High of the Tigers ...

tigers celebrate promotion after 16-14 win over Chester
tigers celebrate promotion after 16-14 win over Chester

Anything Manchester can do, Sheffield can do just as well, albeit on a much smaller scale and in a different sport!

The red and blue half of Manchester may have achieved a football Premiership and FA Cup double but Sheffield’s historic rugby union promotion double is certainly one to savour for the aficionados at Dore Moor and Abbeydale.

Sheffield Tigers overcame Chester 16-14 in a wind-affected Play-Off thriller to seal a place in National 2 a week after Sheffield had edged out Darlington 18-17 to earn a place in North East 1.

Suddenly Sheffield is synonymous with rugby success.

While Tigers skipper Andy Barnes was naturally delighted with his team’s rise to rugby’s fourth tier, he was quick to add Sheffield’s name into the celebration mix.

He said: “It’s been a great year for rugby in Sheffield. For both city clubs to gain promotion in the same year is a tremendous achievement and one to be proud of.”

On a more personal note, Barnes admitted, it was one of his most enjoyable seasons ever.

Considering how it all started that’s some assessment.

At the beginning of the Midlands 3 campaign, Tigers were quietly confident that they would be serious contenders.

Six matches and four defeats later, most people had already written them off but in an amazing turnaround they lost only one more game and that to champions Bromsgrove as they sealed their place in the promotion Play Off.

“We made a poor start, part of which was adapting to the way teams played in what was a new league for us and we also needed time to familiarise ourselves with one another and gell as a team.

“Thankfully we sorted things out and really cracked on. We then realised that we could be there or there abouts at the end of the season.

“Apart from that start, it’s been one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve ever been involved in. They are a fantastic group of lads and I’m really looking forward to the new challenge ahead.

“There are lots of new clubs and there’ll be some need for recruitment which I’m sure will come about in the near future,” he added.

Andy admitted that he was surprised and a little disappointed that Chester didn’t play the expansive rugby they’re noted for although the strong, swirling wind did play havoc on numerous occasions.

Jonny West found this to his cost when a gust took his early penalty wide of the uprights. However, from the restart Sam Cook made a charge and this was continued deep into the Chester 22 by John Buchanan. When the ball came back West made no mistake with his snap drop kick and Tigers were first on the score board after just three minutes.

The strong, swirling wind played havoc, as Jonny West found to his cost when it took his early penalty wide of the uprights.

However, from the restart Sam Cook made a charge and this was continued deep into the Chester 22 by John Buchanan. When the ball came back West made no mistake with his snap drop kick and Tigers were first on the score board after just three minutes.

Chester were level within a matter of minutes after Tigers were penalised for not rolling away from the tackler. Come 13 minutes, West bagged a penalty to restore the lead only for the visitors to respond with a drop goal to level it up once more. Tigers then had a huge let off when a penalty in front of the posts went wide.

The Sheffield side had to wait until 12 minutes into the second half before going ahead once more when from a third reset scrum leading try scorer Feeley took the pass and powered over. Chester cut the gap almost immediately with a penalty but Tigers were not to be denied and an excellent steal by Richard Joel and a 10 metre burst through the line out area created another attacking situation. The ball went left and Callum Mackenzie, despite a high tackle, scored in the corner to make it 16-9.

Sam Lockwood was then yellow carded for hands in at the ruck and with the pack down to seven men Chester opted for a scrum 20 metres out. Tigers had to bring on prop Anthony Ross and chose to withdraw Cook. Despite Chester seeming to stand up in the scrum it was the home front row who were penalised and Chester reset the scrum, again turning down the three point option, only for them to knock on.

Tigers had a chance to clear the ball but failed to do so and even worse conceded a penalty. Another Chester scrum resulted and his time they made the pressure count when their stand off dived over in the corner. The very difficult kick that would have levelled the scores was missed and the Dore Moor side clung on for victory and promotion.

There are now only three leagues and 40 teams above National 2 North as Tigers wait to welcome such clubs as Preston Grasshoppers, Otley, Harrogate, Hull, Huddersfield and Manchester next season.

Team: Lockwood, Thomson, Bunting, Joel, Hayter, Cook, Mackenzie, Barnes, Drage, West, Clark, Buchanan, Outram, Morley, Feeley. Replacements: Cone, Ross, Wright, Wragg.