Shaw Cross Sharks10
DEWSBURY Celtic clinched promotion to National Conference Division One last Saturday following a dramatic final day derby victory at Shaw Cross.
A 500-strong crowd turned up for the winner take all clash — included Celtic chairman and newly appointed Bradford Bulls head coach Francis Cummins — and supporters were treated to a real blood and thunder derby.
Like the Jim Brown Cup final in August, which the Sharks won 32-16, this game was again not for the faint hearted as the sides tore into each other.
Each team had a player dismissed and one apiece sin-binned and at one stage late in the first half Celtic were down to 11 men against the 12 from Cross.
Scrum-half Jason Muranka, who has been in superb form all season for Celtic, scored a 15th minute try which Niki Crabtree converted but he was unable to prevent the Sharks taking a 10-6 half-time lead thanks to a brace of tries and a goal from centre Shaun Squires.
As tempers flared midway through the first half Danny Smith was sent off for running into a melee and throwing a punch, while soon after Celtic’s influential forward Danny Lee was red carded for punching.
Squires and Celtic’s Dom Byrne were also sent to the sin bin to cool off as the pressure cooker of a final day decider threatened to boil over.
The Sharks had run away with the cup final on a warm Thursday evening in August at Mount Pleasant and this was something Celtic were mindful of going into the game.
They came out for the second half and produced a scintillating display which saw them simply blow the Sharks away and ensure it was they who would be playing at the higher level next summer.
Celtic produced some quality flowing rugby to run in a further eight tries without reply.
Bartley O’Brien got them going with an unconverted try which levelled matters and Celtic hit the front when Joshua West crossed and Crabtree added the conversion.
Celtic had rested former Dewsbury and Batley player Danny Thomas in the build up to Saturday’s crunch clash as he was carrying a niggling injury but he played a key role in the win.
A fine long pass by Thomas sent winger Crabtree racing over at the corner and the stand-off then supported a terrific break by Muranka to take the final pass and score between the posts, with Crabtree adding the goal.
West added his second try out wide before Thomas again showed his skill to send full-back Pat Foulstone between the posts and give Crabtree another easy goal.
Jake Richardson was next to score and it was fitting that Thomas crossed for the final try following a break by Thomas Perks.
Crabtree added the final two conversions to end with six goals and a try.
It has been an excellent season for Crabtree, who has finished as the leading points scorer and leading goalkicker in National Conference Division Two.
He scored 16 tries, 97 goals and a drop-goal to finish with 259 points.
The Sharks after-match party following their cup final triumph went on long into the night but Celtic’s players surpassed that as their promotion party went on into the early hours of Sunday morning.
Celtic coach Paul Heaton will retire following his side’s foray into the Challenge Cup and he was delighted with his side’s promotion.
He said: “The lads were still smarting from our cup final defeat.
“Shaw Cross were the much better team that day and we had no complaints but the great thing about rugby league is that you always get a second chance.
“We tore them to bits in the second half, we physically dominated them and once we started to pull away, we scored some cracking tries.
“It is not just the hard work we have put in this season, these lads have been together for the last four years and it is a culmination of the work they have done throughout.”
Both sides now turn their attentions to the Challenge Cup when they have been handed home ties in the first round on October 27.
The Sharks entertain Pilkington Recs, with a home tie against Featherstone Lions or Stanley Rangers awaiting in the second round, while Celtic host Ovenden, with a trip to Milford or Northumbrian University the prize if they win.