Plucky Rangers earn credit after Fee final defeat

Brighouse Rangers were unable to upset the odds for the second successive year when they lost in the Fee Halifax Cup final.

However, coach Craig Young still felt his side had emerged with great credit.

Rangers were beaten 22-6 by division-higher Pennine League foes Halifax Irish, who were lifting the trophy for the sixth time in eight years at Old Brodleians RUFC.

However, Brighouse’s hopes of following up their win over Keighley 12 months earlier were very much alive for the best part of an hour.

They led until the 56-minute mark thanks to an Andy Seager try converted by Darren Robinson playing down the Woodhead slope.

However, Irish’s big forwards eventually shattered Brighouse’s brave defence for the Premier Division side to run out comfortable winners.

Young was left to rue injuries to playmaker Darren Robinson and prop Lee Buckley just before half time and said: “I thought we played the better rugby but their size did us - they must have been two stones a man heavier.

“I’m very proud of our players. We stuck at it and did well. It was only in the last 10 or 15 minutes when it really went away from us.”

Young and his brother Ross, the side’s hooker, are former Irish players along with skipper Scott Bradley and the coach said it wasn’t too painful to lose to his former club.

“I am good friends with Chris Norman and Andrew Brocklehurst (Irish forwards) and they are a good set of lads.”

It was Rangers who drew first blood after winger Andrew Collins had sped away down the touchline, centre Reece Spurr and then scorer Seager both picking the ball off the floor before the move was completed. Robinson converted.

Irish looked to have replied when Norman kicked inside and fullback Michael Reed gathered the ball and touched down. However, after a debate between referee Phil Huck and a touch judge, a scrum was awarded to Rangers.

Ex-Halifax, Salford and London loose forward Brocklehurst was prominent for Irish.

His poor pass cost his side the chance of a score wide on the left but he got back to make an important tackle as Brighouse threatened again.

Brighouse might have had a further success early in the second half when Mark Horne gathered a high pass and burst through but the experienced fullback tried to float out a pass wide when perhaps he should have gone for the line himself.

The Irish fans were frustrated again when Aaron Brown looped round several Rangers defenders and made it to the line but was ruled to have put a foot in touch.

Irish weren’t disappointed for long, increasingly-influential hooker Michael Holden wriggling past a couple of defenders and going in to the left of the posts. Brocklehurst’s kick made it 6-6 on 56 minutes.

The dam had burst and young centre Hamish Barnes twisted out of a tackle to give Irish the lead four minutes later.

Brocklehurst miscued his attempted conversion, but he struck an excellent goal from the other side to make it 16-6 after 68 minutes following Bentley’s unstoppable run from the 22 line.

Irish winger Gerrard Rollings almost made it to the try line after tiring Brighouse had coughed up possession on half-way.

It was left to man of the match Dave Smith to round things off with two minutes left, gathering Jack Holmes’s low pass and diving over from close range to give Brocklehurst an easy extra two points.

Young’s Rangers face promotion chasing Uptonon Saturday (2.30), in what promises to be an explosive Pennine ARL Division One clash.

The last time the teams met in south Yorkshire the game was abandoned.

“Let’s get down to playing rugby and let the rugby do the talking,” said chairman Dave Barnes.

“Our lads can be proud of themselves after last week’s loss in the Fee final, and if we play like we did in that we can gain another two points.

“We are a few lads down with Lee Buckley and Scott Bradley out for the season, but we have Andrew Houlihan and Alex Muff returning.”

Next Wednesday, Rangers first team entertain Birkenshaw (6.45).

Nigel Briggs’ seconds face promotion hunting Hunslet Old Boys A at home on Saturday (2.30), looking to carry on their good form against Meltham All Blacks.