Bradbury double helps Illingworth lift cup

Illingworth celebrate their fee Halifax Cup final success
Illingworth celebrate their fee Halifax Cup final success

It took extra time to separate old sparring partners Illingworth and Brighouse Rangers in yesterday’s Joseph Fee Memorial Challenge Cup Final at cold, damp Old Brodleians RUFC.

The margin was again four points, Illingworth winning 16-12 after being beaten 26-22 in the same event at the same ground 12 months earlier.

A low-key contest, beset by handling errors from two sides who have had stop-start seasons after leaving the Pennine League, came to life with seven minutes of normal time to go.

Rangers were 10-4 up and seemingly grinding their way to victory with their bigger, stronger forwards just about giving them the upper hand.

However, Illingworth coach Johnny Taylor had been confident his side’s speed and fitness would come to the fore and so it proved.

It was game on when centre Jack Bradbury scored wide out on the right and Luke Sutcliffe thumped over a fine conversion for 10-10.

After a penalty to each side in the first period of extra time, Bradbury staged an action replay of his earlier effort to clinch the silverware for the Mason Green men with seconds remaining.

Illingworth, now in the Yorkshire Men’s League, were ending a turbulent winter on a high while Brighouse’s future remains up in the air with coaches Gary Barnett and Craig Young among those leaving the club.

Possession changed hands regularly in the early stages before Brighouse drew first blood on 18 minutes.

Rangers made ground up the slope on the back of scrum half Ben Drennan’s good penalty to touch and hooker Ross Young plunged over from acting half-back on the last tackle.

Gary Proctor converted but Illingworth took only four minutes to hit back when swift handling allowed winger Adam Millns to plunge over for an unconverted try in the corner.

Play was punctuated by several injury stoppages, with Illingworth mainly on the receiving end, but they held firm in the crucial early stages of the second half.

Brighouse did regain the lead on 64 minutes, when their lively right winger Karl Frankland scooted over wide on the right.

Man of the match Kevin Smith, at hooker, was in the thick of the action for Illingworth but it was quicksilver stand off Luke Sutcliffe who looked the most likely to make something happen.

Sure enough, his injection of pace stretched the Rangers defence for Bradbury to go over and set up a tense finale.

Sutcliffe and Proctor exchanged penalties for 12-12 and Bradbury started the Illingworth celebrations after fullback Graham Dobson’s long kick had earned Illingworth field position.

There was a sour ending to a generally untidy contest when Rangers second row Steve Mead was dismissed for foul play, sparking a melee involving most of the players, but nothing was going to spoil Illingworth’s day.