Raging Bull Cup Semi-Final
Sedgley Park 2nd XV 23 Hoppers 2nd XV 10
Hoppers bowed out of the Raging Bull Cup on Saturday afternoon after being out-muscled rather than outclassed by their hosts in a keenly contested match down in Whitefield. Having lost their last two matches Sedgley were desperate to overcome Hoppers and this was reflected in their selection as they recalled a number of players who’d stepped up to first team action as cover for injuries in recent weeks.
Hoppers started strongly and put their hosts under some early pressure but Sedgley’s heavier pack soon began to assert themselves. The Tigers had the better of the early scrummages but Hoppers acquitted themselves well and defended manfully, sending their opponents backwards. However it wasn’t long until Sedgley took control and some poor tackling allowed the Park back three to counter attack before creating an overlap that led to a converted try in the corner.
The penalty count began to rise and Hoppers were punished as Leader slotted a penalty over from forty metres out. The hosts led 10-0 and Hoppers did their best to disrupt a Sedgley scrum. Ally Murray dumped his opposite man but the Sedgley back row then proceeded to punch him seemingly out of sight of the referee. A large brawl followed which saw both teams reduced to fourteen men for ten minutes. Hoppers then made a real mess of the next scrummage and were awarded a penalty. Unfortunately for Preston, Holroyd’s kick went wide. It got worse for Hoppers just before half time as Smith was sent to the bin for allegedly handling in the ruck. Lough’s men were really up against it but finished the half the stronger.
The second half began with each side trying to exert their dominance, Sedgley’s forwards probably had the upper hand but Hoppers countered and got in behind the Park defence. They were in real trouble and a cynical infringement at the breakdown saw the Sedgley lock sent to the sin bin. Holroyd’s penalty cut the arrears and Hoppers trailed 10-3, but soon after they lost Ally Murray to a tweaked hamstring. Preston’s good work was undone as Sedgley two penalties in quick succession which Leader duly knocked over. Lough’s men were 16-3 down and the luck which came their way a fortnight ago seemed to desert them as the ball kept appearing to bounce Sedgley’s way.
Hoppers did their best to finish the stronger and were looking for a score that would get them back into the game. Unfortunately is wasn’t to be as an intercept led to Leader scoring under the posts for a converted try. The home side led 22-3 which was a little harsh on Hoppers but Killian Wallace had the final say as he rounded of some good interplay for a converted try. It was no more than Hoppers deserved and reflected the effort put in by Lough’s young side. Sedgley deserved their victory and go on to play Macclesfield in the final in what is sure to be another fiercely contested encounter. Hoppers meanwhile can focus on the Bateman Premier League and a trip to Macclesfield next Saturday. They are in pole position to be crowned champions and whilst Saturday was a disappointing afternoon the experience will be invaluable to a squad which boasts so many young players. All being well Hoppers will win this weekend to all but secure the title but the men from Cheshire will be keen to scupper their chances.
Here are some action shots from the game.