Huddersfield Giants' Alex Brown the hero as Batley overtake Widnes in cup final
HUDDERSFIELD’S Alex Brown scored two late tries as Batley snatched the Northern Rail Cup from Widnes’ grasp with a stunning 25-24 triumph.
The Vikings looked to have retained the trophy after recovering from 12-0 and 15-12 down to lead 24-15 with just 12 minutes remaining at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road.
But a compelling encounter took a dramatic twist as Brown, who is on a season-long loan from the Giants, scored out wide and then won the game by brilliantly catching a high ball to touch down.
Victory was fine reward for Batley’s spirited effort throughout and dejected Widnes players slumped to the ground as success-starved Bulldogs fans invaded the pitch.
It was their club’s first appearance in a cup final since 1998 and prior to that their previous appearance in a major showpiece match was in 1952.
And Brown, who admitted in the build-up to the final that playing in the game would be the highlight of his short career, couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.
"This was absolutely fantastic, and at the end of the game I could hardly speak," he said.
"It’s an unbelievable feeling, and scoring the winning try was just unbelievable.
"I knew there was a chance (with the matchwinning score) that something was on. I just kept screaming ‘get it out wide, get it out wide’ and when it did I managed to get the ball down.
"It was amazing."
The Bulldogs needed just four minutes to take the lead as former Castleford and Wakefield playmaker Paul Handforth broke from a scrum and beat two men to put Jason Walton over.
Sean Hesketh added a second four minutes later as he burst through a gap from a Kris Lythe pass and crashed over from close range.
The lively Gareth Moore converted both early scores but Widnes responded instantly with two quickfire tries of their own.
Moore initially thought he had thwarted a Widnes attack when he nimbly stole the ball from Dave Allen but referee Robert Hicks pulled play back. The Vikings took a quick tap and got themselves back into the game as dual-registered Wigan prop Ben Davies charged over.
Widnes then stepped up the pressure and after Johnny Campbell conceded a drop-out, stand-off Anthony Thackeray created a gap with a brilliant dummy and ran in behind the posts.
With two goals from Shane Grady the scores were level again inside 20 minutes and Widnes almost had another as Mat Gardner knocked close to the line.
As half-time approached Thomas Coyle put a drop-goal attempt wide for Widnes and Batley reclaimed the initiative as Moore slotted a one-pointer and then added a penalty.
Widnes hit back again at the start of the second half and seized upon a Byron Smith knock-on to go ahead for the first time with a Paddy Flynn touchdown.
Chris Gerrard then jinked his way under the posts 15 minutes from time to put Widnes, after Grady had maintained his 100% record, in sight of victory.
Yet Batley were not yet beaten and set up a thrilling finale as Brown cut inside from the left touchline for a fine winger’s try after 68 minutes, which Moore converted.
The Bulldogs pressed on and were rewarded two minutes from time as Brown leapt high to take a Moore kick above his head and touch down in the corner.
Moore’s conversion attempt hit the post but it mattered little as Widnes had no time to repair the damage.