Brighouse Rangers beat Elland 26-14 at Russell Way on Saturday to go two points clear at the top of Division Three in the Yorkshire Men’s League.
Both teams were unbeaten prior to this firecracker of a game and they produced an epic contest to delight a large crowd.
It was a superb advert for amateur rugby league in the area and the return fixture could determine who finishes top of the ladder.
As expected, it was tight early on with both sets of forwards taking the game to the opposition, and mistakes were few.
Rangers forwards Ben Wrightson, Cameron Wroot, Sam Moon, Callum Heseltine, Nicky Barraclough and Matty Bailey were going toe to toe with the Elland pack, and the pace of the game meant something had to give.
The warning signs were there for Elland as Joe Campbell broke the line from deep in his own half, and only a desperate tackle that dislodged the ball prevented the Rangers speed merchant going all the way.
Elland cracked first when centre Andrew Esmond crossed in the corner, handing off defenders in the 15th minute.
Frankland missed the difficult conversion, but Rangers were soon 10-0 up after a clever kick to the Elland line bisected two defenders. Try poacher Doug Heseltine, chasing on the inside, recovered a bouncing ball to score near enough to the posts for Frankland to convert.
Elland weren’t going to capitulate and showed some class themselves, threatening the Rangers line. Only excellent scrambling defence from Jamie Barraclough especially kept them at bay.
Rangers managed to gain some field position and an Elland error led to a Brighouse feed at a scrum 25 yards out. Drennan and Esmond combined at the scrum base to send Frankland racing into a hole in the Elland line. The fullback sliced through, touching down near the posts, but couldn’t convert on 34 minutes.
Lesser sides would have let their heads drop, but Elland showed they are a tough outfit, scoring an unconverted try in the 37th minute.
They laid siege to the Brighouse line for the remainder of the half and were twice held up over the line. Centre Alan Carr made some tough carries away from the line, and Louie Sweeney put in a big shift with ball in hand.
A Frankland penalty from in front of the posts made it 16-4 after half time and long striding forward Ronnie Bailey went through and fed Esmond, who beat the Elland fullback on the outside. Frankland’s kick made it 22-4.
Minutes later, the game exploded into a mass brawl after a lazy arm from Sam Moon caught an Elland player high. Two players from each side were sin-binned and Elland had another player yellow carded after a high tackle.
In spite of this, an Elland man jinked to the line for a converted try.
The visitors had their tails up and kicked to the corner but winger Lewis Taylor collected, evaded three Elland tacklers to make 20 yards and then his peach of an off-load sent Esmond racing 70 yards to complete his hat-trick, and kill off the visitors’ hopes.
Taylor was denied by an excellent tackle by the Elland fullback while replacement Joe Sealey and Andy Collins, who was running the ball in at 100 miles an hour, were prominent late on.
Good handling led to a well-taken try by the Elland winger and with the clock ticking down, Jamie Barraclough sent a Rangers’ penalty inches wide.