LEIGH Miners Rangers will head into the final day of the league season still bidding to confirm promotion back to the Premier Division after squandering the chance to wrap up second spot in their final home game against Skirlaugh.

Marooned in mid-table and with the faintest of hopes of making the play-offs, Skirlaugh yet produced a commanding performance to thoroughly deserve the 20-14 victory achieved on the back of clinical attacking play and some tenacious defending.

The Hull side roared out of the blocks as they adjusted far better to the wet conditions, Sam Heppell bursting onto a flat pass metres from the line to crash through and then Nathan Slater reading Carl Puckering’s beautifully-weighted kick into the in-goal to slide in and touch down, Puckering converting both tries.

Miners struggled to make much headway against a resilient and canny defence however with the final play of the half Joe Connor crashed through the defence to ground the ball and give his team real hope for the second half.

Skirlaugh though continued to dig in, Puckering extending their lead with a penalty and although Andy Moody was sin-binned as the visitors understandably sought to slow the game down by fair means and foul Miners still couldn’t find a way through until a fine cut-out ball put Joe Digby striding through the gap for a try improved by Jack Reynolds and 10-14.

Then came a big turning point as Reynolds broke from inside his own twenty and sprinted downfield only for the outstanding Slater to show his pace and haul the Miners man down inches from the line, dislodging the ball in the process. Within minutes Slater had come up with an equally big play at the other end as he linked into the attack from a scrum near the Miners’ line and danced through the defence to score another six pointer.

Miners needed two scores with time against them and although Reynolds cut through out wide to bring the hosts within one score a draw wouldn’t have made undue difference to the promotion picture and Miners were denied even that with the final play of the game as the tireless Connor drove in one last time but was hauled down just short by the resilient Skirlaugh defence.

With Lock Lane putting Milford to the sword the equation is simple if pressurised. Miners travel to the division’s in-form team Pilkington Recs whilst Lane, just one point behind and with vastly superior points difference, are at Skirlaugh. Miners will of course hope that Skirlaugh produce a similar performance however they will be fully focussed on their own challenge. Pilkingtons have rocketed from mid-table and into fourth place on the back of eight games unbeaten – seven of which they have won. The St Helens club have a chance of finishing third although that would require their victory and Lock Lane losing, and they will be the sternest of foes as Miners fate comes down to the final weekend.

The under-18s produced a commanding performance to overcome Leigh East 64-6 at the Sports Village. After a tight first half Miners cut loose in the second half.

The Alliance team travel to Walney Central at the weekend with the women’s team at Wigan St Patricks. The under-18s have a game to relish against fierce rivals Blackbrook.