Methley Royals miss out in semi-finals

Lee Starbuck makes a break for Methley Royals against Drighlington. Picture: KRIS WHITFIELD
Lee Starbuck makes a break for Methley Royals against Drighlington. Picture: KRIS WHITFIELD

METHLEY’S astute secretary Simon Burke accurately summed up an eight-day spell in which the Royals lost, successively, at Sharlston Rovers in the Ace Insurance (Europe) BARLA National Cup, and at Drighlington in the semi-final of the Pennine League’s President’s Cup.

Few teams prevail at either of those amateur giants and while Methley succumbed 48-22 and 30-20 respectively, Burke hit the nail on the head when he observed: “The Sharlston game was one we could have won; the Drighlington match was one we should have won.”

Burke was reflecting on a contest in which Methley, thanks to a strong platform set by the pack, headed into the closing quarter leading Pennine champions Drighlington 20-12. The Royals fully deserved to be in front, and looked quite capable of building on their advantage.

But a penalty awarded against Methley for talking out of turn when in possession when deep in home territory ultimately turned the contest.

Drighlington, who were then awarded four successive penalties, made the most of the pressure of four repeat sets to register a try on 61 minutes by prop Lee Mulhern when the Royals failed to deal with a kick-through.

Four minutes later, Mulhern was over the whitewash again, with scrum-half Michael Sanderson’s second successive conversion nosing Drighlington into the lead.

Methley never recovered. Home fullback Tom Moorby swept in 10 minutes from time and the contest closed with Sanderson landing a penalty – his third – to wrap up a contribution of seven goals from as many attempts.

Those goals were another crucial factor, the Royals having matched Drighlington’s tally of four tries.

Sanderson opened the scoring after only three minutes with his first penalty, but Methley hit back with a try of real quality, stand-off Matty Handforth – the man of the match – sending second row Lee Starbuck away and loose forward Stu Biscomb finishing off nicely.

Loose forward Adam Newton replied for the home side, but the Royals retrieved the advantage when second row Steve Scott reached out of the tackle, centre Sam Payne converting.

Drighlington, however, went in at the break 12-10 ahead, thank to two penalties awarded in the last four minutes of the half.

Methley bounced back within three minutes of the resumption, mercurial scrum-half Andy Speake moving the ball wide on the last tackle for centre Alan White to force his way over.

Speake’s conversion attempt drifted wide, but the Royals eased further ahead some four minutes later, Speake and winger Andy Matthews, with an inside pass, getting Scott over for his second score.

Speake added the extras this time but the subsequent flurry of penalties resulted in Methley’s dreams of a berth in the final being shattered.

Props Adam Biscomb and Dean Sampson, together with hooker Chris Woolford, were key figures for Division One leaders Methley, who return to league action on Saturday with a trip to Bentley Good Companions.