Jubilant Sherwood Wolf Hunt have been crowned Midlands Rugby League champions after a 36-10 victory over Birmingham Bulldogs in the grand final.
The clash was effectively a play-off for the title between the winners of the league’s North and South divisions.
And the Mansfield Woodhouse-based Wolf Hunt shrugged off a blistering wind and horrendous downpours of rain to defeat Bulldogs with a clinical performance.
The triumph completed a hat-trick of honours this season, after they also lifted the Midlands Cup, and they could add a national prize too because they take on Devon Sharks in the Harry Jepson Trophy on Sunday, September 1 at a venue to be confirmed. This competition is for the champions of the various regional leagues up and down the country.
Wolf Hunt’s victory over Bulldogs delighted head coach Glenn Holt, who said: “We deserved the win. Our players and coaching staff have worked so hard this season to improve week on wekk, and I feel we saved our best performance of the season until last.
“Birmingham have played some good rugby league this season, but they just couldn’t handle the pace at which we played the game.
“Our forward pack have been strong all year, and we knew they’d work hard. But I thought our backline were the difference between the two sides. They were constantly looking to muck in, as were centres Jake Manning and Aaron Wycherley.”
Wolf Hunt dictated the speed of play from the off, with experienced hooker Richie Hughes guiding an enthusiastic pack around the park.
They found some early success as Hughes himself dived over from close range to get the scoreboard ticking over.
Shellshocked Bulldogs struggled to cope with Wolf Hunt’s tempo and found themselves even further behind ten minutes later when in-form winger Joe Ducker left his opposite number standing to race in for his first try of the game.
Bulldogs finally got a hold on the game and started to play some expansive rugby. But with the wet and windy conditions, several spilled balls meant they found it hard to get out of their own half.
Wolf Hunt duly capitalised, and barnstorming prop forward Francis Appleton wrestled four defenders to get over the line to increase his side’s advantage to 16 points.
Bulldogs hit back with a breakaway try from substitute Jay Neath but, moments later, that was cancelled out by a second try from Hughes and with a half-time score of 22-6, the message from Holt was clear: more of the same.
That he got when another superb half of rugby league from Wolf Hunt began with Luke Walters going in from close range and both wingers, Peter Alldread and Ducker, grabbing a try apiece.
The Wolf Hunt pack came under some intense pressure from Bulldogs in the last 20 minutes, but some outstanding defensive performances from captain Lee Chapman and his forward pack restricted the Birmingham outfit to only one try in the half.
The man-of-the-match award went to John-Ross Ward, who kicked four out of seven conversions, but Alan Symcox ran him close at loose forward after a very strong display in the middle.