Underbank completed their first National Conference League Division One campaign with a thumping 46-10 home victory over Oulton Raiders – but were still denied a play-off place.
As Normanton Knights drew 18-18 at Shaw Cross Sharks the final round results left Rangers one point outside the play-off spots behind the Knights.
Rangers built up an unassailable 36-0 lead by the break with a measured and controlled performance that included some sparkling tries.
Head coach Richard Knight thought the first half was arguably the best 40 minutes his side had played all season.
The second half was a little disappointing for home fans as both sides scored ten points each, but it was never going to match the high quality stuff that the home side served up in the first half of the game.
Outside backs Sam Ansell, Alex Chatterton and Tom Eidson all completed try-scoring doubles with player-coach Richard Knight and front row forward Dave Valentine also chipping in with scores.
Seven Luke Pogson goals completed the drubbing of Oulton, the half back breaking the season record goal scoring record previously held by Neil Barrett in moving to the 104 successful kicks for the campaign.
With many players unavailable, suspended or injured Rangers squad depth was severely tested.
Underbank had Stephen Berry filling in at stand off for Danny Bravo, who was on Jamaican international duty in Ireland, while Pogson returned from injury to replace Kris Harrop at half back and youngster Tom England came in on the bench.
Oulton couldn’t have started the game on a worse footing as they fumbled the opening kick off and on the second tackle following the scrum centre Chatterton strode on to hooker Sam Rochford’s pass to race through a gap and touch down.
Pogson converted and he did so again after 14 and 18 minutes as first Valentine crashed over from a superb Rochford flat pass, and then Chatterton ran a great line onto Berry’s well-timed pass to stretch the lead to 18-0 after only 18 minutes on the clock.
Underbank were attacking with real flair and next on the scoreboard was Knight, who sent Mikey Holmes through a huge hole and then received the return pass to cross below the black dot.
It was total one way traffic at this point and Oulton must have been wondering what had hit them.
And there was no let-up from the home side was centre Eidson was next to profit from Rangers expansive play as he sped over from 60 metres after receiving the ball from back row forward Michael Murphy playing his last game before retirement, and then Eidson grabbed his second just before the break as he received the ball from Knight and weaved his way past several defenders for a great individual score.
Pogson kicked conversions for all three scores to complete the perfect half for Underbank.
Oulton rightly received a right shellacking from their coaching staff at the break and the pep talk visibly lifted the Raiders and they started the second half more eagerly and scored on 47 and 57 minutes with a try from Adrian Holdsworth and a try and goal from Dominic Flanagan as Underbank were harried into errors and were sloppy with ball in hand. However, normal service was resumed in the final quarter as winger Ansell profited from two Chatterton offloads to grab a try scoring brace.
A single Pogson conversion following Ansell’s first effort completed the scoring to round off a satisfying performance on both the day and for the season as a whole.
But sadly news filtered through of Normanton’s dramatic draw at Shaw Cross that would dampen spirits a little at the Cross Grounds with the realisation that Underbank has missed out on the play-offs by the narrowest of margins.
Rangers: Jordan Higo; Sam Ansell, Alex Chatterton, Tom Eidson, Will England; Stephen Berry, Luke Pogson; Dave Valentine, Sam Rochford, Jordan Williams, Michael Murphy, Mitch Turner, Craig Williams. Interchange: Tom England, Jonlee Sanderson, Richard Knight, Mikey Holmes.