Miners Rangers celebrated their fiftieth anniversary in style on and off the pitch as a packed day of events saw past players, coaches and supporters from across the decades share fantastic memories and then enjoy a sparkling performance from the current generation as they recorded a tremendous win over Lock Lane in baking sunshine. It was the perfect day all round for the Twist Lane club which began with a pre-match Q&A as past players Tony Cottrell, Paul Dowling, John Webster and Lane’s Dave Edginton shared their memories of the 1983 National Cup final between the two clubs and their thoughts on the game of today. Paul also reminisced about his international tours to France with the Leigh town team and to Papua New Guinea in 1978, including the infamous riot at Lae which turned into a minor international diplomatic incident!
In the evening the panel of Tommy Goulden, Martyn Ridyard, Tommy Martyn junior and Wigan and Penrith great Bill Ashurst entertained a packed dinner party with their experiences as Martyn reflected on his own time as a youngster coming through at the club and Tommy Martyn highlighted the importance of community rugby clubs in bringing through the next generation of talent.
The evening concluded with founder members Rod Raines, Eric Ratcliffe and John Norris receiving a special presentation whilst the latter two joined Rod and Harry Westhead as they were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Throughout the day past stars including Charlie Warburton, Mike Smith, Ray ‘Chalky’ Evans, John Cooke, Ian Taylor, Warren Ayres, Alan Reddecliff, Danny Flannery, Tony Dowling, John Simpkin, Mark Wood, Paul Gittins, Mick Cassidy and Shaun Dowie were welcome guests and as the centrepiece of the event it was also back to business in the league as Miners welcomed a Lane side fresh from a fine win over leaders Siddal.
In the opening exchanges Lane, missing key personnel but with a number of their youth players in the ranks, showed the greater enthusiasm and with Danny Rowse to the fore they threatened to play the role of party poopers. Two repeat sets in the Miners’ twenty set the stage for Rowse to dart through the gap to score at the right corner and the visitors extended their lead when Rowse kicked to the same corner and big centre Adam Garlick caused enough chaos as he challenged for the ball for debutant winger Tommy Wright to nip in and ground for a second try. Miners had been on the back foot but on a day when they scored some exceptional long range tries Sam Peet set the ball rolling as Scott O’Brien capitalised on a breakdown in the Lane attack to gather the ball in, jink across field and then send Peet storming away from his own 25m to race away for a fine try. The visitors though were still on top and they extended their lead when the tireless Chris Siddons drove over the line and grounded under the posts after Miners had lost the ball deep in their own half. Yet for all their toils in the first half the hosts went in at the interval on level terms with two tries in the closing ten minutes of the half. First came another super effort, Peet again with the break and then finding his winger Will Ashworth and the youngster went round the outside of his opposite number and finished at the corner before the score right on the whistle which must have altered the mood in both dressing rooms, O’Brien dummying and cutting through from half way and with Mitch Cox in support to finish under the posts.
That try appeared to drain Lane and inspire Miners and the second half became exhibition stuff as the home side appeared to enjoy themselves with some eye-catching rugby. Peet and Ashworth combined again as the former ran from deep inside his own half then put Ashworth away on half way, the winger leaving Garlick treading water and then slicing inside fullback Nathan Fozzard to score under the posts for a six pointer and Miners ahead for the first time. Another combination to work again was the O’Brien – Cox axis and when the Miners captain darted through from just inside the Lane half he found Cox in support to finish off for 26-14. The home side were turning the screw now and Andrew Groves put Peet crashing through the tackles from close range for his second just before the hour. Minutes later an O’Brien dummy to send the defence the wrong way and open the line for the try and then within a few more minutes it was another score as O’Brien’s pass and Cox’s angled run saw the substitute slicing through from 30m out for his hat-trick try. Lane held firm in the closing stages although Miners had further chances to pile on the points, instead settling for a deserved Groves try in the closing stages as he linked into attack and dived over the line, a second touchline conversion for O’Brien rounding off an excellent afternoon on the pitch to perfectly complement the off-pitch celebrations.
Miners – Andrew Groves, Will Ashworth, Joe Digby, Lee Gittins, Robert Crompton, Matty Pendlebury, Scott O’Brien, Matt Astley, Tom Farrimond, Darryl Kay, Mark Nicholson, Connor Ratcliffe, Martin Gray Subs – Jordan Hellam, Sam Peet, Mitch Cox, Mick O’Boyle
Tries – Peet (20, 59), Ashworth (31, 46), Cox (39, 51, 64), O’Brien (62), Groves (71)
Goals – O’Brien 6
Lane – Nathan Fozzard, Tom Wright, Adam Garlick, Lewis Price, Connor Turner, Callum Butler, Danny Rowse, Rob Firth, Morgan Punchard, Craig Jones, Danny Lidbury, Luke Tagg, Chris Siddons Subs – Darren Sims, Kean Hiscock, Dan Monaghan
Tries – Rowse (5), Wright (13), Siddons (27)
Goal – Rowse
Referee – Ellis McCarthy