This was a tough, well contested encounter, with both teams giving everything they had, but it ended on a sour note for the Sharks, when what looked like a last-minute penalty try was overruled by the official, and a disputed drop-goal clinched victory for the visitors.
From the outset, Hindley clearly intended to play this game in robust fashion, but some no-nonsense refereeing quickly established a rule of law, and from then on it was a story of free-flowing, end-to-end football, the scores seesawing as both sides took advantage of the good conditions to play a fast, open game.
Hindley looked the more dangerous team initially, getting one try ahead, before Shevington struck back with a piece of crafty play from hooker, Brad Cartwright
, who dived over the line from dummy-half. Hindley reclaimed the lead again, only for the Sharks to re-balance things when stand-off Cameron Boulter dummied his way through. The Sharks could then have taken a commanding lead, had wingman Joe Roughley
not fumbled the ball with the line begging, and Boulter – again splitting the defence with some great individual play and crossing the whitewash under the posts – not seen, his effort disallowed on the basis of a double-movement, much to his disquiet.
It was the same story in the second half, both sides clashing fiercely in the forwards and running their blood to water on the flanks, where some great breaks were made but where the scrambling defence always seemed up to it.
The Sharks’ second-half scores were monstrous efforts by back-row stars Sam Gray
and skipper Sam Wilde
, the former a typical bustling run from almost half-way, Gray swatting defenders like flies as he made it to the whitewash. Wilde’s touchdown came as a result of neat inter-passing near to the Hindley line, but it still saw some incisive running by the loose-forward, who cut through cleanly after a very smart change of direction.
In contrast, Hindley only scored one try in the second half – so Shevington got the laurels in terms of touchdowns – but on the kicking front it was a different story. Hindley converted all three of their tries, and kicked a penalty goal, while Shevington marksman Joe Foster
only managed to improve two of his own team’s efforts.
Hindley also lofted over an impressive looking drop-goal close to full-time, though the Shevington players insisted that it had not passed between the uprights. After some consultation, the referee awarded the one-pointer, but later apologetically explained to the Sharks that this was on the basis of ‘benefit of the doubt’, as per the official regulations.
All this aside, the game ended on a still more dramatic and controversial note. With only seconds on the watch, loose-forward Wilde ran almost 60 yards, fending off one tackler after another, to be brought down a yard short. From a quick play-the-ball, Cameron Boulter darted towards an unmanned Hindley try-line, only to be brought down by two Hindley tacklers who were still returning to position from the previous play, and were thus miles offside.
The Shevington camp appealed for a penalty try, but alas, this was not to be. The game was wrapped at 20-21 to the visitors, and, despite the contentious issues, was actually a very entertaining encounter, with both sides showing commendable spirit, aggression and skill.
From a Sharks perspective, it was a huge disappointment, but they can take solace from outscoring their opponents in terms of tries, and from the knowledge that in two short weeks, they have gone from playing dull, sluggish, one-out football to looking like an aggressive, athletic team again, with a hunger for victory.