A 23-10 defeat by Featherstone Lions in the Division One promotion final dashed Stanningley’s hopes of going through the National Conference, from third tier to top-flight, in successive seasons. Stanningley finished fifth in the table, 10 points behind third-placed Lions, but looked on course for the top flight when they held a 10-6 lead at half-time, through Tom Kent’s try and three goals from Liam Copland.
That was after Stanningley had played down the slope, at Featherstone Rovers’ LD Nutrition Stadium, Post Office Road, in the first half, but Lions’ big, more experienced pack eventually took control and they dominated the final 40 minutes.
Even so, getting to within 80 minutes of amateur rugby league’s highest level was a notable achievement and joint-coaches Jordan Lilley and Ashton Golding have revitalised Stanningley’s playing fortunes after some lean years.
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Lilley, the Bradford Bulls and former Leeds Rhinos half-back, reckons the club can be proud of their recent progress and believes there is more to come.
“It’s disappointing,” he said of Saturday’s defeat. “But we – me and Ashton and Martin Oxtoby and Tom Bell and all the people behind the scenes – have been on a three-year journey to get the club back to where it is and playing in these finals and it’s credit to them.
“I am really proud and looking forward to building and going on another journey with these boys. This isn’t the end, we are building for the future and, hopefully, we’ll be back here next year – if not pushing for automatic promotion.”
Danny Gilbert scored Lions’ first-half try and Danny Glassell, Jake Perkins and Gaz Gale crossed in the final 40. Ian Jackson booted a conversion, two penalties and a drop goal with the last kick.
Lilley had no complaints about the result, admitting: “We just didn’t turn up, we got ‘old-manned’ by a side that are very experienced and do the basics right.
“They got themselves in good field position and put us in the corners and in tough positions. We have got a young side, we couldn’t get field position and, in the end, they got on top of us.
“They came with a game plan and executed theirs far better than we did ours. We spent 30 minutes defending our own line and, against good opposition, you can’t afford to do that.”
Lions coach Jamie Rooney, a former Featherstone Rovers and Wakefield Trinity player, admitted: “We were worried at half-time.
“Stanningley got into our faces and threw us off our game plan but, in the second half, we got back to playing rugby, going forward, getting to the end of our sets and kicking. We dug in and worked hard for each other.”
Lions had Gale sin-binned for kicking at the end of the first half and Danny Glassell (high tackle) followed within moments of his return.
Stanningley’s Ben Selby was shown a yellow card for a raised elbow soon after Glassell’s departure.
Featherstone Lions: Thompson, Gilbert, Perkins, Gale, Redfern, Wise, Jackson, Gamble, Wandless, Mawson, Williamson, Fox, S Glassell. Subs Madden, D Glassell, Garahan, McAllister.
Stanningley: Smith, Copland, Sharp, Hart, Selby, Murphy, Crossland, Welton, Benn, Kent, Metcalfe, Sykes, Henry. Subs Townend, Yarrow, Savage, Ruan.
Referee: Liam Rush.