Miners Rangers ensured any cup hangover was strictly alcohol-related with this gritty midweek win on Humberside.
Backing up just three days after their epic Conference Cup Final success and with a plum play-off spot still up for grabs, this was a priceless victory against an East Hull side battling for their Premier Division lives.
Miners were without Jonny Youds and Dave Rowlands through holiday commitments, while Ross Bradley was injured and Liam Coleman and Danny Jackson were also unavailable, which saw Jimmy Muir come into the side at full-back, and Halliwell Jones hat-trick hero Martin Lewis switch to centre with Jonny Carroll taking his spot on the wing and Gareth Paine and Gary Dunn on the bench – the latter taking time out from expectant father duties to make his first team bow for 2012. East Hull has always been land of the giants and this evening was no exception with the sturdy frame of Lee Steward on the wing and the evergreen Lee Brown in the pack.
With East’s Rosmead Street home currently experiencing floodlight difficulties the game was switched to West Hull’s North Road ground and a cold night had been further complemented by persistent showers as the game got underway.
Miners showed that they meant business as they opened their scoring inside two minutes with a classy try, Scott O’Brien and Danny Jones linking up on half way and the latter with the ball inside for Muir who cut through with surgical precision, O’Brien popping up in support to take the scoring pass and finish off from twenty metres out, Josh Ward with the extras.
However, the first half was destined to produce 42 points as the sides shared tries freely and within six minutes Easts were level. Carl Puckering was their stand-out player throughout the evening with his expert short restarts enabling Easts to regain possession after each of Miners’ first three tries, and from the first of these the position was set for Puckering to dummy his way through from twenty metres, the stand-off adding the extras to his own try to level matters.
Back came Miners as East Hull lost possession midway inside their own half, and Darryl Kay showed neat footwork to pick his way through the defence and score beside the posts, Ward again goaling.
But once again East were level before the quarter mark, breaking down the right channel and some good passing finished off by Scott Partis for 12-12. Miners responded, slick passing along the line saw Ward send Shaun Marsh crashing through to the left and the teenage stand-off added the conversion but the pattern was firmly established now and by the half hour Easts were again on terms, opening up the Miners’ left flank again and this time centre Stuart Coates was in for the try and 18-18. Miners though were destined to hold the advantage at the interval with another fine try, O’Brien passing to Marsh who offloaded superbly in the tackle for Lewis to power through for another try in what is proving his most fruitful season for the club, Ward’s goal giving Miners a 24-18 advantage.
With the rain steadily increasing in the second half it was always likely that this would remain a tense and evenly-contested affair as handling errors began to creep in for both teams.
It appeared that whichever team could break the tit-for-tat nature of the contest would hold the decisive advantage and so it proved, for although East Hull maintained the trend with the first try of the second half, Puckering sending Matt Spencely over at the left corner, the Humbersiders couldn’t add the conversion, giving Miners the opportunity to move two scores clear if they could muster a ripost. That duly arrived within 10 minutes, the Leigh side building pressure on the back of a penalty and Dunn with an excellent pass creating the try for Marsh, Ward’s conversion opening up that eight point cushion at 30-22.
After the open-handedness of the first half the second period was tight as both defences dominated and knock-ons and penalties disrupted any flow, but with a handy lead this suited Miners better than their increasingly desperate opponents. With three minutes remaining the hugely-impressive win was given a flourish as Easts lost the ball on the Miners’ line and Lee Gittins picked up and stormed clear downfield, finding O’Brien in support to finish off from just inside the Hull half for a result which moves Miners back into the top six with four games remaining.
Miners ladies team recorded the club’s second finals day appearance of the season as they booked their place in the Women’s Rugby Plate Final at Widnes Vikings’ Stobart Stadium after a nailbiting 16-12 win at West Craven Warriors. The ladies will now face Brighouse Rangers on Sunday, October 14, with an 11.30am kick-off. It is a tremendous achievement for the women’s team in only their second full season of rugby.