Miners Rangers maintained their leadership of the NCL Premier Division with four matches remaining as they emerged victorious in the Battle of the Borough for the third time this season. This match mirrored the league encounter rather than the cup romp, as Miners had to battle to find two tries in the closing ten minutes to secure victory after Pats had overturned a 16-6 half-time deficit to twice claim narrow leads in a see-saw second half.
In fine early autumn conditions Miners welcomed Danny Jackson back from a long injury lay-off with Scott O’Brien also returning to the side. The Leigh side were dealt an early blow though as Connor Ratcliffe suffered an ankle injury and exited the action in the opening quarter. By that stage the sides were on level terms still, Miners having opened brightly and with purpose, Jackson offloading to O’Brien who found Jonny Youds, who in turn slipped the inside ball for Andrew Groves to slice through for a six-pointer. Pats though levelled when they reefed the ball one-on-one on half way and from that position drove to the line, Marlon Alker popping up the crash ball for Jonny Brown to steam under the posts, Dean Hatton converting. Miners looked much the sharper in the first half though, with Shaun Dowie, Jimmy Muir and O’Brien asking questions of the Pats’ defence whilst the home side appeared disjointed at times with wayward passing despite the strong efforts of the diminutive wing Tyler Spence and fiery halfback Joe Prior. Miners re-established the lead when Brad Hargreaves powered over out wide and in the closing minutes of the half the Miners’ leading scorer, switched from left centre to right wing following Harry Gagen’s injury, added his second as he finished off well, Jonny Youds goaling.
The game appeared well on the way to being won at half time but come the restart and Pats were a changed force. A try inside the first minute certainly helped matters, Hatton cutting through on half way and drawing the fullback before finding Simon Atherton in support to score and then four minutes later it was the big centre on hand again, stepping and swerving his way through from thirty metres out to give Pats the lead for the first time. Miners were on the back foot for the first time in the game but had a response on their first attack of the half, winning a repeat set and O’Brien bouncing off the tackles and darting through the gap to score. Pats weren’t finished though and they capitalised on Miners’ over-adventurous play, Jackson attempting the offload inside the Pats’ ten metre zone but the ball hitting the deck and Prior first to react, scooping up and breaking away before finding the impressive Spence who had the pace to burn clear for the try and a two point advantage with fifteen minutes remaining. Pats, whose cries of ‘knock-on’ and ‘forward’ had been the soundtrack for most of the game, found they had had a Pavlovian effect upon referee Jamie Callaghan who denied Liam Gannon a try for a forward pass. That might have been too much for Miners to recover from but instead the visitors found fresh heart and they were back ahead with five minutes remaining, Kay on hand to receive the pass and force his way over from close range, Youds goaling. In the final minute Miners iced the cake as three drives to the line gave the position for Muir to scoot over beyond the markers and touch down to ensure the win.
Pats – Mike Scrivens, Afeez Oderinde, Earl Hurst, Simon Atherton, Tyler Spence, Dean Hatton, Joe Prior, Jamie Winstanley-Bristo, Marlon Alker, Kieran Harrison, Andy Higham, Liam Gannon, Jonny Brown Subs – Joe Higham, Phil Glover, Charlie Mitchell, Jon Padgett
Tries – Brown (10), Atherton (41, 45), Spence (65)
Goals – Hatton 3
Miners – Andrew Groves, Gareth Pain, Brad Hargreaves, Jonny Youds, Harry Gagen, Jimmy Muir, Scott O’Brien, Chris Bower, Shaun Dowie, Darryl Kay, Tommy Parkinson, Danny Jackson, Connor Ratcliffe Subs – Tom Farrimond, Danny Jones, Mick O’Boyle, Matt Astley
Tries – Groves (7), Hargreaves (17, 35), O’Brien (53), Kay (75), Muir (79)
Goals – Youds 4
Referee – Jamie Callaghan