There was no winning glory North West Counties Premiers Wigan St Cuthberts as they went down to National Conference League Premier Champions Siddal who completed a double and also became the first amateur side from Halifax to win this trophy in hot conditions.
Played in front of an estimated 2,500, a ground record for a BARLA National Cup Final held at Fylde RUC this ‘David & Goliath’ and ‘War of the Roses’ clash was another great advert for the game.
With a thousand making the short trip from Wigan and a large contingent from Halifax who were delayed by a bad crash on the motorway there was plenty of good natured banter between both sets of supporters and once again rugby league was the winner.
St Cuthberts got off to a sensational start with a try within the opening minute one of the fastest in the thirty six year history of the competition. Siddal though showed what a champion side they are replying with three tries of their own. Even though St Cuthberts brought it back to 18-14 at half time and after the break the Yorkshiremen ran in twenty unanswered points from four tries. Winger Sean Blackburn added two goals to go with first half trio and an 80 metre interception try for his side’s seventh and final try of the game eight minutes from time.
Both sides gave their all with St Cuthberts contributing to the end and after the season they have had will learn from this experience and become a better side for it.
The game breaking moments came when Siddal had their four point lead with St Cuthberts pressuring them and they scored two second half tries in a five minute the latter coming from Luke Simeunovich who was later named the Tom Keaveney MBE Man of the Match. Leading 30-14 there was no way back with twenty four minutes remaining.
As they left the dressing room for the game Wigan St Cuthberts were given a guard of honour from fellow North West Counties League Premier champions Halton Simms Cross who had earlier won the BARLA Champion of Champions Final and been in this final two years earlier. They were followed out by Siddal who had been in an horrendous journey to the ground because of problems on the motorway.
It looked as if Siddal were still on the coach when after kicking off to St Cuthberts they found themselves 6-0 down after a swooping move saw scrum half Dave Fairhurst swoop in for a try which stand off Jamie Dallimore converted.
The St Cuthberts fans were in dreamland fancying another giant killing act but the brought back down to earth as Siddal immediately hit back two minutes later. From the restart St Cuthberts knocked on and the outstanding scrum half and BARLA Great Britain Lions South Pacific Tourist Lee Gudor pulled the strings to send centre Chris Marsh over for the first of his brace and Blackburn converted.
The play went from end to end with some great forward drives by both sides trying to prise an opening. St Cuthberts fellow Lions Tourist Dallimore and loose forward Shaun Foster showed their skills a why they were selected with their driving busts and kicking skills.
Siddal took the lead for the first time and one that they weren’t to relinquish following a penalty on 15 minutes. From the play the ball Gudor went through a large hole in the St Cuthberts and as challenged by the last line of defence passed inside to half back partner Shaun Garrod for a converted try to double their points.
St Cuthberts were shell shocked as Siddal took control and they should have increased their lead as Gudor put George Amblett away but he knocked on with the line beckoning. They continued to make inroads and made it 18-6 on 27 minutes. A last tackle grubber by Gudor bounced wickedly in the in-goal and St Cuthberts fumbled the ball and John Birt followed up to touch down on the loose ball.
Driven on by the large Wigan following there were cries for a penalty try as Dallimore showed his class on a last tackle set. He chipped over the Siddal defence collected his kick and grubber kicked towards the in-goal with the last man to beat and as he was chasing went to ground. The kick was cleared and although Dallimore was injured the referee disallowed any claim from St Cuthberts.
But they continued to press and were rewarded on 33 minutes when superb ball handling from the side saw second row forward Steven Howarth cross the whitewash for a converted try.
Dallimore added the extras and then a penalty on the stroke of half time to give them a boost only four points behind.
St Cuthberts took the game to Siddal in the opening period of the half but couldn’t make it count and the Halifax side showed them how to and took control of the game as a result.
On 51 minutes Gudor took on the defence looking for a drive or a pass and eventually found centre Scott Caley who dummied and went under the posts. Blackburn added the extras as he did five minutes later when Marsh passed outside to Blackburn who sped down the wing before passing inside to the superb supporting Luke Simeunovich to score.
It was a bitter pill to take but St Cuthberts drove forward with Matty Lowe and Gareth Blake, Warren Molloy and the Speakman brothers Steven and David making plenty of drives but Siddals defence was superb and did its job.
On 64 minutes a St Cuthberts streaker ran onto the pitch but it affected his team more than Siddal as Marsh went in for his second for a 34-14 lead.
The ‘Wiganers’ continued to attack and if they didn’t already know it wasn’t to be their day they did on 72 minutes. Attacking the short side twenty metres from the line they passed out to their wingman. Blackburn saw it and went in from 80 metres for a converted try despite a gallant chase back.
The game was over and the occasion was over eight minutes later, Siddal had emulated last years winners East hull for a league and cup double.
SIDDAL: 1. Brad Attwood, 2.Shaun Blackburn, 3. Chris Marsh, 4. Scott Caley, 5. Steve Hope, 6. Shaun Garrod, 7. Lee Gudor, 15. Luke Garnett, 9. Craig Sanderson, 10. Jamie Wrigley, 11. James Simeunovich, 12. Nick Smith, 13. Luke Simeunovich, Subs: 14 John Birt, 16. Mark Boothroyd, 17. George Amblett, 8. Gary Lewis
Tries: Marsh (4, 64), Garrod (14), Birt (31), Caley (51), Luke Simeunovich (56),
Goals: Blackburn 5/7
WIGAN ST CUTHBERTS: 1. Eddie Fitzsimmons, 2. Liam Riley, 3. Earl Hurst, 4. Adam Hunt, 5. Niel Fairhurst, 6. Jamie Dallimore, 7. David Fairhurst, 8. Warren Malloy, 9. Brett Taberner, 10. Mark Bagguley, 11. Steven Howarth, 12. David Walls, 13. Shaun Foster. Subs: 14. Steve Speakman, 15. David Speakman, 16. Matty Lowe, 17. Gareth Blake.
Tries: Fairhurst, Howarth
Goals: Dallimore 3/3
Scoring sequence: 0-6, 6-6, 12-6, 18-6, 18-12, 18-14, 24-14, 30-14, 34-14,
Referee: Chris Dean Page
Attendance: 2,500 (est)