BARLA Yorkshire Cup finals preview

The 2021/22 Yorkshire Cup competitions at Open Age and Under 18s levels reach a climax on Sunday (9 January) with a double-headed Finals Day at the Millennium Stadium, Post Office Road, Featherstone Rovers.

Doncaster Toll Bar and Hunslet Club Parkside will contest the Open Age decider, while Stanningley and West Hull go head-to-head in the Youth clash.

Toll Bar are on centre stage courtesy of a 14-13 semi-final victory over Ackworth shortly before Christmas while Hunslet Club Parkside accounted for visitors Upton in last week’s semi-final.

The south Leeds outfit ground out a 10-0 victory which owed much to defensive commitment, Upton’s opportunities being kept to a minimum throughout.

Parkside, who led 6-0 at the interval through a Craig McShane try and Kieran Murphy’s conversion, duly booked their berth at Post Office Road with McShane’s second touchdown.

Upton were well-served by props Ben Jackson and Bailey Ward, and coach Fran Welsh said: “Our fullback Jack Swain was the best player on the field by a distance in my opinion.

“Conditions spoiled the rugby side and two bits of class by their scrum-half Craig McShane won it for Hunslet in the end. My side left everything out on the field, we’ve no complaints.”

Andy Hullock, a key figure at halfback throughout Hunslet Club Parkside’s successes in recent years in the National Conference League, coaches Parkside’s Yorkshire Cup hopefuls alongside Karl Briggs.

He said: “Only six of the players who beat Upton in the semi-final are out-and-out first-teamers, the others are `A’ team lads.

“There’s lots of young kids in the squad, and there are no egos, we don’t have to manage everyone. They all work hard in training and then have a laugh afterwards, which is the right way to go about it. And they all work for each other.

“We’ve stuck with the lads who’ve trained throughout the Yorkshire Cup campaign, including over Christmas after our semi-final was unavoidably postponed because of Covid in the Upton camp. That’s not cribbing in any way the lads who couldn’t train, it’s just that they had family events and similar organised.”

He continued: “It was Karl Briggs’ idea to enter the Yorkshire Cup. I’m glad I got involved, I really fancied coaching when I was first approached, particularly as I’m now at the veteran stage as a player.

“We share team selection and taking training equally and I try to bring something to it from the coaches I’ve played under over the years, especially first-team coaches Macca (Paul McShane) and Martin Rowse, while my old mate Jon Hirst did a good job here when he had a spell with us after leaving Oulton; what I learned from him was the importance of fitting your tactics to your players, rather than the other way round.”

Hunslet Club Parkside are making their third appearance in a Yorkshire Cup Final. Hullock missed the first, in 2011, having broken his leg playing rugby union in the Army. The team beat Thornhill that day and toppled the Trojans again, a couple of years later, this time with Hullock in their ranks.

“That 2011 final was the start of a ten-year journey, including the Pennine League title in 2014 and our rise through the NCL ranks,” he insists. “It was the catalyst, really, it transformed us from a pub side.

“I’m not surprised that we’ve reached the final. That’s maybe because of the sustained success the club has had in recent years.

“We didn’t know, though, when we entered the Yorkshire Cup, what the response from the players would be, and it’s been superb, the young lads in the first team jumped onto it, and I suppose I’d have been disappointed if we’d not made the final. And it’s made us even stronger as a club, with a vibrant production line in place for the first team.

“There’s strength-in-depth and, on top of that, we have a very good Under 16s team. There’s a really solid base, and a healthy environment, at Hunslet Club Parkside.”

Doncaster Toll Bar’s coach Ian Tattersall told League Express: “We’ve won quite a few trophies since 2010, including the Pennine League’s President and Andrew Bennett Cups, but this is a step up for us.

“It’s a huge moment for the players, for the club and for me, but we’re not overawed; we’re all looking forward to it.

“People will be interested to see how we fare and it would be great to get our name on the trophy, which has some of the biggest names in amateur Rugby League on it.”

Toll Bar actually reached the final back in 2018 but were disqualified on the kind of technicality that haunts all club administrators at the grassroots, given the complexity of regulations at amateur level.

That episode has made the Doncaster outfit all the hungrier and Tattersall revealed: “We’ve a young side, with one or two older heads in there as well to provide valuable experience.

“We know what we are about but we are aware of the size of the task ahead. We’ve had a good and tough cup run which should stand us in good stead for the final.

“We’re a summer team and therefore had had six weeks off before we hosted Fryston – a strong side – in the first round, when we put in a big performance and had a comfortable win.

“Then we played another strong team, Hull’s Three Tuns (who, like Fryston, have previously featured in the final). We had a few out that day but we did superbly to come from behind to win despite the horrendous conditions.

“Then we won 14-13 at Ackworth in the semi-final, thanks to a late penalty. That was another satisfying display and what pleases me is that we’ve only conceded 23 points in our three games, so our defence is good.”

Toll Bar are taking a couple of full coaches to Featherstone – sponsored by Everlast, so it’s not costing anything – and plenty of supporters are travelling by car.

“Everlast’s backing means a lot, as does that of our other sponsors, notably Warners Fish Merchants, who’ve sponsored our kit for years,” said Tattersall, reflecting: “The club dates back as Doncaster Toll Bar to 1993, with its roots in Doncaster Schoolboys.

“It’s our vibrant youth and junior structure which has led to us reaching this final, really, the players have gravitated through the ranks and more will follow down the line, as we launched a Tots team a few years ago.

“As for the here and now, we’ll have a real dig on Sunday. We trained a couple of times over Christmas, we have a core group of players who have been with us for a long time. We may not be the biggest squad but we’re competitive.”

Dean Bowmer will referee the Open Age final; Aidan Rhodes and Josh Ruckledge are the touch-judges and Neil Pascall is the reserve official.

The referee for the Under 18s game is Sam Jenkinson, whose touch-judges will be Josh Kinsley and Oliver Bowie, while Harry Truscott is on stand-by.

The Under 18s final kicks off at 11.30am, and the Open Age match gets underway at 2.00pm. Admission is £3 (£2 concessions, under 16s free).

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