A gritty first half followed by a free-wheeling second half saw Miners book their place in the last eight of the Conference Trophy and earn a first win in Cumbria for five years. Granted this might not have been Wath Brow or Egremont in their pomp, but Millom boasted a perfect record in league and cup prior to this match and on a Coronation Field which Miners hadn’t visited in over two decades this was always likely to be a stern test. With the Parklife festival having claimed a number of players from both sides, Miners handed a full open age debut to youth teamer Jack Burdon whilst Gary Gittens, Lee Pugsley, Scott Travis and Gareth Pain made their first first-team appearances of the season.
A bright early summer morning in Leigh had taken more ominous overtones progressing through the picturesque Cumbrian countryside and with a fierce westerly wind blowing diagonally across the pitch, punctuated by squally showers, the weather was clearly going to have an influence on the flow of the game. Miners played against the elements in the first half but opened the scoring, Jimmy Muir with quick thinking and an eye for the gap ten metres out to dart in beside the posts, Tony Doyle goaling. But the visitors gifted their hosts a route back into the match and the Woollybacks needed no further encouragement, Miners spilling possession inside their own half and from that advantage the impressive Australian back-row Warwick Carter managed to wrestle his way over the line, Adam Kelly levelling with the conversion. Within three minutes Millom hit the front, again earning possession in a promising position and Ethan Kelly finding a huge gap under the sticks for another six-pointer. Now was the time for Miners to grit their teeth and ride out the storm from a confident home side who were causing problems with their speed around the ruck, and they duly held firm before reducing the arrears just after the twenty minute mark, some fine passing seeing Adam Thomason put Travis over for a well-finished try at the corner flag. In the circumstances a two-point deficit would have represented a creditable first half showing against the wind but Miners were to head into the interval in a still stronger position, regaining the lead right on the whistle as they won a penalty for offside and from that position the ball was worked right for Thomason to score at the corner.
With the wind in their favour after the break Miners set about knocking the resolve out of their opponents and they extended their advantage as they again pressed the line and moved the ball right for Thomason to score his second. The killer score, moving the visitors two scores clear, arrived just before the hour when Thomason made a lung-bursting break down the right, drew the cover and passed inside for Travis to finish off a try converted by Doyle. Miners finished with a flourish as Millom were stretched in the final quarter, first when Muir sprinted in for his second from 60 metres out then some fine rugby by Travis and Scott O’Brien taking play three-quarters the length of the pitch with Andrew Groves in support to take the final pass. From the restart Millom pulled a score back, the kick hanging in the wind and the wiry Carter on hand to sweep possession up, step a couple of tackles and storm in for a fine solo effort. But Miners had the final word as Millom pressed for further consolation, Brad Hargreaves snapping up the intercept just metres from his own line and running the length of the pitch to score under the posts.
Millom – Joe Wright, Owen Myers, Rick Donaghue, Anthony Green, Anthony Dixon, Jon Hodgson, Adam Kelly, Ethan Kelly, Lee Edmondson, Dane Kelly, Ian Armstrong, Warwick Carter, Tom Sibley Subs – Paul Evans, Dominic O’Brien, Joe Shaw, Chris Park
Tries – Carter (11, 75), E Kelly (14)
Goals – A Kelly 2
Miners – Andrew Groves, Scott Travis, Brad Hargreaves, Adam Thomason, Gareth Pain, Jimmy Muir, Scott O’Brien, Chris Bowers, Tony Doyle, Darryl Kay, Tommy Parkinson, Connor Partington, Mick O’Boyle Subs – Dave Rowlands, Gary Gittens, Lee Pugsley, Jack Burdon
Tries – Muir (7, 68), Travis (22, 58), Thomason (39, 46), Groves (74), Hargreaves (79)
Goals – Doyle 4
Referee – Jason Woodman