IRELAND'S FINEST came a long way to find out that there is still a long way for them to go in their adopted sport. The Dublin side, Northside Saints, were no match for a well-organised and uncompromising team from the outskirts of Halifax, in this first-round tie in the Challenge Cup yesterday.
The Irish champions travelled in hope, after most of their players had been involved in rugby union matches on Saturday, but after a few minutes on Siddal's spectacular hillside ground must have feared they could be on the receiving end of a record score.
Gary Richardson, one of several Siddal players with professional experience, scored the first of his three tries in the first minute, after the Saints committed the sin of squandering their first scrap of possession.
When Siddal went 22 points up after only 11 minutes, a century seemed a certainty.
The only thing that could be said for the Saints was that they lacked nothing in willingness. Their prop forward, Shaun Fleming, gave a conspicuously brave display of driving the ball up and their winger, Dave Keogh, grabbed the fine interception try as they trailed by a mere 46-4 at half-time.
"They kept going and never gave up," said the Siddal president, Mick Scott, who played in three Wembley finals for Wigan and Halifax. This is where it all starts - in the amateur game - but a better way to develop the game in Ireland would be for teams closer to their own standard to go over there."
Siddal continued to pile up the points, the Saints' plight being worsened by the accuracy of another of the ex-professionals, Damieon Pickles, who finished with 13 goals. But the visitors had another moment to remember on their way home when Mark Sheehey dived on a kick through and Donal Martin landed the goal to take them into double figures.
"It was a great experience for the lads and it's only going to do us good," Ray Monaghan, the Saints captain, said. "It's shown us what we've got to do. We'll come back next year and thrash them."
Siddal: Phillips; Rowe, Pickles, Armstrong, Richardson; Turner, Hoyle; Hancock, Scrimshaw, Holroyd, Graham, Walters, Greg. Substitutes used: Whiteley, S Lewis, G Lewis, Thompson.
Northside Saints: R Monaghan; Martin, Greely, Sheehey, Keogh; Cushen, Kennedy; Fleming, Fanning, Kavanagh, Veale, Henderson, Walsh. Substitutes used: Connolly, D Monaghan, Dowling, White.
Referee: S Williams (Leeds).Reuse content