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RUGBY LEAGUE: Historic victory puts Blue & Golds in Play-Off final

BATLEY BOYS 6 BEVERLEY 14   (PREMIER DIVISION PLAY OFF SEMI FINAL, Saturday September 16)

By Nick Robinson

This performance will rank amongst Beverley’s best in their recent history. Some phenomenal defending for the full 80 minutes in a cliff-hanger of a contest sent the league leaders to their first defeat of the season. A jubilant Head Coach commented: ”Boys couldn’t be prouder today! Everyone, from 1-17, was unbelievable and all the coaching and support staff and I apologise if I’ve missed anyone out. Today was a massive achievement –  see you Wednesday and roll on Saturday.”

The performance has booked the Blue & Golds a place in the final against Siddal Academy next Saturday. Siddal defeated East Hull in the other semi-final 52-26 to book their place.

To stand a chance in this clash, Beverley knew they had to a produce a season’s best performance and also put out something near their strongest line-up. They managed both, with only Jake Hart-Fisher and Luke Inglis unavailable for selection because of injuries. Chris Johnson made his first and welcome return since suffering that facial in the clash against Bentley back in July and was selected on the bench.

The early minutes of the game saw the West Riding outfit enjoy the greater possession and territory. As in the two sides’ previous clashes, their sizable pack attempted to slowly grind their opponents into submission, whilst offloading the ball almost for fun.

They forced an early line drop-out and the visitors scrambled well in defence. In the 15th minute they forced another line drop-out and it proved a repeat set too many for Beverley. The resulting set saw Batley’s Ryan Crossley go over from dummy half to break the deadlock. The extras were added for a 6-0 lead.

Beverley attempted to reply and Lewis Straw’s gentle kick into the in-goal area was knocked on by Batley. The resulting repeat set saw Beverley throw the ball around in adventurous style, only for it to go to ground just when it appeared that an overlap was developing on the right-hand side.

But Beverley got their rewards on the half-hour mark when a Lewis Poskitt kick was well weighted and sat up nicely in Batley’s in-goal area. The home side’s wingers looked to be shepherding the ball dead but a determined chase from Ben Bardle saw him just get a touch on the ball before it went dead.

It was a deserved try for Bardle who, along with his fellow wingman Ben Atkin, played a big part in the game, fielding and returning kicks with interest all afternoon. Lewis Straw stroked over the difficult touchline conversion to level things up at 6-6.

Beverley were visibly growing in confidence and the hosts found ground far harder to gain with every carry of the ball. The rewards came two minutes before the break. The ball was shipped to the left, with Jack Howdle supplying the final pass for Jack Humphries to head for the corner and hold off the chasers to touch down. Straw again added the tricky conversion to send the visitors into the interval 12-6 up.

The early moments of the second half saw Beverley enjoy more of the game in attack. A kick ahead by Lewis Poskitt saw Tom Moor taken out off the ball. The offence was within kicking range and with points at a premium, Lewis Straw opted to go for goal and added another 2 to extend Beverley’s lead to 14-6.

The hosts again threw more at Beverley in attack, but the visitors again scrambled well. In the 50th minute another chance came Beverley’s way. Man of the match Jack Howdle scythed his way through the Batley defence. Under extreme pressure from the chasing defenders he attempted to get  a pass away to the supporting Luke Shaw who just failed to hang on to the difficult pass.

The home side sensing a possible first defeat of the season were rattled and put Beverley under siege for much of the rest of the game. Their stand-off half, Bingham, tried every type of kick from short ones to long ones to high ones. Each time the visitors were equal to the task. One particularly difficult bomb with a big chase was well fielded by Billy Riby and well returned.

There was another chance for the visitors midway through the second half when another kick on the last by Poskitt was re-gathered by Ben Bardle, whose pass inside to the supporting Alex Calvert went to ground with the line beckoning. Half-backs Straw and Poskitt’s kicking games combined with good chases continued to push Batley back and frustrate them for much of the rest of the game.

As the minutes ticked down, Batley, aided by two successive penalties, had a final throw of the dice in attack and got literally within inches. Often up to four Beverley defenders were employed at a time as the home side’s beefy forwards attempted to burrow their way over the line. A minor fracas broke out in the final minute of a game that had being played in a remarkable spirit considering the high stakes. The referee took no action against either side, deeming it to be six of one and half a dozen of the other. Beverley’s Ben Atkin did later require some stitches in a head wound.

Beverley will now face Siddal Academy in the final at Mount Pleasant, Batley with a 1pm kick-off. It will be a curtain raiser to the NCL RFL Challenge Trophy to be contested by Hunslet Parkside and Wigan St Patricks at 3pm.

The club will announce further details in due course.