Ben Restall Trophy: Derby thriller in tribute to much-loved character

Dave Parkinson
Ben Restall Trophy mural

Shaw Cross Sharks reclaimed the Ben Restall Trophy from Dewsbury Celtic in an emotional National Conference League game held at Celtic’s Crow Nest Park.

Ben Restall was a junior with Celtic who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and passed away in 2015 at the age of just 17. The Ben Restall Trophy was created for the club to remember Ben and has been contested seven times.

Celtic player and a former team-mate of Ben, Dominic Senior, said: “We created this game so we could raise money for a charity that helped him out, and other charities now too. It’s all about coming together as a group and playing for him and his memory.

“We’ve got the mural of when we won the local cup as Under 17s, and he was ill at that point, and he came and lift the trophy up. Then in the changing room we’ve got a plaque and every time before I go out to play, I tap that plaque.”

Still around the club

The match also sees Ben’s parents return to the club and several fundraising events take place where money is raised for local charities. Dewsbury Celtic rally round each year. The club commissioned a special artwork featuring Ben and his team-mates with the Yorkshire Cup which now takes pride of place in the dressing room area.

Paul Foulstone had played alongside Restall from the age of eight-years-old.

He said: “He was such a character. At eight year old he was nearly six foot! He was massive. And that character came out in him. He was always the biggest on the field, just a good laugh and if he hit you, you’d know about it. He was a good lad to be around and everyone loved him, it’s just a shame he’s not here.

“We’re so close with Ben’s mum and dad, and I’ll go and see them now and then, just to check in and make sure they realise that even though he’s gone, he’s still a big part of our lives and we still think about him.”

Ben Restall Trophy programme

Nathan Waring added: “He was just one of those freaks as a young kid, just tall and built. He just loved the physical side of it and loved a craic with the lads. A lot of it stemmed from him and his characteristics.

“When he passed away, we retired the number eight shirt. We got a signed shirt for him when he was ill in the clubhouse. It’s nice to have him around because he’s still within the club.”

Fine margins in Ben Restall Trophy match

Celtic had won the previous two clashes but on Saturday it was the turn of derby rivals Shaw Cross, now coached by former Super League player Paul March to claim the prize.

A 73rd-minute drop goal from Dec Tomlinson, who also scored two tries and kicked two goals decided the game although a grandstand finish ensued when James Pickering touched down late on and Harry Copley booted the touchline conversion.

Early on Shaw Cross led thanks to Tomlinson and substitute Brandon Bates scoring seconds after taking the field.

Dewsbury Celtic responded when Copley zipped through from a scrum move and after Brad Baines was sin-binned for the Sharks, Celtic took immediate advantage with a flying finish from Michael Foulstone.

When the Sharks returned to full compliment, they scored when Tomlinson cut through the middle and goaled to open a six point advantage. Tomlinson missed a penalty attempt after 55 minutes but was successful with his drop goal before the late drama captivated everyone’s interest until the end with Shaw Cross winning 17-16.

Of the game, Senior added: “It shows how fine the margins are in amateur rugby league. We made a few errors and mistakes, and Shaw Cross countered on that. It shows this league, NCL Division Two, it shows how close it is and the standard’s quite high to say that we’re amateurs.”

Hear more from the community game with Dave Parkinson and Ste Beech on the 13 Pro Am Community RL Show, available every Wednesday.