IT all went according to plan and now we can prepare for Sunday’s big promotion semi-final clash with Bradford Bulls at the Provident Stadium (Odsal), which kicks off at 3pm.
Bulls chairman Andrew Chalmers has already had this to say of Sunday’s shoot-out, which will see the victors play Doncaster or Workington for the right to gain promotion to the Betfred Championship:
“In semi-final football you can throw the form guide out of the window.
“It’s scary stuff as York learned last year, going down in golden-point extra time at Whitehaven.
“Players do crazy stuff, driven by hope, fear and desperation. And that’s simply trying to get on the team bus to get to the game.
“After that, anything is on the cards.”
To get a foothold on this “crazy stuff” game, we had to win at London Skolars and York City Knights had to see off Whitehaven at Bootham Crescent 24 hours later.
In achieving the first part of the double at Trailfinders Sports Club, West Ealing on Saturday, we won 46-18 which included eight tries, three of them by left-wing Lee Kershaw, whose second touchdown midway through the second half was arguably the most important of the lot.
Why ? Because Skolars, 6-30 in arrears and with nothing to lose, began to throw caution to the wind and to utilise their pacy three-quarters to put Roughyeds temporarily on the hop.
In six sizzling minutes they scored converted tries by Omari Caro and Eddie Mbaraga to pull back to 18-30. Memories of what happened at Newcastle ?
We needed to regain the initiative quickly and to show Skolars it was merely a blip, and we did exactly that when lively Dave Hewitt, who had a busy and productive game, came up with a lobbed kick to the corner which Kershaw plucked out of the air to score in the corner.
Paul Crook, kicking sublimely, landed his sixth goal from six shots, this one off the touchline, and Roughyeds were back on track.
It wasn’t a faultless performance by any means in wet, slippy conditions — possession will have to be respected far more skilfully at Odsal — but Roughyeds were never in serious bother after storming into an 18-0 lead inside the first 22 minutes.
Hewitt had a hand or a foot in most of the eight tries which were scored by Crook, Kerhaw (3), Danny Langtree, Craig Briscoe, Kenny Hughes and Matt Reid, with Crook kicking six conversions from six and Luke Hooley then taking over with one from two.
The scoring began when Hewitt’s chip into the in-goal was pounced on by Crook.
Briscoe, who had a sterling game in the second-row, featured heavily in the build-up to the next try by Kershaw and then Gareth Owen shaped to pass left from dummy half before going right and sending in Langtree.
Briscoe capped an impressive first-half performance with the fourth try — again off Hewitt’s short ball — and Scott’s boys led 24-6 at half-time.
Early in the second half full-back Hooley saved a certain try with a crash tackle in the corner on Skolars winger Jerome Yates before the visitors stretched their lead with a try by Kenny Hughes from dummy half after Hewitt had threatened to razzle-dazzle his way to the line.
Skolars then enjoyed their best spell by hitting back to 30-18 before we stopped them in their tracks with further tries by Kershaw (2) and Reid, who produced a peach of a pass in the tackle to send in Kershaw for his third try.
He then scored himself on the back of a clever break from dummy half by Matty Wilkinson, the third of three hookers used by Scott in a throwback to previous seasons.
Overall, it was a job well done by Roughyeds, for whom Kershaw and Hewitt in the backs and Adam Neal and Briscoe in the forwards were the stand-out individuals.
Early in the second half Kyran Johnson also looked good when he was unlucky to have a length-of-the-field try disallowed.
He defused a bomb under pressure in-goal before racing away to take a quick tap and bursting clear towards half-way. There followed an exciting race as the quick home backs converged on him from either side, but his momentum looked to carry him over the line for a thrilling try.
It wasn’t to be. It was ruled that he was held up over the line and failed to touch down properly.
Team: Hooley; Johnson, Holmes, Reid, Kershaw; Crook, Hewitt; Joy, Owen, Neal, Briscoe, Langtree, Spencer.
Subs: Wilkinson, Nelmes, Davies, Hughes.
Sunday afternoon saw many Roughyeds fans anxiously checking social media updates from the York v Whitehaven game and, sure enough, the City Knights won 32-14 in front of 3,223 fans to win Betfred League 1; to go up automatically; and to di us a massive favour.
We finished fifth on the same number of points as the Cumbrians but with a massive 557 for-and-against difference — the third best in the division and 384 better than Whitehaven’s figure.
The play-offs look like this:
- BRADFORD BULLS V OLDHAM
- DONCASTER V WORKINGTON TOWN