HAVING secured Hunslet Hawks the most valuable of promotions, matchwinner Thomas Coyle last night insisted his Grand Final heroics paled into insignificance compared to the actions of his team-mates.
The ex-Wigan stand-off scored the crucial drop goal, six minutes into golden-point extra-time, to settle an epic Championship One showpiece at Headingley.
It came in the most dramatic of circumstances after a breathtaking Liam Hood run was ended by George Tyson – the second time the Oldham replacement had somehow denied the dangerous Hunslet hooker.
It still left another opportunity for the crucial score, however.
Young Danny Ansell had already hit a post with one drop goal effort in normal time when the scores were locked at 16-16 and seen another go off target. He must have been tempted to try again but, as the tireless Oldham defence rallied and rushed once more, instead he calmly found Coyle who wheeled away in delight almost as soon as the ball left his boot.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” he admitted, as, after traipsing to Hemel Stags and Oxford this term, the South Leeds part-timers set up fixtures with Bradford Bulls and London Broncos in 2015.
“Games like that are what we play for. We train all year to play in Grand Finals and that makes it even better to win it like that; it was so dramatic.
“It was good for the fans, great for the game and just great work from Danny.
“He could have tried it again – he had two chances before – but that was the biggest play of the game.
“It wasn’t my drop goal; it was that composure from Danny and Hoody with his 30m break that won the game basically.
“I just had to kick it. But it was the best moment of my career.”
It prompted euphoric scenes for Barry Eaton’s side, who had endured relegation 12 months ago, but yet more heartbreak for their gutted opponents.
Oldham, who finished third behind second-placed Hunslet and leaders York City Knights, have now lost the last seven Grand Finals they have appeared in and will still be regretting this one getting away come the start of next year.
It was frenetic and thrilling throughout, pieces of magic from both sides interspersed with moments of sheer madness.
Richard Moore, the much-travelled ex-Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls prop, even had a shot at a drop-goal after Tyson had dragged down a scampering Hood the first time in the 69th minute, though it could barely be described as one.
“He said if Jamie Peacock’s doing them now, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t either,” smiled a relieved Eaton afterwards, who, the last time Hunslet featured like this at Headingley, was in the Dewsbury side losing to a drop goal in the 1999 Northern Premiership decider.
Hawks were cruelly denied promotion to Super League back then but this elevation now is just as critical to their long-term survival.
Oldham had opened the scoring through Steven Roper’s fifth-minute try that he converted himself.
After sustained pressure, Hunslet responded via the lively full-back Jimmy Watson, David March slotting the first of his two kicks.
Some brilliance from a leaping Jon Ford furnished Dale Bloomfield with Oldham’s second try on the half hour but – after a classy midfield break from man-of-the-match Coyle – James Duckworth levelled in the corner early in the second period.
First-receiver Coyle then put Hunslet ahead in the 54th minute as he dummied and straightened up to shoot in between four tacklers from 15m out, March kicking.
Danny Langtree’s try eight minutes from time, improved by Roper, levelled it to set up yet more drama with numerous drop goal attempts from each side but heroic Hunslet prevailed.
Hunslet Hawks: Watson; Duffy, Maun, Brickwood, Duckworth; T Coyle, Ansell; Moore, March, Houston, Oakes, Lyons, Briscoe. Substitutes: Hood, Haley, Kain, Hardbottle.
Oldham: Nield; Clay, Cookson, Ford, Bloomfield; Palfrey, Roper; Joy, Owen, Boults, Crowley, Langtree, Thompson. Substitutes: Ward, Mason, Hughes, Tyson.
Referee: J Cobb (Leigh).