Sharlston Rovers 30 Dewsbury Rams 28
THE MAGIC of the Powergen Challenge Cup cast its spell on the proud amateurs of Sharlston Rovers at Featherstone last night to condemn Dewsbury Rams to an embarrassing third-round defeat.
Led by the inspirational presence of player-coach Martin Wood, the Yorkshire League Premier Division leaders outplayed Dewsbury in every department as they booked a place in Monday's fourth-round draw with a deserved victory.
Wood, a member of the Sheffield Eagles team that completed the biggest shock in the competition's history by beating Wigan in the 1998 final, played a key role in four of Sharlston's five tries to delight the majority of a crowd of over 2,000 people.
The surroundings may have been less salubrious than Wembley last night but the joyous look of surprise on the face of Wood and his amateur team-mates was no less joyous at the end of a compelling contest.
Dewsbury, whose coach Andy Fisher surprisingly selected himself at prop, staged a thrilling late fightback but they could not match the hunger and determination of a Sharlston side which would not be denied.
Sharlston have pulled off this rarest of feats before, defeating Workington Town in the first of a two-legged tie in 1946, and the club's forefathers would have been immensely proud of the manner of last night's performance.
As well as Wood, Sharlston were well-served by fellow ex-professionals Lee Bettinson and Gordon Long and props Andy Booth and Lee Kelly, who delivered an outstanding display of front-row play.
An early try by winger Dale Ferris signalled their intention and though Dewsbury hit back with scores from John Waddle and Craig Miles, Sharlston led 20-12 at the interval with further touchdowns from Stan Smith, Danny Grimshaw and Chance Leak.
Even with the Post Office Road slope in their favour after the restart Rovers added just one more try, Neil Shoesmith barging over for Lee Lingard to add the fourth of his five goals, but that proved enough.
Dewsbury responded with tries from Wayne McHugh, Bill Kershaw and Adam Thaler, who also kicked four goals, but the night belonged to Sharlston Rovers, the Challenge Cup giantkillers.
"That was fantastic, one of the best nights of my life," said Wood. "Sharlston made history the last time they beat a professional club and I'm immensely proud to have been part of a team that's done it again. We've done ourselves proud and the village of Sharlston proud. We showed tonight that we are one of the top amateur clubs."
Sharlston Rovers: Taylor; Lingard, Davies, Brook, Ferris; Wood, Grimshaw; Booth, Bettinson, Kelly, Leak, Ward, Smith. Substitutes: Long, Potter, Shoesmith, Sayer.
Dewsbury Rams: Hall; Miles, McHugh, Kirke, Waddle; Senior, Thaler; Hicks, Robinson, Fisher, Crouthers, Kershaw, Spears. Substitutes: Redfearn, Thewlis, Smith, Hardy.
Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).