Siddal grabbed the win they required to clinch the NCL Premier Division Leaders Shield with a 24-22 success at Wath Brow Hornets on Saturday.
Gareth Greenwood’s side were inflicting a first home defeat of the season on the Cumbrians, who were desperate for the two points in their quest for a third place finish and home advantage in the play offs.
The defeat didn’t turn out to be as damaging for them as they first thought because Rochdale Mayfield suffered a surprise home defeat by Skirlaugh, Siddal’s hosts for the final game of the regular season.
Siddal’s win was based on a great defensive effort in the first quarter of each half.
Wath Brow dominated possession and territory during those spells, capitalising on Siddal handling errors and a good kicking game which pinned Siddal back and forced a couple of goal line restarts.
The home side never really threatened to cross the Siddal line in the opening stages as fullback Freddie Walker marshalled his defensive line.
Gradually Siddal worked their way away from their own half through some superb, direct running by Byron Smith, George Ambler and Ben Hinsley.
On their first real visit into the Wath Brow 20 metre zone on the quarter hour mark the home side’s defence melted away as skipper Shaun Garrod cut through the middle with clever footwork and scored a great try by the side of the posts. Gareth Blackburn added the simple conversion Siddal were 6-0 up against the run of play.
Brow struck back pretty quickly. Siddal once again coughed up the ball and although they defended five of the next six plays, they stood off the final play and a home player darted over for the try. The conversion made it 6-6.
Siddal brought Iain Davies, Gareth English, Sean McCormack and Connor MacCullum off the bench and they made an immediate impact. Davies rang up the middle strongly and English created panic in the Wath Brow defence through his trademark off-loads in the tackle.
On 30 minutes Garrod spotted the home side were short of defenders on the short side and put Ben Hinsley through a gap. Hinsley ran 40 metres, drew the full back and provided the scoring pass for MacCullum, who touched down under the posts. Blackburn added the two points for a 12-6 lead.
Siddal were celebrating again a few minutes later. McCormack, Hinsey, Zack McComb and Ross White took play deep into the home half and a great passing move between Garrod, Walker and Finley saw the latter race over untouched under the posts. Blackburn added his third goal and though Brow almost scored on the stroke of half time, Siddal went into half time with an 18-6 lead.
Siddal conceded a succession of penalties in the opening five minutes but great defence on their own goal line kept Wath Brow at bay.
Smith, Ambler and Hinsley pushed Siddal away from their line and for the next 15 minutes play settled to each side playing their sets out and kicking for field position.
Just as it appeared that Wath Brow had run out of ideas, two tries in quick succession on the hour mark brought the game to the boil again.
The home fullback shot through a gap from a fine set play for the first and then a clever chip kick caught out the Siddal defence and a try was scored wide out on the right. Crucially both quite difficult conversions were missed so Siddal still held an 18-14 lead.
Wath Brow had the momentum and the home crowd’s backing but Siddal held firm.
In the 70th minute a Blackburn penalty drifted just wide. However, shortly after Wath Brow’s kick to restart English forced his way over and although Blackburn couldn’t convert it was 22-14.
Siddal needed their two goal cushion as with two minutes left the home side scored a converted try.
Byron Smith was man of the match and there were also strong performances from Walker, Hinsley, Davies and English.