Leigh Miners Rangers recovered from 18-4 down with barely twenty minutes left on the clock to see off the spirited challenge of Skirlaugh in this dramatic battle at Twist Lane. When the visitors deservedly opened a three score margin they appeared set for another victory in their battle against the drop with halfbacks John Gay and Joe McLoughlin in inspired form and Lee Nobbs and the old stager Sean Wildbore also influential. But with their play-off hopes hanging in the balance Miners belatedly came to life and Jonny Youds, Tom Parkinson and Scott O’Brien helped them fire to victory.
Skirlaugh arrived on a fine run of form and their confidence showed as they took command in a tense and largely chance-free first half. Two tries in ten minutes, the first as rangy second-row Connor Myers backed himself from close range and powered in, the second when McLoughlin broke and found Chris Brown in support to score, both goaled by Ross Kemp, had the Villagers ahead and they held firm defensively to snuff out Miners’ intermittent spells of pressure.
Miners needed the first score of the second half and that arrived when Jack Probert finished off from Youds’ pass, but Skirlaugh extended their lead in a swift response with a try that owed it all to persistence, little winger Alex Foster showing tenacity to dribble the kick round the cover and somehow emerge to touch the ball down at the corner, Kemp’s conversion scraping its feet over the crossbar but effectively so for 18-4.
Miners needed some inspiration and on the hour two of their reliable campaigners combined, O’Brien with the pass to send Darryl Kay charging under the posts. Within minutes the game was on, Ellis Grimes breaking away and Shaun Dowie in support for another try improved by Youds, and with Skirlaugh holding a prolonged council of war as Miners awaited the restart it was clear the momentum was truly on the swing. What proved the winner came with twelve minutes remaining, Youds breaking away and Andrew Groves showing his pace to finish off from forty minutes out. There were still chances for the visitors as penalties gave Skirlaugh possession on the line but Miners held firm with Mark Nicholson and Chris Bowers leading the defensive effort, a cruncher on Nobbs typifying their efforts.