Miners Rangers booked their place in the final of the inaugural Conference Challenge Cup at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium with this win over Division One title hopefuls Dudley Hill. Although the game was as tight and tense as would be expected from such an occasion, Miners were ultimately deserved and relatively comfortable winners against a Hill side who enjoyed plenty of possession and tremendous work rate but who never showed enough guile to break down the resilient Miners’ defence. By contrast the Leigh side were clinical on their attacking forays, outscoring their hosts four tries to one with some slick attacking play.
Both sides were at strength for this one, with Hill welcoming freescoring winger Neil Wall and highly-rated hooker Nathan Kitson back from international duty whilst former Huddersfield Giants Super League man Bolu Fagborun lined up on the wing. Miners were also at full strength with John Woods, Ross Bradley and Scott O’Brien back in the side, meaning young Josh Ward was the unlucky player to drop out of the seventeen.
It was a glorious late summer afternoon in Bradford although there was a stiff wind that would play its part in proceedings, and Miners were cheered on by a travelling coach-load of supporters. However it was the home side who had most to shout about early on as Dudley Hill started strongly through their hard-working pack, Callum Dinsdale driving to the line and offloading for Kitson to send Alex Dickinson through the tackle and over the line after just six minutes, Kitson himself adding the excellent conversion. Miners responded swiftly and on their first attack they had the response, Jonny Youds with the deft kick behind the line and Woods winning the race to just about ground the ball, injuring himself in the process. It was the winger’s last involvement in the game but already appeared a crucial one, and his replacement on the flank Martin Lewis carried on where Woods had left off with a fine game. On twenty minutes Miners had the lead they wouldn’t relinquish as they went for the power play on the last tackle, Aaron Gorton throwing the pass wide and Lewis scrambling over at the corner and 8-6 to the visitors. Hill’s initial pressure appeared to have run slightly out of steam and Miners broke them again on the half hour, again opting to run the ball on the last tackle as Youds set Bradley free down the left and his kick over the top bounced back for the centre to gather and score out wide and 12-6 at the break.
Although Miners appeared in control the advantage was a slender one, and Hill served notice of their threat early in the second half as Kitson for once broke free of the shackles and stormed down the left only for his final pass to drift harmlessly forward and into the arms of the covering O’Brien. Miners heeded the warning on on the fifty minute mark they had the decisive score, Liam Coleman wriggling free of the tackles and sending the ball right for Shaun Marsh to put Lewis over for his second and 16-6. O’Brien nudged over a field goal as Miners extended their lead, and although Dudley Hill had a few more moments, with Kitson denied a try for a knock-on by Dinsdale in the build-up, Miners held firm and underlined their win three minutes from time with a Youds penalty after a Dudley Hill goal-line drop-out went out on the full.
Dudley Hill – Aiden Batey, Bolu Fagborun, Lewis Evans, Alex Dickinson, Neil Wall, Daniel Softley, Mick Hill, Callum Dinsdale, Nathan Kitson, Jason Lee, Adam Jefferson, William Woodhead, Steve Lamond Subs – Dale Lee, Jamie Seward, Anthony Lawton, Kyle Bateman
Try – Dickinson (6)
Goal – Kitson
MoM – Callum Dinsdale
Miners – Jonny Youds, Sean Pendlebury, Ross Bradley, Martin Lewis, John Woods, Liam Coleman, Scott O’Brien, Kevin Howells, Aaron Gorton, Darryl Kay, Adam Thomason, Lee Gittins, David Rowlands Subs – Danny Jones, Shaun Marsh, Tom Farrimond, Danny Jackson
Tries – Woods (13), Lewis (19, 49), Bradley (31)
Goal – Youds
Field Goal – O’Brien
MoM – Lee Gittins
Referee – Craig Kay
With thanks to RLPhotos.com for the images