EROIC Underbank Rangers have done it!
After losing in the previous two Conference National Grand Finals, the men from Holmfirth made it third time lucky with a thoroughly-deserved 40-18 victory over Kippax Knights.
It was a fitting finale to a magnificent season for Underbank, who added the biggest prize to the League Leaders Shield they collected at the end of the regular season.
The key to their success during the League campaign was the outstanding team ethic, and this was again at the heart of their most significant win of the year at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Everyone from one to 17 could feel proud of their efforts, with workaholic winger Courtney Allette just nudging the man-of-the-match award ahead of a big number of his teammates.
Allette got the nod for an excellent all-round effort, which summed up Rangers’ performance throughout.
The Huddersfield club were sharp on attack, rock-solid in defence and also played with a discipline which at times couldn’t be said of their opponents.
But may be the high number of penalties they conceded (15 to Underbank’s seven) was simply down to the pressure Rangers kept on applying, because there was no doubt they were by far the better team.
And that was soon evident as they quickly got into their stride, scoring on their first attack to calm any nerves.
After a Kippax blunder, Neil Barrett collected from the scrum and fed Adam Ryder to show great speed and strength to charge over from 25m for Barrett to add the conversion.
Unfortunately, Bank immediately undid the hard work by messing up themselves to enable Paul Brown to plunge over from close range, with Andy Speake adding the extras.
But for the next 25 minutes it was all Underbank.
Within four minutes, Rangers were back in front when Richard Knight’s kick to the corner was plucked out of the air by Allette to finish in style.
And with Knight’s influence growing by the minute, the Bank player-coach kept the ball alive for Nick Briggs to charge through some heavy traffic to touch down in the 24th minute and then kicked to the corner for Will Midgley to collect and somehow finish in the corner through a crowd of defenders.
Although Barrett’s conversion hit a post and bar before bouncing out, the scrum half had made no mistake with his earlier efforts to make it 22-6.
At that stage, Kippax were clearly struggling, although they did gain a 33rd-minute lifeline when Aaron Dobek forced his way over.
But the Knights’ indiscipline was proving to be a problem, with referee and former Giants ace Jamie Bloem sin-binning Lee Williamson and Andy Tillet for two separate offences towards the end of the half, with the second offence giving Barrett an easy penalty shot to make it 24-12 at the break.
Within four minutes that lead was up to 16 points as hooker Adam Carroll ploughed over from acting half-back close to the line and three minutes later the cushion was even greater, thanks to Chris Geoghegan’s charge to the line for Barrett to again goal.
Superb defence from Allette and Knight denied Kippax almost certain tries, and with five minutes remaining Barrett produced a superb try-saving tackle on Chris Redfearn in an effort which epitomised Underbank’s outstanding effort on the day.
Kippax did finally cross for a third score late on as Andy Eastham crashed over from close range.
But fittingly Rangers had the final say when captain Lee St Hilaire put Geoghegan over in the corner.
Underbank: Hendrick; Midgley, Chatterton, Ryder, Allette; Knight, Barrett; Housley, Carroll, Dalby, Joyce, Briggs, St Hilaire. Subs: Boothroyd, Williams, Geoghegan, Horsfall.
Tries: Ryder, Allette, Briggs, Midgley, Carroll, Geogegan 2.
Goals: Barrett 6 from 9.
Kippax: Redfearn; Cryer, S Biscomb, Stone, Matthews; Speake, Dobek; Williamson, Brown, A Biscomb, Scott, Firth, Oliver. Subs: Jessey, Tillet, Eastham, Jones.
Tries: Brown, Dobek.
Goals: Speake 2, Brown.
Referee: Jamie Bloem.