Leigh Miners Rangers 32 Oxford 6
LEIGH Miners Rangers reached the fifth round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup for the first time in the club’s history, becoming only the second amateur club to reach that landmark after the all-conquering West Hull of 1996, with this comprehensive win over League One semi-professionals Oxford.
This was Miners’ second win over higher-ranked opposition in the competition following their 1999 win over Bramley, and the first amateur team giantkilling since Siddal’s 2010 win over Doncaster.
Beyond the stats and the archives this was a game of emotion and no small controversy following the trials and tribulations as Miners were ultimately denied the opportunity to stage the game at Twist Lane and, following a phenomenal social media backing and support from across the amateur and professional game and from as far afield as Kuala Lumpur and Dubai, the match was hosted at Leigh Sports Village with Miners needing little further motivation. Oxford must have developed something of a siege mentality and in the opening stages their giant set of forwards dominated, recycling the ball well through the burly forms of Jordan Andrade and the tireless Ed Hayles, with one such offload creating the opening try on ten minutes as Kyle Danns found Jonny Payne in support to crash under the posts from five metres out, Danny Allen goaling.
Once Miners had weathered that storm they got to grips with the game and with ball in hand there was only one team in the contest, the Leigh side consistently breaking the line with the elusive and powerful runs of Tommy Parkinson, Ellis Grimes, Jonny Youds and Adam Thomason.
The amateurs pulled the first score back on the quarter mark, building pressure on the Oxford line and Scott O’Brien putting Grimes over for a four pointer. A sparkling piece of off-the-cuff rugby, taking play from deep inside their own half through Thomason, then across field by Youds, and finally Shaun Dowie and Mick O’Boyle putting O’Brien in at the opposite corner, Youds goaling, had Miners ahead. Four minutes before the break and the lead was stretched as pressure again built, Miners opting to tap a penalty rather than go for goal, and from that position O’Boyle crossed out wide for another six pointer.
The first try of the second half was going to be pivotal and it came Miners’ way as O’Brien’s bomb caused panic in the Oxford defence, fullback Louis Richards and winger Jonny Morris making a complete hash and Harry Gagen snapping up the loose ball to saunter in for another converted score. Miners were now in complete command and they split their opponents down the right again, Connor Ratcliffe shrugging off the tackles to score at the corner and Youds again with the conversion. With eight minutes remaining Miners iced the cake as they again struck at the right channel, Thomason stumbling, creeping and finally crawling through the attempted tackles and wrestling his way over the line to score the final try.
The fifth round draw takes place on Tuesday evening with Leigh Centurions also in the hat. This Saturday, March 28 Miners host Rochdale Mayfield in a league fixture, 2.30pm