THE 2016-17 Bartlett’s BARLA Yorkshire Cup final will once again pit one of the best sides in West Yorkshire against a leading light from the east coast.
Fryston Warriors, of Castleford, will meet Three Tuns of Hull in this season’s decider, which will take place on Saturday (21 January) at the Big Fellas Stadium, Post Office Road, Featherstone Rovers.
The Warriors are the holders, after having swept to a record 50-10 win over North Hull Knights in last year’s final, while the Tuns are making their first appearance on the major stage since being formed nearly a decade ago. .
Norths were, similarly, riding high 12 months ago but Three Tuns coach Jamie Hartley insists that his side aims to present Fryston with a much stiffer challenge.
He said: “It’s a big challenge for us and we’re under no illusions that we’re the underdogs.
“I was at last year’s final and Fryston are obviously a class act, in fact they are one of the best amateur teams in the country.
“I spoke to North Hull Knights, who were beaten by them in this season’s quarter-finals, and I’ve been told that the Warriors have pretty much got the same team still.
“We’re not going there just to make up the numbers. Our game plan is that we start big, that out forwards get a roll on, and that we play off that platform.
“If we go well in the first 20 minutes, we will be competitive; it will then all be about what happens on the day.”
Tuns will be bolstered by a strong team spirit, founded on the club’s launch some eight years ago as GW Horners. “There were a few of us, ex-players with such as Norland and West Hull, talking in the pub and somehow we found ourselves forming a team,” Hartley recalls. “This is our biggest moment by far from those days.
“One of the best things about how we’ve progressed is that many of those lads are still with us, including a few who had switched from soccer and who were, quickly, a revelation.”
Fryston, meanwhile, enter the contest as reigning Pennine League champions and with the retention of that trophy firmly in their sights. Head Coach Danny Bolton said: “We don’t know a great deal about Three Tuns. Trevor Penrose, who I know from my days coaching with Yorkshire, has given me some information, and North Hull Knights passed on a few insights after we played them in the quarter-final, but they’re pretty much an unknown quantity to us, although I hear that Nathan Powley is dangerous at hooker.
“The fact is, though, that they are in the final, and we will take them lightly at our peril.
“A big message I’m getting across to my players is that it takes a good team to win a major trophy such as the Yorkshire Cup – it takes a great team to defend it.”
Bolton has, for sure, assembled a very fine team, which certainly has the makings of a great one at amateur level. Jack Smith is on fire at prop and is the kind of player who just keeps on coming, whether it’s in his own 20, close to the opposition’s line, or in midfield.
“Everyone highlights Wayne McHugh as our big presence, and you can see why, but Smith is another key figure.
“We’ve plenty of genuine contenders for the wing slots, with Adam Rothwell having plenty of pace and others in the frame including such as Ryan Meah, Andy Matthews and Ben Strong. It’s a sign of a good amateur side when you don’t have lads filling in on the flanks and it’s satisfying that we have an abundance of proper wingers. Last year, I only had two lads for those slots; now I‘ve got four or five.”
Jack Lee, at hooker, is another player who gives Bolton confidence with his propensity to scoot from the ruck, while the side as a whole has bought into his insistence on discipline.
“That’s key, in all respects” he said. “There’s no point in arguing with referees, for example, and I’ve brought that home to the lads, successfully I think, as we’ve only had one player sent off for referee abuse this season.
“That’s one too many, but it’s definitely a move in the right direction and after an impressive win over a strong Siddal outfit in the last four we’re looking forward to the final.”