Sharlston Rovers Yorkshire Cup Champions
HUNSLET WARRIORS 0
SHARLSTON ROVERS 20
Chris Moyles Stadium,
Post Office Road,
IT’S rankled, Sharlston way, for a full 12 months that the Pennine League giants failed to fire in the 2007/8 BARLA Yorkshire Cup Final against Queens.
A year down the line, that festering grievance has been remedied and the joy in the Rovers camp was plain to see in the joyous post-match celebrations after yesterday’s memorable win.
On this occasion it was Hunslet Warriors who were left pondering on what might have been following a contest largely dominated by a Sharlston outfit that was altogether more cohesive, structured and focussed.
Rovers, despite playing up the infamous Featherstone slope in the first half, led by 16 points at the interval and there was little if any likelihood that Hunslet had the qualities to overturn that deficit.
Sharlston coach Gordon Long admitted:
“It’s been a long time waiting for, but it’s been worth it, and to `nil’ a side in a final is phenomenal. Last season, we paid the price for not being hungry enough to make the required sacrifices over Christmas. Player/coach Lee Bettison and I have worked hard to rectify that; the players have responded, they’ve gained their reward, and they can enjoy their Christmas tonight.”
“Winning the Yorkshire Cup is sufficient achievement in itself but, with this win, we’ve also qualified for the Carnegie Challenge Cup. We’ll now look forward to a trip to Crosfields with quiet confidence.”
That innate confidence was in evidence from the outset as Rovers, not unbeaten at the head of the Pennine League for no reason, dominated the opening exchanges. Loose forward Craig Miles was held on his back as early as the third minute and the Warriors’ rearguard was almost inevitably breached when hooker Carl Saville, the man-of-the-match, wrong-footed the defence on the last tackle, opting to go it alone and crossing from 20 metres out.
Winger Dale Ferris added the extras and Hunslet, at that stage, looked in danger of taking a hammering.
To their credit, however, the south Leeds outfit forced their way into the contest with a series of raids by the likes of props Paul Sebine and Mark Canning, with second row pair Amir Benatmane and Omar Mehdi offering solid support.
But a failing that was to leave coach Dean Sampson frustrated was vividly illustrated when winger Sean Kehoe was unable to take a try-scoring pass, and the departure of loose forward and captain Caldon Bravo hardly helped the CMS Yorkshire League title hopefuls’ cause.
Nevertheless, Hunslet were beginning to dominate territorially when the incident which arguably turned the match occurred. Awarded a penalty in front of the Sharlston’s posts, the Warriors opted to go for goal rather than maintain the pressure. Scrum-half Richard Wheelhouse, though, was stunned to see his attempt bounce out off an upright. And he and his teammates were mortified when Rovers responded with a raid that finished with Saville, Bettison and stand-off Lee Maskill combining to send Ferris sweeping in at the corner.
The body language of both sets of players following that passage told its own story. With Sharlston rampant, Bettison was held on his back over the Hunslet line a minute later, and there was clearly no way back for the Warriors when a pass by substitute Craig Hickson was intercepted by centre Gareth Davies, who raced away over 70 metres for a trademark touchdown which Ferris converted.
Rovers came close to adding to their tally in the last couple of minutes of the first half, Saville being held up over the line and centre Dale Potter being denied by a shoulder charge by Kehoe, who paid dearly for his courage by sustaining an arm injury which could leave him sidelined for several weeks.
Any thoughts, however, that Sharlston would run riot in the second period were unfounded as Hunslet kept their pride intact with a committed and disciplined display. The Warriors, though, rarely if ever emulated Rovers’ composure.
Bravo was caught in possession, close to Sharlston’s line, early in the second half, and Hickson knocked on deep in opposition territory.
As the match entered the final quarter a fine double tackle on Ferris by centre Tony Swift and Benatmane was wasted when hard-working hooker Jimmy Baker knocked on at the first play, and a late raid came to nothing when substitute Ryan Savery seemed to stumble with the line at his mercy, Swift spilling possession when the ball was subsequently swung wide.
Sharlston, in contrast, settled for completing their sets and on keeping Hunslet pinned in their own territory.
Ferris stretched the lead midway through the second period with a penalty awarded for lying on, and closed the account with a goal nine minutes from time when the Warriors were sanctioned by impressive Hull whistler Lenny Lockton for an offence at the play-the-ball.
Hunslet, who were beaten by rank outsiders Lindley Swifts on their last appearance in a Yorkshire Cup Final, eight years ago, were gracious in defeat and Sampson, a veteran of many big occasions during his time as a barnstorming prop with Castleford Tigers and Great Britain, said:
“The best side won and we’ve no complaints. The match turned, possibly, on that spell when we missed a try and opted to go for goal. I’d have been reasonably content, in the circumstances, to have been 12-6 down at half-time, even having played downhill, but that’s Rugby League.
“It’s disappointing that we failed so often in the last third of the field and that we didn’t get over their try-line. But we’ll learn from this and emerge a better side for the experience. In the end I’m proud of our players because Sharlston, having been 16 points ahead at half-time, would have torn most teams apart playing down that slope. That they were unable to do that says a great deal about the character of the players in my team, as does the fact that we went close so often. I’d have been very upset of we’d fallen apart, but we stuck in there until the very end, and our discipline was good yet again.”
“We’ve worked towards this all season, and the players have come up with the goods, peaking at the right time. They deserve it, they’ve made sacrifices over Christmas but we tried to make it easier by going 10-pin bowling on Boxing Day before having a meal together. This is a fantastic achievement and we’re also in the Challenge Cup. Our aim now is to progress in that competition, make an impact on the Champion of Champions Series, and hopefully win the Pennine League title, which has eluded us so far. We’ve a stronger squad than previously and we’re now capable of mounting a real assault on all fronts.”
1 Gary McClelland
2 Sean Kehoe
3 Chris Hartley
4 Tony Swift
5 Adam Smith
6 Chris Peach
7 Richard Wheelhouse
8 Paul Sebine
9 Jimmy Baker
10 Mark Canning
11 Amir Benatmane
12 Omar Mehdi
13 Caldon Bravo ©
14 Craig Hickson
15 Scott Walker
16 Ryan Savery
17 Liam Gale
1 Geoff Hick
2 Dale Ferris
3 Gareth Davies
4 Dale Potter
5 Brad Chatfield
6 Lee Maskill
7 Lee Bettison
8 Andy Booth
9 Carl Saville
10 Phil Hodgson
11 Sean Emblem
12 Jonathan Waddle
13 Craig Miles
14 Tommy Crowther
16 Bart Thompsen
17 Keith Brook
19 Carl Spencer
Tries: Saville (8), Ferris (29), Davies (35).
Goals: Ferris 4.
SCORING SEQUENCE: 0-6, 0-10, 0-16, 0-18, 0-20
Men of the Match
Warriors: Mark Canning
Rovers: Carl Saville
Penalty count: 16-8
Referee: Lenny Lockton (Hull)
GAMEBREAKER: Gareth Davies’ long-range interception try five minutes before the break which stretched Sharlston’s lead to 16 points – a target that, even at that stage, looked beyond Hunslet.
GAMESTAR: Sharlston hooker Carl Saville, whose bustling runs presented the Warriors with problems from start to finish.
Article Courtesy of Phil Hodgson
Images from Gary Coyle http://www.barla.fotopic.net