John Mooney: West Hull v Egremont
DEFENSE THE KEY AS WESTS HEAD TO FINAL
It wasn't pretty and TV viewers weren't treated to a free-flowing game of rugby but West Hull ground out a hard-fought 16-8 victory over Egremont Rangers in the Premier Division Play-Off Semi-Final at North Road. In front of the biggest crowd of the season, Wests did just enough to earn another crack at record-breaking Hunslet Club Parkside in next week's Final at Featherstone Rovers ground.
With Freesports cameras present, it was a nervy start for both sides and defences were very much on top. No quarter was given nor asked in the opening exchanges with Wests Oscar Ellerington and Ryan Wilson well to the fore and the second-row pairing of Stephen Fox and Kieron Glenn making the hard yards for the Rangers.
The visitors should have gone ahead after twenty minutes when the Green and Golds were penalised but Matt Brewsher, the Premier division's leading points scored, hit a post with a penalty attempt. The first try was always going to be hard to come by so it was something of a surprise when Jack Lazenby, who had an outstanding game in defence, powered over in the 26th minute to give Wests the lead with Scott Spaven tagging on the extras.
Mark Hewitt's men just about deserved their half-time lead but it was a very determined and better organised Egremont who came out for the second period and it was no surprise when the strong-running Fox blasted his way over after just six minutes. Brewsher again hit the post with the conversion attempt, this time from wide out, and the Rangers were looking the more likely to score again at this point.
Step forward Scott Partis. The mercurial half-back looked to be going nowhere when receiving the ball on the 20 but a change of pace and jinking run took him to the line and he dived over, close enough for Man of the Match Ryan Wilson to add the extras. That was against the run of play but Wests forwards, with Jacob Moore leading by example, started to take a stranglehold on proceedings and two further Wilson penalties, the second from the touchline, looked to have given then an unassailable lead. However, Egremont kept battling away and were rewarded with a scrambling try in the corner from a rare Wests mistake but again Brewsher just missed with the conversion and an eight-point gap was enough to see Wests into the Final.
The influential Spaven limped off in the second period so the coaching staff will be sweating on his chances for next week while they will also be hoping Bobby Tyson-Wilson, who missed Saturday's game with an arm injury, can prove his fitness.
Wests have played Parkside three times already this campaign and been narrowly beaten each time so here's hoping they can make it fourth-time-lucky.