Buffaloes reach final after proving too strong for Keighley Albion
Andy & Devon Johnson
Once again, the West Leeds RU ground basked in the sun’s bright rays as the Buffaloes set their sights on securing a spot in the Shield Final, facing an eager and youthful Keighley Albion side.
Due to holiday commitments, the Coaching team made several changes to the Buffaloes’ lineup, but the team still presented a formidable and strong combination on paper.
From the outset, the Buffaloes dominated the exchanges, relentlessly pressing into Keighley’s half in search of the opening score. Sam Neave, Keiran Hudson, and Martin Loveridge spearheaded strong breaks, causing trouble for their opponents throughout the afternoon. However, the opening try came slower than expected, as the Buffaloes were plagued by a series of lost balls and failed kicks that narrowly missed their targets.
Keighley’s robust tackling kept them in the contest, but their resilience could only last so long. In the 12th minute, the Buffaloes’ superior strength and skills eventually paid off, as Keiran Hudson dashed in from 10 meters out to score wide on the right. Unfortunately, Connor McGill’s conversion attempt drifted wide, leaving the scoreline at Buffaloes 4 – 0.
The Buffaloes seemed destined to add two more tries quickly, with Brad Wilson coming agonisingly close to grounding the ball under the posts in the 18th minute. Then, just two minutes later, following a clever cross-field move, Sam Marshall seemed poised to cross the line on the left wing, but the referee adjudged that he failed to ground the ball properly.
Nevertheless, the Buffaloes didn’t let these missed opportunities dampen their spirits. In the 22nd minute, Keiran Hudson showcased his expertise once more, as a dazzling display from Martin set him up for success. Martin mesmerised the defence with two consecutive dummies before releasing a long pass to Keiran, who proved too strong for his opposite number, scoring by the right-hand flag. Connor McGill’s conversion from the touchline found its mark this time, expanding the lead to Buffaloes 10 – 0.
In an unusual turn of events, the following 10 minutes saw the Buffaloes struggling to stretch their lead, making a series of uncharacteristic errors with lost balls and knock-ons. This unexpected spell culminated in the 28th minute when the referee awarded a series of penalties to Keighley, granting them their first taste of possession in Buffaloes’ territory. Keighley capitalised on this opportunity, moving the ball swiftly across the Buffaloes’ defensive line, allowing their wingman to dive over for an unconverted try. The score now stood at Buffaloes 10 – 4.
Determined to reassert their dominance, the Buffaloes responded almost immediately with their third try of the afternoon in the 30th minute. This try was created and scored under the posts by the eventual Man of the Match, Lochlan McGill, who showed great strength, skill, and tenacity. Connor McGill added the conversion, extending the lead to Buffaloes 16 – 4.
In the 38th minute, Martin again took centre stage, weaving his magic and leaving the Keighley defence bewildered. With a series of mesmerising dummies and sleight of hand, he set up Charlie McMurray, who skilfully sliced through a gap to score a beautiful try. Connor McGill’s conversion added the extra points, and the scoreline now favoured the Buffaloes at 22 – 4.
The final score of the half was a penalty goal by Connor McGill, who knowing the 40 mins were up, opted to go for a goal from the halfway line. In all honesty, not many people in the crowd expected the kick to go over, but Connor slotted it over with aplomb bringing the first-half scoreline to Buffaloes 24 – 4.
The Buffaloes showcased their strength and resilience during an exhilarating first half, and with such a commanding lead, they appeared well on their way to securing their spot in the Shield Final.
Half Time: Buffaloes 24 – 4 Keighley.
As the second half kicked off, it was evident that the extreme heat had taken its toll on the players. With some key figures taking a well-deserved rest, the pace of the game eased, but the Buffaloes’ attacking spirit remained undiminished.
In the 66th minute, the crowd witnessed yet another moment of brilliance from Martin, leaving his opponents baffled by his unpredictable moves. Was he going to pass? Dummy? Kick through? In the end, he did none of these as he made a stunning run, slicing through the defence to dot the ball down for a try of his own. Connor McGill confidently added the conversion, boosting the scoreline to Buffaloes 30 – 4.
The Buffaloes continued their relentless pursuit of points, and in the 72nd minute, Sam Neave capped off his strong performance with a fantastic try. Utilising his speed and agility, he threaded through the opposition’s defence after a well-executed break and two swift passes from his teammates. With Connor McGill once again on target with the conversion, the score now stood at Buffaloes 36 – 4.
As the match neared its conclusion, the Buffaloes were far from finished. In the 76th minute, Jonny Filin displayed his speed and determination on the right wing, latching onto a well-timed pass and racing over the try line. Although the conversion attempt narrowly missed its mark, the Buffaloes extended their lead to an impressive 44 – 4.
Despite the scorching conditions, the Buffaloes displayed their depth and determination, leaving a lasting impression on their opponents and spectators. Martin’s mesmerising plays, Sam Neave’s electrifying runs, and Jonny Filin’s lightning speed all contributed to an enthralling second half until the final whistle. As the Buffaloes advance to the Shield Final, their indomitable spirit and attacking flair will undoubtedly be vital in their quest for championship glory.
Final score: Buffaloes 44 – 4 Keighley Albion
Buffaloes: 1) Kieran Foster-Matthews, 2) Kieran Hudson, 3) Daniel Booth, 4) Sam Neave, 5) Samuel Marshall, 6) Martin Loveridge, 7) Connor McGill, 8) Jacob Oldroyd, 9) Bradley Wilson, 10) Louis Morrison, 11) Thomas Langton, 12) Lewis Gaunt, 13) Lochlan McGill, Subs (All Used); 14) Bryn Perrott, 15) Lewis Bromley, 16) Charlie McMurray, 17) Jonathan Filin, 18) Ben Wilkinson, 19) Ethan McFarlane.
Tries: Hudson (12, 22), Lochlan (30), McMurray (38), Loveridge (66), Neave (72), Filin (76)
Goals: Connor McGill x 6
Albion: 1) Kieron Blakeley, 2) Joseph Priestley, 3) Tobias Stephens, 4) Brody Leach, 5) Zak Blackburn, 6) Owen Palmer, 7) Benjamin McParland, 8) David Adam, 9) Lewis Hutchinson, 10) Joseph Preston, 11) Thomas Harrison, 12) Thomas Richardson, 13) Christopher Spencer, Subs (All Used); 14) Cobi Denton, 15) Lucas Evans, 16) Sam Woodhead, 17) Thomas Dunn-Birch, 18 ) Jack Wilkinson, 19) Jack Winterburn.