SLAITHWAITE SARACENS are one step away from keeping their hands on the Holliday Cup.
The holders secured a hard-earned 30-22 triumph at Newsome Panthers to secure a place in the Lockwood Park final on Easter Monday, where they will face either Meltham All Blacks or Emley Moor, who do battle in the second semi-final on Saturday.
The Pennine League Premier Division Saracens were always favourites to beat their First Division hosts in what was a repeat of the 2012 final, which Slaithwaite won 24-6.
But despite making a dream start to the contest, they were forced to dig deep against a brave Panthers side who never gave up and ensured it proved a typical derby Cup-tie with neither side taking a backward step.
It took the Saracens only seven minutes to get on the scoresheet as Tom Guinan crashed over from 10m out and Will Broadbent-Allen added the extras.
The visitors continued to dominate the opening exchanges and it was no surprise when Ben Feehan raced over after 20 minutes and Marlon Billy showed his strength to power over from 25m 10 minutes later.
At 14-0 down, the signs were looking ominous for the Panthers.
But they dug deep and were rewarded five minutes later when they opened their account with a converted try to show they were far from finished.
And even though Slaithwaite added a fourth try on the stroke of half-time when Simon Burkenshaw showed his skills to cross and Broadbent-Allen converted to make it 20-6 at the break, Newsome refused to wave the white flag.
Within 15 minutes of the restart, the Panthers scored twice to reduce the Saracens’ lead to four points, and it was game on again.
Feehan then scored his second try to edge the Saracens further in front, but the Panthers still weren’t finished and added another converted try to reduce the deficit to just two points.
But with 10 minutes remaining Damian Kenchington, who was returning from injury, forced his way over to pull the Saracens further ahead before Broadbent-Allen landed a late penalty for a high tackle to seal the victory.