Underbank Rangers are the James Joseph Conlan Memorial Trophy champions!
The men from The Cross completed an excellent season with a 58-40 final triumph over Meltham All Blacks at Huddersfield YMCA’s Laund Hill ground in front of a 300-plus crowd.
Rangers started the contest as favourites after finishing second in Pennine League Division II.
But with Fourth Division opponents Meltham starting the final 36-24 ahead under the competition’s handicap system, it was always going to be a tough tie to call.
The opening exchanges did look promising for Bank, with Tom Booth driving over the line right between the posts for Oliver Moorhouse to add the extras and reduce the deficit after 12 minutes.
That, however, appeared to spark the All Blacks into life, with their spirited work forcing Rangers into making a number of errors.
It was no surprise, therefore, when Meltham made it 40-30 with a thoroughly-deserved try from Jacob Craven after 28 minutes, and at that stage the lower-division side were in the ascendancy.
But the game’s key moment came two minutes before the break, when Meltham elected to kick a penalty rather than take the tap.
If successful this would have given the All Blacks a 12-point two-score lead going into the break.
Unfortunately for Meltham, the attempt fell just short, and this seemed to galvanise Rangers, with the ever-reliable Joe Bellas producing a storming run to touch down in the top corner to make it 40-34 at the interval.
The half-time team talk was arguably the biggest coach Richard Wilde has had ever had to do. His team weren’t playing well and seemed to be lacking belief.
But Wilde’s words seemed to work their magic.
The second half started with a bang, with Underbank piling on the pressure, and in the 46th minute Jamie Stringer dived over, again in the corner to reduce the deficit to two points.
And 10 minutes later they were ahead for the first time when man-of-the-match Bellas powering over again and Moorhouse added the conversion. It was now 44-40 to Underbank.
Captain-for-the-night Moorhouse then nudged his side further ahead with a penalty a few moments later, before Underbank finished with a flourish with two further tries from impressive duo Dayle King and Steve Berry. Moorhouse converted both to make it 58-40, and the Underbank celebrations could begin!
This had definitely not been one of Underbank’s best performances of the season, but this shouldn’t take anything away from Meltham who really played their part in a fine game, played in really good spirits.