Brighouse’s first Fee Cup final triumph no surprise to coach

Brighouse Rangers 14

Keighley 10

UNDERDOGS Brighouse made their first ever appearance in the Joseph Fee Memorial Trophy final a winning one with a solid, deserved success at Old Brodleians RUFC on Saturday.

They turned around a 10-6 deficit with the help of the slope in the second half to get the better of opponents who play two divisions higher than them in the Pennine League.

Influential half-back Stuart Proctor was their man of the match and he kicked a penalty and added two conversions to tries from hooker Ross Young, who twice showed great strength to drive over the line from close range.

However, it was a dogged, fully-committed effort from the whole Rangers 17 which earned the Russell Way club the biggest success in its recent history.

While Rangers were breaking new ground, their player-coach Alex Muff knew beforehand what it took to lift the Halifax ARL’s magnificent 137-year-old trophy, having played in a couple of the Halifax Irish sides which have dominated the competition in recent years.

“I expected us to win because we are getting things back to how they used to be when we were playing in the Conference,” said 29-year-old ex-Doncaster and Swinton professional Muff.

“Also, we’re useless against the poorer teams but much better against the stronger sides.”

Rangers have gained promotion behind all-conquering Thornhill Trojans and could cap a successful season with victory against Irish in the Halifax top four play-offs when they have ground advantage on Friday, May 18.

Muff is hoping Brighouse will be playing Premier Division rugby in the not too distant future but for the moment he is happy to savour Saturday’s success.

He added: “This is a good trophy to win and a great day out. It was definitely one of our main targets for the season.”

Brighouse threatened to be taken off their feet by the speed of the opening exchanges, a side representing the new Keighley club formed by the mergers of Albion and Town in the last 12 months moving the ball wide at pace.

However, the Rangers’ defence scrambled smartly to snuff out threats on both flanks in what was an even first quarter.

Mistakes by the opposing number twos then led to a score for each side.

Keighley drew first blood on 21 minutes, winger Paul Bradwell crossing wide on the left just seconds after Andrew Collins had coughed up possession attempting to run the ball away from close to the Rangers line.

Kris Gott’s conversion attempt was woeful and he then presented Brighouse with a great attacking position when he made a meal of a Young kick. Rangers needed no second invitation, Young blasting through a couple of tacklers and slammed the ball down.

Former Halifax and Bradford academy player Proctor stroked over the easy goal to give Brighouse the lead.

They were in front for only three minutes, slippery stand off Colin Pickles making inroads past some less than decisive tackling and centre Shaun Metcalfe sending a relieved Gott over for a try superbly converted by Callum Hudson.

That made it 10-6 to Keighley on 35 minutes and it stayed that way until well into the second half, both teams forcing their opponents to drop out and matching each other drive for drive and tackle for tackle.

Muff had been off the pitch for the second quarter, taking a blow to the head and being sick over the railings at the bottom of the ground as Keighley had opened the scoring.

However, he returned to play a key role alongside Young, Proctor and Jamie Barraclough as Brighouse started to turn the screw with hard-working second rower Andrew Seager also prominent.

Brighouse hit the front for a second time on 69 minutes when Keighley were penalised on half-way, prop Andrew Walter muscled his way to the foot of the posts and eventually Young burrowed his way over.

Proctor converted and added a 78th minute penalty, Rangers showing impressive composure to run the clock down with some secure handling and kicks to touch from Young and Muff.

Brighouse Rangers: M.Hornbe, A.Collins, A.Muff, R.Spurr, B.Collins, S.Proctor, J.Barraclough, T.Moon, R.Young, A.Walter, S.Bradley, A.Seager, W.Jowerr. reps: K.Frankland, A.Houlihan, L.Buckley, A.Bottomley.

Keighley: A.Stokes, K.Gott, S.Metcalf, A.Young, P.Bradwell, C.Pickles, D.McNulty, D.Snowden, D.Barrett, C.Price, J.Lynham, M.Mount, R.Barr. Reps: C.Hudson, R.Spencer, C.Dooling, C.Atkins.

Referee: D.Gillespie