Miners slipped up against the champions in a hard-fought game at Close Street as a strong third quarter from Thatto cost Miners dear. This was by no means a shabby performance by the Leigh side, who were unfortunate to be pegged back to 12-12 at half time after largely dominating the first half, but a team of Thatto’s enduring quality have a habit of making their pressure count and so it proved as the home side stormed into a 28-12 lead before a late Miners’ flurry that was too little, too late.
Miners made a number of changes from the previous weekend with John Woods and Danny Jackson making their first appearances of the campaign whilst Gary Gittins missed out with an arm injury and Craig Connor was unavailable. Thatto had the former St Helens junior Chris Frodsham back in at scrum-half whilst the former Leigh Centurions duo Darren Woods and Kieron Maddocks were also in the starting thirteen.
Miners made a strong start in chilly conditions and almost broke the deadlock as Scott O’Brien sent Jackson scattering the defence under the posts, but the prop lost the ball as he tried to touch down. Just before the quarter hour the Leigh side did go in front, Dave Hull fumbling the ball inside the Miners’ thirty and O’Brien scooping the loose ball up, seeing off Maddocks for pace down the right wing and then cutting in-field to leave fullback Shaun Quinn clutching at thin air as he went under the posts, adding the extras himself. However Thatto’s number seven responded in kind ten minutes later, the Crusaders with a penalty inside the Miners half and the ball moved into the centre of the park for Frodsham to slice through from twenty metres out, Quinn levelling with the conversion. Miners had been on top and that dominance continued as Darryl Kay drove to the line and managed to slip the pass out for Dave Rowlands to dive under the posts and 12-6, but again Thatto replied and five minutes before the break were level in freakish circumstances, the outstanding Scott Clarke kicking into the space between winger and fullback and the ball taking a wicked bounce back into the hands of Darren Woods to storm through and score.
The game was up for grabs but Thatto were far less subdued in the second half and they soon began to up the tempo. The Crusaders took the lead for the first time from a scrum inside the Miners half, the ball moved left for Hull to brush off the tackle and score at the corner. On the hour and the hosts had a bit of breathing space as they kept the ball alive well on the last for big Mick Ledger to crash over the line, Quinn goaling. Miners had a moment of controversy as Lee Gittins dived over for a try which certainly appeared beyond dispute, only for the touch judge to rule he had been held up over the line. Instead it was Thatto who got the decisive next score, Anthony Bate diving over the line and Quinn goaling. Miners did have a last response as their two outstanding players Kay and O’Brien combined, the prop driving in and slipping the pass for the scrum-half to stride under the posts, and the visitors could have made it a nervy closing period when Woods went in on the overlap only to lose the ball as he grounded. Instead it was Thatto with the final word as Frodsham landed a field goal to seal the victory.
Thatto – Shaun Quinn, Darren Woods, David Hull, David Johnson, Adan Cropper, Andy Stott, Chris Frodsham, Mick Ledger, Kieron Maddocks, Mark Beech, James Clarke, Luke Bradshaw, Glenn Holland Subs – Scott Clarke, Anthony Bate, Andy Lea, Steve Wood
Tries – Frodsham (22), D Woods (35), Hull (52), Ledger (61), Bate (75)
Goals – Quinn 4
Field Goal – Frodsham
MoM – Scott Clarke
Miners – Sean Pendlebury, John Woods, Lee Gittins, Ross Bradley, Darryl Flannery, Steven Grundy, Scott O’Brien, Danny Jackson, Tom Farrimond, Darryl Kay, Adam Thomason, Shaun Marsh, Danny Jones Subs – Dave Rowlands, Martin Gray, Martin Lewis, Liam Coleman
Tries – O’Brien (13, 78), Rowlands (27)
Goals – O’Brien 3
MoM – Darryl Kay
Referee – Michael Mannifield
With thanks to Steve Webster at Thatto for the photos – more images at the link below.