Rams test champions in a thrilling encounter

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Dewsbury Rams 12

Featherstone Rovers 24

By Andrew Hunt

DEWSBURY Rams produced a superb defensive display as they went close to stunning Co-operative Championship champions Featherstone Rovers last Sunday.

A bonus point was the least Dewsbury deserved for a terrific effort and it was only the class of Rovers stand-off Andy Kain which proved the difference between the sides.

The Rams fully deserved to lead 6-4 at half-time but were undone by two converted tries in the space of five minutes early in the second half.

Dewsbury held a strong defensive line for much of the first half, repelling several Featherstone raids, while the home side created two excellent chances in a scoreless opening half-hour.

Scott Spaven launched a huge early up and under, which swirled around in the wind and Rovers centre Greg Worthington made a hash of gathering.

The ball bounced in goal but rolled dead despite a despairing last ditch dive from Patch Walker.

Featherstone went close after 21 minutes when Liam Finn kicked left and Tangi Ropati leapt to gather before popping the ball out to full-back Ian Hardman but Spaven and Gregg Scott got back superbly to shove the winger into touch.

Dewsbury swiftly moved play to the other end as in-form winger Austin Buchanan broke from inside his own ‘25 before racing away.

He handed on to Ayden Faal and although the move initially broke down, the Rams had a great field position.

Walker stabbed the ball towards the line and it rebounded off a Rovers defender to Faal but he was stopped short.

On the last tackle Walker produced a deft chip left and Buchanan palmed it back inside for Ben Bolger but he was stopped inches short and then spun onto his back.

Prop Steve Crossley had another terrific game, driving Dewsbury forward.

Rovers finally forced a spell of pressure, which resulted in three sets on the Rams line and eventually Finn sent Hardman through a gap for the opening try after 32 minutes. The usually reliable Finn pulled his conversion wide.

The Rams responded immediately as Rovers knocked on and substitute George Flanagan produced a sublime pass to send Ryan Esders over wide on the right.

Walker’s conversion clattered the right post and bounced out but three minutes later the stand-off hammered a penalty over to edge Dewsbury ahead.

A Featherstone penalty put them back on attack in first half injury time but Finn dropped the ball in front of the posts and the Rams left the field to a standing ovation.

An early second half penalty put Rovers on attack and Kain showed his class by selling a dummy and scooting over for a try which Finn converted.

Five minutes later, the Rams were again harshly penalised and although James Craven produced a cracking tackle on his former teammate James Lockwood and Bolger made a try saving effort on Kain, Finn sent Matty Dale over and Finn’s conversion put Rovers 16-6 ahead.

A spell of Rams pressure came to nothing but Dewsbury did hit back in the 62nd minute as Buchanan stormed down the touchline but had his ankles clipped and stumbled to the ground inches short.

The winger regained his feet and had the strength to hold off the cover defence and plant the ball down in the corner to give his side real hope.

Kain again showed his awareness to dart over from acting half-back, with Finn converting and then adding a penalty to put the game out of reach.

In the final minute Flanagan charged for the line but had the ball ripped from his grasp and Walker kicked the penalty to rescue a much deserved bonus point for the Rams.