Dewsbury fear being denied promotion

By the narrowest of margins - a drop goal three minutes from time - Dewsbury earned the prize they deserved for two years as the most consistent side in the Northern Ford Premiership. Any invitation to step up and play at a higher level is unlikely to be wrung out any more easily.

By the narrowest of margins - a drop goal three minutes from time - Dewsbury earned the prize they deserved for two years as the most consistent side in the Northern Ford Premiership. Any invitation to step up and play at a higher level is unlikely to be wrung out any more easily.

The Rams just about merited their nail-biting victory in the NFP's Grand Final on Saturday. They were marginally the more organised and effective team in a compelling match at Gigg Lane. But now the anxiety really begins, with players and supporters hoping that the Rugby League Council, which comprises representatives of all 30 clubs, will follow the recommendation of the independent franchise panel and promote Dewsbury to the top flight for the first time in 14 years, while suspecting that it will not. The Rams need the support of at least four of the 12 Super League clubs if they are to avoid the fate of Hunslet, last year's Grand Final winners, who failed to gain elevation to Super League.

Neil Kelly has done a remarkable job with an economically assembled squad and, if there was any justice, would get his chance to take on the élite. The fear is, however, that Dewsbury's application is fatally flawed by their proposal to play 30 miles away at the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield while their own ground, the Ram Stadium, is brought up to the 10,000-capacity standard.

Leigh, beaten so heart-breakingly, will support them on principle - that being the one of promotion and relegation - but can hardly be unaware of the irony that, had it been they who landed the winning drop goal, their application would have been stronger. That case remains hypothetical because, as their coach, Paul Terzis, admitted, they failed to produce their best over the 80 minutes at Gigg Lane.

A slow start saw them fall 10 points behind and they spent much of the game catching up. Two tries from the man of the match, Mick Higham, saw them do so, but they could not land the killer blow at the end, even when Simon Baldwin's clean break 10 minutes from time gave him the chance to do so.

Instead, Dewsbury applied the late pressure and Richard Agar grabbed the winning point. "I think I've struck them better," he said afterwards. "It was a bit of a sand-iron, but it went over the crossbar and that's all that matters."

It mattered also that the NFP's showpiece was a success in its broader context; of that there was no dispute. A crowd swelled by neutrals bussed in from all the other NFP clubs created a vibrant atmosphere and the game had a cup final feel to match it. Even if Dewsbury are rebuffed, it was an occasion to be relished. Promotion is worth fighting for, but so is the NFP title.

Dewsbury: Graham; Baker, O'Meara, Potter, Flynn; Agar, Eaton; Williams, Mycoe, Haigh, Richardson, Frame, Ball. Substitutes: Wood, Delaney, McDonald, Long.

Leigh: Donlan; Cross, Anderson, Fairclough, Ingram, Bretherton, Purtill; Street, Higham, Leathem, Baldwin, Cruckshank, Bristow. Substitutes: Arkwright, Norman, Bowker, Whittle.

Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).

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