A place in the Championship was up for grabs as Leon Pryce’s Workington Town travelled down the M6 to take on Stuart Littler’s Swinton Lions in the last game of the domestic season. Having finished bottom of the Championship ladder the Lions knew that they would be up against as they welcomed the side who pushed York and Bradford all the way in Championship One and now hoped to join them in the second tier next season.
This crucial game was being held at Swintons home ground of Haywood Road in Sale as the lower division side were forced to travel. The two sides last met over two years ago when Swinton won by 19-12, but with Swinton not having won in their last four, this was anyones game as the Lions took on the Marras.
Swinton grabbed a fourth minute try through Luke Waterworth after some good early pressure on the Workington line and a good Kyle Shelford break. Jack Hansen added the quality conversion for a 6-0 lead, just what the Swinton fans wanted.
Joe Hambley responded immediately when he went in down the right wing to grab Workington’s first try of the afternoon. Carl Forber added the conversion from the touchline to level the scores with eight minutes on the clock.
After conceeding a penalty the Lions found themselves trailing when Forber slotted over the two points from twenty-five metres out.
In a see-saw start Waterworth got his second try of the game pouncing on a Workington error to pick up the ball and go over. Hansen was off target with the boot, the Lions 10-8 ahead. It was a nervous afternoon and both sides were playing like they knew it.
It was starting to get a bit tasty between the two sides but as the half wore on Workington were gaining in confidence. With four minutes to the break the Marras marched the ball downfield and as holes started to appear in the Lions defence. Scott Rooke went over on the corner off a passing move and a fast play-the-ball, and was allowed to run behind the sticks to ground and give Forber a simple conversion for 14-10.
A minute before the interval and the Lions drew level as Rhodri Lloyd targetted Jamie Doran to push him aside to go over for the four pointer. Hansen added the conversion from wide for a 16-14 lead as the half-time hooter sounded.
The lead changed again on fifty-five when Tyllar Mellor found his way over by the uprights after a poor attempted tackle from George Tyson, to take an 18-16 lead. Forber added the conversion for a four point lead. But it lasted just three minutes.
Finishing a great set with a chip kick Josh Woods reacted the fastest to take the ball and dive in for the Lions fourth try of the afternoon to see the sides level again at 20-20.
If nerves were high at the start of the game, with twenty to play and the sides all tied up, they were at fever pitch.
Kyle Shelford regained the lead for Swinton as he crawled to the line on his hands and knees to score. Workington complained that he second rower was tackled before he scored but the referee brushed away their protests. Hansen added the goal for 26-20.
Woods missed a drop-goal effort for a seven point lead on seventy minutes and a second attempt on seventy-four was charged down before he was successful seconds later with his third effort.
Lloyd put the icing on the cake to seal Swinton retaining their Championship status when he took advantage of a Craig Mullen break to go over. Hansen added the conversion for a 33-20 with just seconds remaining.
Workington we unable to make the jump between division and despite being second best for periods of the game it was the Swinton Lions who will be celebrating as they did enough to ensure Championship survival.
Lions: Hansen (3G), Gray, Lloyd (2T), Tyson, Mullen, Fairclough, Woods (T, DG), Bracek, Waterworth (2T), Thornley, Shelford (T), Paisley, Hope. Subs: Austin, Ganson, Hall, Jones.
Town: Mellor (T), Hambley (T), Maudling K, Morris, Rooke (T), Doran, Forber (4G), Dickinson, Newton, Curwen, Maudling G, Moore, Olstrum.Subs: Wilkes, Penkywicz, Singleton, Dawson.
Referee: Greg Dolan.