Jebel Ceesey's converted try with two minutes of extra-time remaining gave Newsome Panthers a thrilling 24-18 victory over St Joseph’s in one of the most enthralling Holliday Cup finals in years.
In the first drawn final since 1978 when Underbank beat St Joseph’s in a replay, a bumper crowd at Huddersfield YMCA’s Laund Hill ground were treated to an absolute classic.
It was always tipped to be one of the closest finals in years, with the Pennine League Championship I rivals locked at one win each from respective home wins.
But no-one expected it to be this close on the biggest day on the Huddersfield Amateur Rugby League Association calendar.
Both teams enjoyed periods when they looked to be in control, and it wouldn’t be unfair to say it was a shame there had to be a loser after the 34 heroic players on the field ran their blood to water during 100 action-packed minutes.
However, in the end, it was the Panthers who were roaring, with the contribution of the likes of man-of-the-match back-rower Williams Wallace and hooker Joe Parkinson probably giving them the most minuscule of edges.
Having said that, Joe’s also had some big performers, with prop Jason Southwell, hooker Joel Hawkyard and loose-forward Joe Flaherty leading their charge.
In fact, it was Flaherty who was the first to catch the eye with his side’s opening two tries after five and 19 minutes, the second of which was converted by Nick Mitchell.
But Flaherty’s contribution still couldn’t prevent Newsome holding a slender 14-10 interval advantage, with tries from William Wallace and captain Josh Cuttell and two crucial conversions and a penalty from Luke Brewster.
It was already clear at that stage there was hardly anything to separate those two fierce rivals, and that was reinforced with an even better second 40 minutes when the game ebbed and flowed in pulsating fashion.
Southwell crashed over for an unconverted try to level the scores after 50 minutes before Newsome made the most of one of their periods of pressure with a James Wallace effort with five minutes remaining.
Brewster failed to add the extras, and Joe’s were still alive.
And that was rammed home just thee minutes later when Mitchell finished off a sweeping move in the corner for Darren Kelly to win the game with a touchline conversion.
His effort went narrowly wide and it was 18-18 as referee Tony Martin blew for time.
The drama was far from over.
Neither side created a clear-cut opening during the first period of 10 minutes extra time, and with David Downs for Newsome and Joe’s Southwell seeing drop-goal attempts going wide, it looked as if a golden-point period was going to settle it.
But with two minutes left on the clock, Jordan Andrade – who had been a real handful off the bench – embarked on another bullocking midfield run.
When he was eventually tackled, the ball was worked to the right for a wonderful sweeping move to finish with Ceesey squeezing in at the corner.
Brewster landed a wonderful touchline conversion, and Joe’s were finally sunk.
It was a fitting final moment in a truly stunning contest.
Newsome Panthers: Hawksworth; Ceesey, Burns, Gilray, Dickinson; Rhodes, Brewster; Downs, Parkinson, Smith, Newton, W Wallace, Cuttell. Subs: Andrade, Lockwood, J Wallace, Nelmes.
Tries: W Wallace (16), Cuttell (30), J Wallace (75), Ceesey (98).
Goals: Brewster 4 from 6.
St Joseph’s: P Flaherty; Mitchell, Stott, Hendrick, Aka; Lee, Folan; Southwell, Hawkyard, Schofield, Donlan, Oldfield, J Flaherty, Subs: Kelly, Cohan, Simmons, Gratino.
Tries: J Flaherty (5 & 19), Southwell (50), Mitchell (77).
Goals: Mitchell 1 from 4, Kelly 0 from 1.
Referee: Tony Martin.
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