Miners recovered from 34-12 down at half time to secure a priceless victory over Skirlaugh. The old adage of ‘game of two halves’ might be a tired one but it was accurate nontheless to describe this showing as the Leigh side were truly horrific in the first forty minutes, playing the part of gracious hosts and distributing their largesse with generosity as they gifted the Hull side two intercept tries to leave themselves with a mountain to climb in the second half. However an unthinkable defeat was transformed into an unbelievable victory as they showed tremendous character to claw their way back for a win sealed in the last minute through a penalty try.
For this clash between two sides having made indifferent starts to the campaign Miners were without Danny Jones who joined the other injury victims Lee Gittins, Ross Bradley and John Woods on the sidelines. Martin Lewis returned from injury although he was forced off before the break whilst Luke Murfin was on the bench for his first first-team game in almost two years. Skirlaugh were without playmaker Matty Brookes, with Rob Blakeborough taking his place at scrum half.
The tone for the half was set inside four minutes as Miners gave away an intercept on half way and Tom Saltmer was the beneficiary to sprint away for the opener and just the start winless Skirlaugh would have been hoping for, Jason Bell adding the extras. With Chris Brown giving a kicking masterclass full of variety and intelligence Miners were under the cosh and just three minutes later they were breached again, Joe Hodgson crashing onto the ball fifteen minutes out and bursting through the tackles to score another six pointer. With Miners’ restart going out on the full the Villagers had another opportunity and they duly took it, the penalty tapped and Lee Nobbs striding in down the left wing, Bell again with the goal and 18-0 after ten minutes.
Just after the quarter mark and Miners at last had a foothold, Darryl Kay driving to the line and passing out for Tom Farrimond to weave his way over the whitewash, Steven Marsh goaling. But immediately Skirlaugh hit back as Miners were guilty of misjudgment attempting to watch Brown’s grubber trickle dead and as they dallied Mike Johnson nipped in smartly to ground the ball. The international centre had another try a few minutes later as Miners lost the ball on half way and Brown gathered it in to launch the counter-attack continued by Scott Mountain and concluded by Johnson under the posts, Bell goaling. The errors weren’t solely coming from the amber shirts though as Skirlaugh coughed up a present of their own, Saltmer misjudging Scott O’Brien’s seemingly innocuous kick to the wing and as he spilled the ball Jonny Carroll was on hand to accept the gift, Marsh again goaling, but two minutes before the interval Miners ensured the Skirlaugh winger would end the half in credit as they again provided the intercept for Saltmer to sprint away from the half-way line and 34-12 at the break.
After such an abomination the second half would surely be damage limitation wouldn’t it? But if Miners were to mount the most amazing of comebacks they needed swift scores and that duly arrived when O’Brien, Marsh and Liam Coleman shipped the ball left and Danny Jackson, one of the few Miners’ players to emerge with any credit from the first half carnage, broke through to score. Despite enjoying good field position Miners were struggling to break through a resilient Skirlaugh defensive line until just before the hour mark when O’Brien dummied and darted through and found the outstanding Jimmy Muir in support to finish behind the posts, Marsh goaling. Still though Skirlaugh were clinging on and the clock wasn’t Miners’ friend as they simply couldn’t find a way through and their passing became more desperate. Perhaps the pivotal moment though came barely ten minutes from time, Skirlaugh seemingly having steadied the ship and mounting attacks of their own, and they were awarded a penalty well within kicking range for Bell. However perhaps the nerves kicked in as the previously-impressive boot connected with kicking tee rather than ball and sliced it well wide of the sticks. A twelve point deficit would surely have been too much for Miners at that stage, and they still had work to do at 34-24 down as Skirlaugh were exactly where they wanted to be, running the clock down in Miners’ territory. But four minutes from time it was all on again as Adam Thomason produced a bit of class, breaking down the right wing and passing inside for Shaun McDonald to finish off, his first try for the club coming at a most timely moment. Still Miners needed another and with the clock ticking towards the eighty it arrived in dramatic circumstances. Thomason and Andrew Groves linked up to break down the right again and when Groves passed inside to O’Brien for the try the Miners’ captain was tripped by Skirlaugh’s Nobbs. Although O’Brien stumbled across the line referee John McMullen awarded a penalty try and dismissed the unfortunate Nobbs, Marsh with the winning kick from under the posts to conclude a remarkable match.
Miners – Jimmy Muir, Andrew Groves, Martin Lewis, Steven Marsh, Jonny Carroll, Liam Coleman, Scott O’Brien, Kevin Howells, Tom Farrimond, Darryl Kay, Adam Thomason, Danny Jackson, Dave Rowlands Subs – Ryan Monaghan, Luke Murfin, Todd Appleby, Shaun McDonald
Tries – Farrimond (21), Carroll (32), Jackson (42), Muir (56), McDonald (76), O’Brien (79 penalty try)
Goals – Marsh 6
MoM – Jimmy Muir
Skirlaugh – Alex Foster, Tom Saltmer, Mike Johnson, Jason Bell, Lee Nobbs, Chris Brown, Rob Blakeborough, Trevor Penrose, Tommy Harrison, Johnny Young, Ross Kemp, Scott Mountain, Joe Hodgson Subs – Brandon Graham, Gary Prest, Keith Gibson, Dave Fletcher
Tries – Saltmer (4, 38), Hodgson (7), Nobbs (10), Johnson (25, 28)
Goals – Bell 5
Sent Off – Nobbs (79, tripping)
MoM – Scott Mountain
Referee – John McMullen
Photos thanks to Alan Ball – www.thephotographyman.co.uk www.facebook.com/thephotographyman