Rovers retain Yorkshire cup and earn Leigh East tie
SHARLSTON ROVERS .. 28
HUNSLET OLD BOYS .. 12
PHIL HODGSON at the Big Fellas Nightclub Stadium, Post Office Road, Featherstone
CENTRE Gareth Davies was the match-winner as Sharlston Rovers, who had beaten the Old Boys’ neighbours Hunslet Warriors 20-0 at the same venue 12 months ago, became the first side since Skirlaugh’s achievement of 1995/96 to retain the Yorkshire Cup
In so doing, the reigning Pennine League champions also booked an attractive home tie on Saturday with Hattons Solicitors National Conference League leaders Leigh East. The result means that Pennine runners-up Drighlington will now visit Waterhead on the Wembley trail.
Although Sharlston’s post-match celebrations were richly deserved and fully justified, plaudits also went to a gallant Hunslet side that battled back bravely from 20-0 down as half-time approached.
The Old Boys looked, at that stage, on course to suffer the heaviest defeat in a Yorkshire Cup Final in the BARLA era, with Hull Dockers’ 41-8 verdict over Park Amateurs in 1991/92 an odds-on bet to be eclipsed.
Instead Hunslet, despite playing up the pronounced Post Office Road slope in the second period, had the better of the remainder of a contest in which Sharlston scored only five tries to three.
Rovers, in addition to owing a debt to Davies, were grateful to fullback Tommy Malyan, who landed four goals to help provide a handy buffer.
Hunslet loose forward Carl Briggs – the Old Boys best player – was, by contrast, unsuccessful with each of his three attempts, all of which were taken from wide out.
Two of Davis’ touchdowns were vitally important. His first was registered midway through the opening period when Hunslet, who had gone behind to a touchdown by influential hooker Carl Saville – another contender for the man of the match award – were beginning to settle on the back of four consecutive sets.
A try looked possible when stand-off Sam Clark moved the ball wide but Davis intercepted second row Danny O’Connor’s pass to winger Alwyn Whittaker and held off the cover in an 80-metre chase – leaving the Old Boys 12 points adrift instead of, potentially, on level terms.
Hunslet never quite recovered from that blow. To their credit, though, the Boys were threatening to rescue the situation as time began to run out, having reduced the deficit to a manageable 10 points with four minutes left.
But Davies, announced as the man of the match for his telling contribution, popped up again to pluck a pass by scrum-half Andy Hullock out of the air and gallop 60 metres for the touchdown that effectively settled the issue.
He said: “I like to move well up in the defensive line, giving me the chance to tackle my opposite number as soon as he gets the ball or, if the chance arises, to pull off an interception.
“But I don’t really think I should be seen as the man of the match. I can’t do anything unless the forwards set a platform and I thought prop Chris Bingham was awesome; blokes like him do a lot of work that somehow doesn’t seem to get recognised, the truth is that there’s a lot more to Rugby League than scoring tries.”
Davies’ modesty was becoming, but his coach Gordy Long also had words for another impressive packman. “I thought Steve Hall was magnificent in the second row,” he said. “He was none-stop throughout and another nomination for the man of the match prize.”
Long, and his fellow coach Chris Chester, were concerned over how Rovers had allowed the Old Boys back into the game.
With Davies having added his second score, courtesy of a move involving Saville and second row Jonathan Waddle, and loose forward Craig Miles swooping balletically in collecting stand-off Lee Maskill’s kick, Sharlston appeared to be cruising. Chester, however, lamented: “We lost our way; too many players tried to do too much, instead of sticking to the basics, and that gave Hunslet a chance to force their way back into the game. To their credit, they took it; they are a good side.”
The Old Boys opened their account when Briggs ploughed over seven minutes before the break and the anticipated avalanche of points by Sharlston failed to materialise.
Hunslet coach John McDermott said: “We were leaving gaps around the ruck and we sorted that out at half-time, together with one or two other issues. The players, above all, showed plenty of heart and I’m proud of them. Our average age was only 20 - we’ll learn from the experience and build on this.”
After Old Boys substitute Sam Thorpe and Rovers substitute Ben Grundy had been sin-binned following a skirmish early in the second period, Malyan kept Sharlston ticking over with a penalty as the hour approached. But, incredibly, Hunslet took the game to the holders. Thorpe was held on his back with 12 minutes left and, from that attack, the ball was swung to the opposite flank where fullback Dale Harris and O’Connor linked to send winger Chris Thompson in at the corner.
There was something of a carbon copy five minutes later, Sharlston halting Mark Stubley’s charge only for Harris and O’Connor to once again give Thompson the chance to cross. But, with the pendulum having swung towards Hunslet and with Rovers visibly rocking, that man Davies came to the rescue in trademark fashion with his stunning hat-trick score.
OLD BOYS 1 Dale Harris 2 Alwyn Whittaker 16 Steve Gill 4 Ricky Hazelwood 5 Chris Thompson 6 Sam Clark 7 Andy Hullock 8 Ben Lawton 9 Pat Banks 10 Melvyn Brown 11 Steve Miller 12 Danny O’Connor 13 Carl Briggs Subs 14 Sam Thorpe 3 Sean McHugh 15 Mark Stubley 17 Jamie Fields
Tries: Briggs (33), Thompson (69, 76)
Goals: Briggs 0/3
Sin-bin: Thorpe (45, fighting)
ROVERS 1 Tommy Malyan 2 Dale Ferris 3 Gareth Davies 4 Ben Grundy 5 James Byrom 6 Lee Maskill 7 Carl Spencer 20 Chris Bingham 9 Carl Saville 10 Karl Wallis 11 Steve Hall 12 Jonathan Waddle 13 Craig Miles Subs 14 Tommy Crowther 15 Carl Sayer 17 Sean Emblem 19 Dean Gamble
Tries: Saville (9), Davies (19, 25, 78), Miles (30)
Goals: Malyan 4/6
Sin bin: Grundy (45, fighting)
Scoring sequence: 0-6, 0-12, 0-16, 0-20, 4-20, 4-22, 8-22, 12-22, 12-28
Rugby Leaguer & League Express
Men of the Match
Old Boys: Carl Briggs
Rovers: Carl Saville
Penalty count: 7-7 Half-time: 4-20
Referee: Les Holland (Hull) Attendance: 1,486