UNDERBANK Rangers gained some revenge for defeat in the Grand Final last year as they walloped Warrington Wizards 70-18 to remain top of the Co-operative Conference National, four points clear of the chasing pack.
No-one could have forecasted the final scoreline after the opening quarter, as Warrington dominated and built up an impressive 18-0 lead.
However, Rangers’ coach Richard Knight made a quadruple substitution after the third Wizards try and this tactical masterstroke changed the course of the match.
The Wizards never threatened the home line again as Underbank completely overwhelmed their visitors with some scintillating rugby.
Although Rangers enjoyed the early pressure, they came away empty handed and the Wizards opened the scoring on three minutes as Alan Redecliff threaded a kick through the defensive line and full back David Yii raced through to touch down. Hooker Warren Ayres added the conversion to give the Wizards an early 6-0 lead.
Underbank almost levelled on 14 minutes as prop Craig Williams forced his way over the try line, but couldn’t ground the ball correctly and Warrington re-started the game quickly, raced to the Rangers 20m area, and after Underbank were penalised for lifting in the tackle, Wizards’ prop forward Nick Owen crashed over for Ayres to convert and double the lead to 12-0.
Warrington wing Craig Middlemore was then held up over the line as the visitors continued to press and Warrington’s best on the day, Paul Alcock, touched down a pinpoint Graham Healey grubber. Ayres added his third conversion and the Cheshire men were full value for their lead.
Then came coach Knight’s magical decision to change the make-up of the team and the whole complexion of the game changed in an instant as Andy Boothroyd and Chris Geoghegan suddenly gave the home side momentum and go-forward.
Neil Barrett put in a deft last-tackle chip to the corner and home debutant Shaun Smith touched down. Five minutes later, after the Wizards had kicked out on the full from their own 40m line, Boothroyd swatted off five defenders on a mazy run to the line to power over.
The Wizards then marched into the Rangers’ 20m area, but dropped the ball in a great attacking position, and from the scrum, Barrett fed centre Adam Ryder – fresh from his 25-try season with the YMCA – with a superb pass and he beat his opposite number Darren Forshaw on the outside and then outpaced wing Ryan Cosgrove over 80m for a fantastic score.
Barrett added conversions to both scores and Underbank went to the dressing room trailing only by two points.
Having finished the first half by far the stronger, Rangers opened the second period in similar vein scoring five unanswered tries in the opening 13 minutes to take the game totally away from the Wizards.
Ryder, on his first appearance of the season, crashed over for his second after good approach work from Jack Mitchell and Boothroyd, a double then followed from the side-stepping full-back Sam Hendrick either side of a brace from powerhouse prop forward and man-of-the-match Geoghegan.
Barrett converted all five scores to put Underbank suddenly 28 points ahead after trailing by two only 13 minutes earlier.
The Wizards tried manfully to stem the tide with Redecliff and Alcock prompting their charges, but they were totally outclassed by a rampant home side. The turnaround was staggering and was continued further as Geoghegan completed a brilliant hat trick off a superb Alex Chatterton pass, and Williams, Chatterton, Ryder (with another hat trick) and Sam Housley completed the scoring as Rangers completely dominated the second period, running in 54 unanswered points for a resounding victory.
Underbank: Hendrick, Allettte, Midgley, Ryder, Smith; Barrett, Chatterton, Williams, Carroll, Dalby, Housley, Briggs, St Hilaire. Subs (all used): Boothroyd, Mitchell, Geoghegan, Horsfall.
Tries: Smith (27), Boothroyd (32), Ryder (37, 42, 70), Hendrick (45, 53), Geoghegan (47, 50, 63), Williams (65), Chatterton (68), Housley (76)
Goals: Barrett (9/13)
Warrington Wizards: Yii, Cosgrove, Cosgrove, Walsh, Middlemore, Redecliff, Healey, Owen, Ayres, Stubbs, Unsworth, Brophy, Alcock. Subs (all used): James, Grady, Faulkner, Campbell.
Tries: Yii (3), Owen (16), Alcock (22)
Goals: Ayres (3/3)