornhill, renowned strong starters themselves, were blitzed from the outset. Inside the first two minutes Scott O’Brien’s towering bomb was swept from the grasp of Trojans’ star man Joel Gibson by Joe Connor withthe ball falling into the hands of Tom Farrimond to dive under the posts, O’Brien converting. The lead was doubled when some patient build up play saw Miners probe the Thornhill line and on the last tackle the big second row Connor found the weak point in the defence as he forced his way over the whitewash for the second home try. Miners had a score disallowed when O’Brien was adjudged to be offside from Craig Ashall’s kick but the hosts weren’t to be denied for long as O’Brien and Connor combined, the former putting the latter clear on half way and then receiving the return pass to finish off for a fine try. When Farrimond showed neat footwork at acting half to step and dummy his way through a beleaguered defence for his second Miners were 22-0 up in almost asmany minutes in a rampant opening, but Thornhill have enjoyed a tremendous campaign and they were determined to find a way back. Miners’ defence worked overtime with Adam Thomason somehow denying the giant prop Zach Johnson one-on-one but the respite was short-lived as Liam Morley put fellow mainstay Luke Haigh nipping through for the touchdown and the Trojans had further chances as they ended the half strongly.
Given that response the first try of the second half appeared the critical one and within minutes of the restart Miners were in again, Farrimond setting up the tireless Mick O’Boyle and he drove through the defence to force the ball down beside the posts and restore that healthy Miners’ advantage. The game was something of a stalemate thereafter as Thornhill tried in vain to find a way back whilst Miners held firm in defence, Thornhill’s sole reward for a spell of pressure coming as George Woodcock went in at the corner to narrow the gap to eighteen points. With plenty of time on the clock that could still have ensured a tight finish but Miners replied positively and a cut-out pass tempted Will Gledhill out of the line in a vain attempt to intercept, leaving the gap for Lee Gittins to finish off from 15 metres out. With the very last play of the game Haigh grabbed his second but this was very much Miners’ day.
On Sunday the women’s team edged a titanic battle against Wakefield Trinity 18-6.