Miners returned to winning ways with another handsome home victory, this time running up the half century against Skirlaugh. Just four days after their bruising derby setback Miners would perhaps have chosen other visitors than a Villagers’ side with a 100% record on their travels in 2012 and the afternoon didn’t start on the best note for the home side as a misunderstanding over colours saw Miners forced to don their away kit. The Leigh side handed a debut to former Leigh East and Centurions junior Steven Grundy at stand-off whilst Martin Gray returned on the wing and Liam Coleman came in for the first time since the opening day. Skirlaugh named their talisman Sean Wildbore in the unorthodox role of scrum-half.
Miners roared out of the blocks and Grundy had a dream start to his Twist Lane career as O’Brien’s chip over the defensive line bounced away from fullback Marc Smith and perfectly into the stand-off’s hands for him to dive under the posts for a six-pointer inside two minutes. The whirlwind start continued as O’Brien and Grundy linked well for the stand-off to break through and put Gray in for a fine finish at the corner and just four minutes later the home side were running away with things as Grundy, O’Brien and Sean Pendlebury combined to put Shaun Marsh roaring through a gap and crossing for 14-0 in as many minutes. Even at this stage memories of the last home game and the crushing of Siddal were being evoked, and the spree continued as Ross Bradley wriggled through the tackles and put Adam Thomason wrestling his way over. Even when Skirlaugh finally managed to mount an assault it ended in a Miners’ try, the Villagers testing the Miners’ line and Wildbore poking a kick through but Grundy gathering one-handed and then racing clear from inside his own ten metres for a pitch-length effort.
Skirlaugh were utterly bewildered and bedazzled by the Miners’ attacking display and their numbed senses were illustrated when they knocked-on from their own scrum on half way then stood and watched as Pendlebury reacted quickest to gather the ball up and sprint away for a try under the posts. From the ridiculous to the sublime and the next try was perhaps the best of the day as O’Brien dropped a shoulder and shot through the gap inside his own half then sprinted clear, dummying the fullback for a tremendous solo effort and 36-0 inside 35 minutes. Finally Skirlaugh got on the scoreboard just before the break as a quickly-taken tap penalty on halfway saw the Miners’ defence scattered and Gary Prest ran through to score right on the break.
What appeared a bare consolation began to take on the appearance of the most unlikely of comebacks ten minutes into the second half as Skirlaugh scored a further two quick tries. First a break by the lively Tommy Harrison was carried on by substitute Lee Knobbs for the score, then just a minute later another break saw the looming John Taylor – the big man a real handful when he entered the fray – smuggle out the offload and Scott Mountain, the Humbersiders’ best player on the day, finished off to cut Miners’ admittedly-sizeable advantage in half.
Momentum appeared to be switching in Skirlaugh’s favour but Miners demonstrated tremendous resolve to close out the match in style. Substitutes Coleman and Martin Lewis played a key role and it was Coleman’s break down the left that sent Pendlebury sprinting down the wing for his second. With the game now firmly settled Miners searched for more points, Coleman and Lewis combining from a penalty on the Skirlaugh line for the latter to force his way over and then O’Brien rounding off proceedings when his grubber kick took some kind deflections and fell back into the Miners’ captain’s hands to dive over the line.
Miners – Sean Pendlebury, Martin Gray, Lee Gittins, Ross Bradley, Darryl Flannery, Steven Grundy, Scott O’Brien, Craig Connor, Tom Farrimond, Darryl Kay, Adam Thomason, Shaun Marsh, Danny Jones Substitutes – Martin Lewis, Gary Gittins, Liam Coleman, David Rowlands
Tries – Grundy (2, 22), Gray (9), Marsh (13), Thomason (17), Pendlebury (33, 58), O’Brien (35, 66), Lewis (61)
Goals – O’Brien
MoM – Scott O’Brien
Skirlaugh – Marc Smith, David Lamb, Kirk Abel, Ben Peterson, Jason Bell, Stuart Smith, Sean Wildbore, Trevor Penrose, Tommy Harrison, Steve Cochran, Connor Myers, Scott Mountain, Gary Prest Substitutes – Chris Penrose, Alex Foster, Lee Knobbs, John Taylor
Tries – Prest (40), Knobbs (52), Mountain (53)
Goals – Bell 3
Sin-Bin – Wildbore (dissent – 66)
MoM – Scott Mountain
Referee – Craig Kay
With thanks to Maurice Jones for the pictures