Sherwood Wolf Hunt bounced back from a disappointing defeat last week with an excellent hard-fought win over current champions Telford Raiders on Saturday, but the victory was marred by a serious last minute neck injury to forward Francis Appleton.
The Wolf Hunt battled hard to pull themselves back into the game and, on abandonment with one minute to go, led 36-32, this historic win being the Wolf Hunt’s first top three scalp.
Co-chairman Richard Tempest-Mitchell said: “This was a great win against quality opposition, but it pales into insignificance after the injury to Francis Appleton.
“He is in safe hands at the Queen’s Medical Centre and had a five hour operation on his neck on Monday. We are supporting Francis and his family, as his recovery will take some time.”
The club will stage a fund-raising Comedy Night for the injured Appleton and his family this Saturday at Debdale Park.
The game started with Telford using fast, hard running rugby, and the Wolf Hunt looked like they might struggle.
However, they opened the scoring after four minutes following a one-on-one ball steal from new boy Daniel Marrow, who walked in under the sticks. The try was converted by Sam Butler.
Telford then got rolling, putting the Wolf Hunt on the back foot every tackle.
The Wolf Hunt knew this was top three rugby league and Telford’s pack, well led by props Matthew Evans and Adrian Payne, were playing quick and hard.
This, plus excellent running from full back by James Derry, led to three quick tries, from Derry and centre Jack Harris. All three were converted to make it 18-6 with 20 minutes gone.
The Wolf Hunt could have been excused if they capitulated, but strong running from forwards, Chris Wright, Appleton and Shaun Underwood pulled them back into the game.
With Aaron Bainbridge and Sam Butler calling the shots in the middle, the Wolf Hunt pack finally got to run at the Raiders.
This wore down the Raiders and led to tries from centre Rob Broadbent and winger Aaron Wycherley.
Both were converted by eventual ProCook Doncaster Man of the Match Butler and had the score even with five minutes to go.
The Raiders did not give up and turned on the pressure again, pushing the Wolf Hunt deep into their 20m line.
After three full sets, the defence had held out, until one missed tackle out wide saw Telford winger Luke Roberts go in at the left corner. The kick was missed but the Raiders led 22-18 at the halfway mark, though the Wolf Hunt were still in with a shout.
The second half was a see-saw affair with both set of forwards battering each other.
More hard running from the home team’s Underwood, Appleton and new boy Jon Colley kept them in contention and in the Raiders half for a lot of the second half.
Fast running and great ball handling from loose forward Bainbridge had the Raiders defence scrambling, twice denying Wycherley in the corner.
After more sustained pressure, the breakthrough came from a long fast pass from Bainbridge, with Wycherley diving in at the left corner. The try was converted by Butler from out wide, and the Wolf Hunt were in with shout at 32-24.
With eight minutes to go the home side piled on the pressure, battering the tiring Raiders defence, with powerful running from forwards Leivers, Appleton, Colley and new boy big Ben Lee.
Great running within the 20 yards from Colley eventually turned into a try with him sailing in from 15m and 15m to the right of the posts. The conversion was made by Butler and it was 32-30 with five minutes to go.
On the restart the Wolf Hunt struggled to get out of their half and gave the ball up on their own 40. The Raiders pressed hard, but the Wolf Hunt held out.
Raiders’ star full back Derry and centre Chris Tinsley looked dangerous, but a terrible spilled ball by Derry gave the Wolf Hunt possession.
The forwards, and in particular Appleton, moved the Wolf Hunt into the Raiders’ half.
More great ball handling from Bates, Butler, Bainbridge and Manasa Volaikisuva then put the Wolf Hunt on the Raider’s line.
After two full sets there, Luke Walters went in at the corner from acting half, something that had been denied to him, three times already. Butler kicked again from the touch line and the Wolf Hunt were 36-32 up.
The Raiders put on the pressure in the last two minutes and only awesome defence from the pack kept them out.
Then came the injury to Appleton. Having just put in a stop dead tackle on Raiders’ second row Denham Samuels, Appleton was caught in the head and snapped back his neck.
After three minutes of assessing the injury, the game was ended with one minute to go.
The Wolf Hunt had beaten the current champions, but at a very high cost.
This victory came from hard work and awesome defence, with great ball handling from the half backs, Bates, Bainbridge and Volaikisuva.
The addition of Colley and Daniel Marrow, brought experience and pace outside the middle.
The Wolf Hunt proved they can compete with the best, the challenge now is to sustain in the face of a serious injury to one their own.
The club’s fund-raiser Comedy Night for Appleton this Saturday at Debdale Park will also feature raffles, and an auction.
At the time of writing they have numerous donations from the world of Rugby League and Rugby Union, including tickets, shirts and memorabilia from world class stars such as John Bentley, Kyle Eastmond, Sam Burgess and many others, with donations coming in from far and wide. They are also hoping that Leeds Rhinos will bring the Challenge Cup.
Anyone wishing to come along can obtain tickets at Debdale. The cost is £15 with supper.
Anyone wishing to donate can do so on the night, although the club are working with RLCares, who will help co-ordinate donations to support Francis Appleton and his family. Wolf Hunt will update anyone who wishes to donate.
The Wolf Hunt can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter @wolfhuntrl or on Facebook.