MILFORD MARLINS suffered heartbreak in the National Conference Division One promotion final for the second successive year.
The Leeds side were 22-16 ahead against Leigh Miners as late as the 73rd minute, but normal time ended with the sides locked at 22-22 and Decon Monks’ golden point try sealed a 26-22 success to send Rangers back into the Premier Division.
The game was marred by a huge brawl in the second half which led to Milford’s Tom Wilson and opponent Craig Ashall being sent-off, the duo resuming hostilities on the touchline which led to more ugly scenes.
Miners had finished third in the table, two places ahead of Milford and led early on through a Todd Fenlon try, but James Barker’s touchdown and the first of Dave Watmough’s three conversions edged Marlins ahead.
Josh Ward’s converted try restored Miners’ lead, but Joe Tharme and James Barker crossed either side of half-time to open a try-score gap. Leigh’s Joe Connor and Marlins’ Matt Brocksom exchanged touchdowns and Marlins looked set to hold on until Lee Gittins crossed at the corner and Jack Reynolds levelled the scores with his third goal from wide out to send the game into extra-time.
Former Leeds Rhinos academy player Josh Sunley had a big influence for Marlins off the bench and they looked sharper when Andy Barker switched from second-row to acting-half. Zak Snellgrove also had a big game.
Marlins coach Gavin Brown admitted to being devastated by the 83rd minute defeat, but said: “I am proud of them, they gave everything.”
Milford Marlins: Oxtoby, Brocksom, Watmough, Bacon, Cawood, Snellgrove, Parle, E Wilson, Jensen, Ramsden, A Barker, McRae, J Barker. Subs: Sunley, Nathaniel, Tharme, T Wilson.
Leigh Miners Rangers: Ward, Monks, Reynolds, Thomason, Fenlon, Coleman, O’Brian, Astley, Farrimond, Kay, Gittins, Connor, Ashall. Subs: Johnson, Philbin, Brogan, Bowers.
Referee: Aaron Moore.