Miners Rangers went down to a slightly unfortunate defeat at in-form Wigan St Pats in a very entertaining local derby. The Wigan side have enjoyed a tremendous short season, already confirmed as group winners of Pool B, whilst Miners had won their three previous games going into this match and needed a win to keep alive their faint hopes of taking top spot in Pool A.
The visitors made the worst possible start as successive penalties from kick-off had Pats marching downfield and quick hands along the line saw Dan Birkett go in at the corner for an unconverted score. Miners though responded strongly with Martin Keaveney lively at hooker, Dean Balmer and Darryl Kay making yardage and Kieran Dainty putting in his usual whole-hearted display. The Leigh side took the lead when Ryan Smith and Dainty combined and Leon Brennan powered through a tackle and scored under the posts, converting his own try to put the visitors ahead 6-4.
In real trench warfare both sides were ferocious in defence, with Miners particularly strong as Smith showed the defensive qualities in his game, rectifying his own intercepted pass to haul down not only Kris Ratcliffe but then to track back again and catch Ian Schofield from the offload.
The attritional but entertaining contest continued in similar vein after the break, with Miners hunting that elusive second score which would quite possibly have taken the game beyond Pats.Keaveney was unfortunate to slip as the line opened from Kay’s offload whilst Aaron Reeve came on for an impressive debut from the youth, and Darryl Appleby, Martin Gray and Gary Gittens were pounding the Pats’ line. But the try wouldn’t come and instead the home side grew stronger as the match went on, first as Anthony Atherton was allowed to use his team-mates as a barrier before hoisting a kick which was spilled for Damon Forshaw to crash over the line, then a rather unhelpful interpretation of the advantage rule saw Pats knock on, Miners gain the ball but driven back to their own line and as possession was turned over again Danny Mason went in at the corner to put the home side 12-6 ahead.
Miners desperately searched for a levelling score but at the death the home side put a gloss on the scoreline as Ryan Baxter’s kick to the right wing exposed a stretched defence and Schofield had the simple task of scoring.
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