Siddal produced a superb performance to win their Conference opener 20-10 at Kells on Saturday, spoiling the party for their promoted hosts.
The Cumbrians were into the game as title favourites in some people’s opinions, having enjoyed three successive promotions and not been beaten on home soil throughout that run.
The game was played on Kells’ hilltop pitch by the sea and Siddal kicked off with the advantage of a strong breeze.
Kells have a strong, experienced pack who are used to getting their own way but in the first 15 minutes Siddal’s forwards swarmed all over them.
Time and again the Kells forwards were knocked back in the tackle and the home side were left relying on clearing kicks from halfbacks Tyrone Dalton and Ross Gainford.
Siddal took the lead on 10 minutes. Hooker Craig Sanderson broke from halfway down the middle of the pitch and after drawing fullback Lewis Smith sent his front row partner George Ambler under the posts. Chris Brooke added a simple conversion.
Kells drew level on 20 minutes after back to back penalties took them 60 metres upfield. Second row Paul Cullnean scored by the side of the posts on the final play of the set. Gainford converted to level the scores.
Siddal didn’t allow the setback to affect their game. Props Ambler and Iain Davies continually made good yardage and were superbly supported by the back row combination of Jason Boults, Canaan Smithies and the outstanding Byron Smith. Kells were struggling to repel Siddal attacks as halfbacks Brooke and Shaun Garrod began moving the ball across the park.
Stand in centre Tom Garratt was twice halted by last ditch tackles. However, Siddal were not to be denied and went back in front on 36 minutes.
Skipper Garrod again fooled a defence into thinking he was bringing a supporting player back inside only to retain the ball, shoot through a gap and score. Brooke’s conversion helped Siddal go in at half time 12-6 up.
It got better for the visitors on the restart. Within four minutes Sanderson got Kells back-pedalling with another break from dummy half, Garrod went deep into Kells territory and the ball was then moved swiftly to the right by Brooke and debutant Ben West sent winger Dominic Booth in at the corner.
Brooke couldn’t convert but five minutes later he was lining up another shot at goal following Siddal’s fourth try which Brooke himself had set up with a superb high kick to the left corner.
Another Siddal debutant, Elliott Hewitt, rose like a salmon to pluck the ball out of the grasp of Kells defenders to score a brilliant try. Brooke’s kick just fell short but Siddal led 20-6.
Kells’ large, vociferous home crowd were in shock. Aided by a heavy penalty count against Siddal, the hosts had the majority of possession for the remainder of the game but Siddal defended superbly through all 17 players on duty. Substitute forwards Jack Georgiou and Connor Macullum impressed and ex-Elland player Ben Hinsley nullified the threat of Kells centre Scott Lofthouse.
Kells did go over for a second try on 74 minutes from a Siddal scrum, even though the ball clearly shot out of the tunnel. Kells played on and Lofthouse scored an unconverted try in the corner.
Siddal comfortably saw out the final few minutes and now switch their attention to the Challenge Cup and taking on Rochdale Hornets at Spotland’ on Sunday (3pm).
Coach Gareth Greenwood will have a selection headache as none of his first choice centres or wingers were on duty against Kells and their replacements all shone.