Looking smart for the big occasion in their former Oldham RLFC kit — a gift from the club — the year 10 lads of Saddleworth School won through to the National final with an outstanding 14-12 win against the renowned St John Fisher of Wigan in a semi-final played in Warrington.
The following match report is submitted by Mr N Jackson of Saddleworth School.
Earlier in the season, during apocalyptic storm conditions that only seem to apply to the Saddleworth region, our year 10 lads fought a tremendously tight battle with St John Fisher of Wigan. On that occasion we were defeated 6-0. Fast forward to May.
As we pulled into the Warrington Crosfields ground, the heavens opened once again, causing me to briefly contemplate that a repeat might be on the cards.It was not to be.
From the off Saddleworth were on their game. To a man we defended wave after wave of determined Wigan attack, leading to the sprightly Gosling seizing upon a half fumbled chance to go over the line and open the scoring in Saddleworth’s favour.
Due to the conditions, it was not a game for kickers, the usually deadly Eckersley narrowly missing with two of his three conversion attempts.
Saddleworth never lost the lead from that point, although we ended the half only 10-8 up after a try from the ever-confident Wilson. Brierley, Turner, Hibbert, sub Dransfield, Ashton and Pomfrey tackled relentlessly in the second half to keep the ‘pie-eaters’ at bay.
Campbell, Douglas, Ratcliffe and Taylor provided short bursts of genius to ensure we built solid formation attacks away from our line. John used his sidestep to great effect, skipping through the Wigan defence like an electric eel.
The victory was sealed by team captain Eckersley, who went in with minutes to go.
This match was played in a fine spirit and proved to all that school days are not just about academic study. There is clearly a place for achievement through sport in young peoples lives that transcends the attainment of isolated academic progress.
What these young men are learning is fair play, resilience and strength of character. We should all treasure these moments.
Onwards to the National Final in July against the formidable Brooksbank school of Yorkshire.