Siddal 20 Leigh Miners Rangers 16
A valiant effort by Miners ultimately fell just short as Siddal edged them out at Chevinedge. With Darryl Kay away on England Lions duty, John Woods, Sean Pendlebury and Aaron Gorton injured and Liam Coleman and Ross Bradley unavailable, Miners were forced into a host of changes as Stephen Grundy, Andy Newton, the returning Steve Tooze and Tyldesley RU recruit Gareth Pain all doubled up following second team duty the previous evening whilst youngsters Josh Ward and Ryan Ravenscroft came into the side. Siddal quite rightly couldn’t be expected to show much sympathy however following the circumstances of the reverse fixture earlier in the season and they had their own absences with former Leigh Centurions’ winger Oliver Marns and centre Richard Lopag both missing, teenager Connor Clayton continuing at centre having impressed on debut the previous weekend.
Playing down the Chevinedge slope, Miners made a very positive opening in what was a near-faultless first half performance. Some strong defence kept Siddal penned back in their own half whilst Grundy and Jonny Youds dealt expertly with the clearing kicks to ensure the pressure began to build up. Miners almost made the breakthrough when Adam Thomason charged down Chris Brooke’s kick on half-way and regathered to take play towards the Siddal line. The pressure finally told just after the quarter hour mark as Ward dragged the defenders in under the posts and Tom Farrimond fired out a clever pass for Craig Connor to charge onto and crash over the line, Youds goaling. On the half hour Miners extended their lead when Youds was taken out as he chased his own up-and-under, the fullback landing the penalty for 8-0, and Siddal’s frustrations deepened just before the break as Brooke was sin-binned for dissent after his own team had been awarded a penalty.
For all their efforts in the first half, Miners were aware that Siddal had made a habit this season of launching second half revivals charging down the hill, and today was no exception. Just two minutes into the restart and the previously well-shackled Shaun Garrod sold a dummy and cut through the gap to score and halve the deficit, and as the home side looked to make further inroads they had a try chalked off as some scrambled play on the last tackle almost opened the Miners’ defence, the final pass ruled forward. Miners recovered well and mounted a sustained spell of their own as Scott O’Brien’s reverse chip-kick behind the defence bounced back off the post-pad to deny the pursuing Youds a certain try, and the only reward the Leigh side had from this strong period was a further Youds penalty after Ravenscroft had the ball reefed under the posts. Within five minutes Siddal had capitalised and were on level terms, Garrod again the scorer as he broke clear on half-way and then stepped on the gas to beat the chasing defenders for a tremendous solo effort. Sensing their moment the home side turned the screw and they had the lead for the first time when they went for the power play on the last tackle, moving the ball right for fullback Gareth Blackburn to link in to the line and go over out wide, and with ten minutes remaining they moved two scores clear, a penalty taking play to the Miners’ line and Craig Sim powering through the defence to touch down and then add the conversion to his own try. Miners had the final say and a sniff of a last hurrah as O’Brien dummied his way through from close range, Youds goaling, but with time running down a final attack came to nothing and Siddal had the hard-fought victory. The Miners coaching staff praised the efforts of all the players and particularly recognised those who had stepped in from the Alliance side having played the previous evening.
In that Alliance fixture Miners recorded a 42-20 revenge win over Wigan Spring View to move right into contention at the top of the Second Division. Stephen Grundy scored two tries on his way to the match award with a hat-trick for Jimmy Muir. Further tries came from Scott Travis, Steve Kenny and Todd Appleby. After the game it was announced that joint coach Mike Blakeley would be stepping down to take up a new role at Leigh East, and everyone at Miners would like to thank him for his work with the team this season. The women’s and under-18s sides saw their games postponed as their scheduled opponents couldn’t raise teams.
This weekend Miners are due to host Wath Brow in the Conference Cup quarter-final - watch out for fixture confirmation on the club website. The Alliance have a tough trip to Latchford Albion with the U18s involved in a festival at Hunslet Warriors on Sunday. On Saturday, August 4 the club is hosting a tick-and-pass tournament and works and pub teams are invited to come along and join in the fun. For more information contact the club through their website.