St Helens based Haresfinch made the short seven-mile journey to Orrell St James for their first round Challenge Cup match as the sides who finished second and third in the 2023 North West Men’s League table went into battle for the first time in 2024.
The sides last met just under four months ago when Orrell were the victors by 26-22 on their way to win the Grand Final which would see them end the season as League Champions. It was their second win in three meetings between the two sides in a highly competitive season at the top of the division meaning that this afternoon’s game was too close to call.
It was the expected arm-wrestle early in the game with defences on top and handling errors the order of the day from both sides.
As the half headed towards the twenty-minute mark it was the visitors who were in the ascendancy and spending most of the play in the Orrell twenty but against the run of play it was Sam Burns who opened the scoring for Orrell after a fifty-metre passing move with good support given by the full back to his centres to allow him to cross and dab down under the sticks. Callum Taylor drilled his kick over the cross bar for a 6-0 lead.
It was a second breakaway try for Orrell on twenty-eight with Lewis Round benefitted from skill by Burns to enable him to cross in the corner but go behind the sticks to ground. Bradley Kelk added the goal for a 12-0 lead.
In the dying seconds of the half Orrell spilled the ball on the line, Haresfinch surviving with just a twelve-point deficit at the interval but not before a mass brawl on the halfway line which resulted in Goodwin and Jake Davies taking a ten-minute break.
Five minutes after the restart Orrell extended their lead as Adam Ball found his way to the line after shrugging off three attempted tackles to stretch out an arm to ground. James Causey attempted the conversion but missed the target. Orrell with a 16-0 lead.
On fifty the visitors finally opened their account as they kept the ball alive, ended up in the hands of Danny Large who stepped off his left foot and dove for the line to ground. The conversion from Ainsworth went wide of the sticks, the Orrell lead down to two converted tries.
The game was over on seventy-four with a break down the right-hand side with Lee McLoughlin taking a short pass and crashing through four tacklers to force the ball to the ground. The kick was again wide of the mark but with a sixteen point lead and four minutes on the clock it was Orrell into the second round a game against York Acorn.
Tempers frayed again in the dying seconds with Matty Norton shown the yellow card but Oreel couldn't add to the scoreline.
Orrell St James: Burns (2T), Gallagher, McLoughlin (T), Taylor (G), Round, Causey, Whittle, Morters, Siyani, Ellis, Tordoff, Calland. Subs: Davies (SB on 40), Kelk (G), Ball (T), Findlow. 18th Man: ?.
Haresfinch: Goodwin (SB on 40), Large (T), Ainsworth, Gormley, Allen, Lynch, Ross, Walkden, Briggs, Wilson, Morris, Norton (SB on 78), Lynch. Subs: Clayton, Fields, Wilson, Kelly-Duffy. 18th Man: ?.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, (SB), (SB) : HT: 16-0, 16-4, 20-4, (SB) :FT.
Lead Exchanges: Orrell.
Referee: Denton Arnold.