WEST HULL RALLY FOR GOLDEN POINT VICTORY
West Hull toughed it out in a physical confrontation with Thatto Heath Crusaders to snatch a Golden Point 18-14 victory in the NCL Premiership Final at Featherstone. After the scores were level at full time, a brilliant Matty Plummer try sealed victory for the Green and Golds and brought the Trophy back to Hull after a five-year absence.
While the game was never pretty, and often very robust to say the least with tough tackling on both sides dominating proceedings, it was Wests sheer 'never say die' attitude that won the day in a pulsating finale in front of 1500 fans.
The scene was set in the very first play of the match when Wests skipper Ryan Steen was battered as he took the ball from the kick-off. The opening exchanges were dour with neither side giving an inch and it was the Crusaders who went in front with a penalty from Bobbie Goulding when Lee Cator was penalised for an infringement at the play-the-ball. Wests had already lost the influential Scott Spaven to a head injury but his replacement Sam Cator went close when just held up after a determined run. A mix-up in Wests defence meant a goal-line drop-out from which another infringement gave Goulding the opportunity to land a second penalty.
Then came a decisive moment in the match as Thatto looked to have created a superb try following a lovely chip through from Goulding but to their dismay and Wests relief the score was ruled out due to an infringement early in the play. Spaven came back on and after 55 minutes and a period of West Hull pressure, Jacob Moore leapt higher than the opposition to snatch a high Spaven kick out of the air and plant it between the posts for Spaven to convert and send Wests in front.
With just a few minutes remaining and the Crusader's best forward Jamie Tracey in the sin-bin, Wests could have taken control but had obviously not learnt the lesson from their earlier escape as Goulding once again chipped over the defence for classy full-back Ben Heyes storm in just as the hooter sounded. Goulding missed the conversion but his side had just about edged the opening half and went in with a two points lead.
Wests came out for the second period in more determined fashion with Steen, Ryan Wilson and the impressive Zeus Silk taking on the physical Crusaders pack in which loose-forward Andy Lea was battling away to repel the tide. Wilson kicked a penalty to bring the scores level but Tracey was back after his ten-minute rest and, against the run of play, took a short pass from Lewis Foster on the burst and stormed between the sticks with three players hanging on. Goulding had an easy task with the conversion and with less than a quarter of the match to play Wests were up against it.
However, throughout their history in the NCL West Hull have never gone down without a fight and once again Spaven produced a rabbit out of a hat. A superb Ian Kerman break put his team in an attacking position and the half-back's lofty kick was first palmed back then went through three pairs of hands before the ball was planted over the line by Sam Cator. It wasn't the easiest of conversions but Ryan Wilson has been kicking immaculately all season and was never going to miss.
Both sides had ambitious unsuccessful drop-goal attempts in a frantic last few minutes but the 80 minutes was up and it was Golden Point time. After a tit-for-tat opening few minutes Wests got their hands on the ball. A cracking drive from Bobby Tyson-Wilson saw the ball move to his cousin Ryan, who dummied his way into a gap big enough to offload to Natty Powley, then quickly on to Jack Lazenby and a short pass to the oncoming second-row forward Ben Arbon, who drew the defence like a top centre before putting Matty Plummer into space and nothing was going to stop him from diving over to give his team the Championship Trophy for the eighth time.
Sam Cator won the Man Of The Match though he'll admit it was a 100% team performance by all seventeen players and not forgetting Oscar Ellerington, who had played almost every game this season but missed out through holiday. It was perhaps fitting that Plummer scored the final try as he only returned to the game halfway through the season after a long period away.
It has been a very long, hard season but once again West Hull have demonstrated their incredible resolve and produced the goods when it really mattered.