5th November 2018, 13:21 | ncl

NCL Division 1 | 2018 Review

NCL Division 1 | 2018 Review

By Mark Chestney

Once again, we have come to the end of a superb season in the flagship league of the amateur game, the Kingstone Press National Conference League.

Teams have come and gone, some triumphed whilst others faltered and another went the entire season without a single defeat.

It all began back in March culminating in the Grand Finals on Saturday 6th October.

Thornhill Trojans are back into the top flight for 2019 after taking the Division 1 title, when, after losing their opening game, hit an unbeaten streak. Across 17 games they won 15 and drew 2 to take a stranglehold at the top of the table.

Danny Ratcliffe led the way with 20 tries and 8 man of the match awards whilst Joel Gibson ended the season on 179 points from 69 goals, 10 tries and a drop goal. George Woodcock scored 11 tries – 10 coming from Will Gledhill to end a great season.

Lock Lane powered to automatic promotion winning 5 out of their last 6 games to clinch 2nd. Connor Land was an influential part of their success in scoring 188 points from 15 tries and 64 goals.

It wasn’t a one man show, as Craig Savage collected 10 man of the match awards, as well as adding the same amount of tries. Lewis Price got in on the act with 11 touch downs as his side were the top points scorers in the division with 679.

Leigh Miners Rangers would have been favourites to go straight back, but really made it hard for themselves. They ended the season having to go through the playoff series.

It took a Todd Felon try in extra time to see off Milford Marlins in the playoff final to take Miners up for the 2019 season. Youngster Jack Reynolds took 5 man of the match awards for his seasonal effort of 13 tries and 57 goals for a 166 point tally as Adan Thomasson crossed for 14 tries.

Pilkington Recs will be disappointed not to have at least made the playoff final with form going into the business end of the season seeing 8 wins from their last 9 games. Danny Lynch and Kyran Knapper shared the goal kicking duties with 18 and 16 respectively.

Jake Hodson led the way with 6 tries as Ryan Hilliard went in for 5 as there was not stand out try scores. It is possible that if Pilks had won one more game by a decent margin they could well have been promoted automatically but it wasn’t to be.

To lose a playoff final to a golden point try was heart-breaking for Milford Marlins who had worked so hard to get there. Milford finished the season in 5th place and made it through to the final by beating Pilkington Recs away from home, 29-18.

Josh Nathaniel took 5 man of the match awards during the season, as well as scoring 11 tries from 16 appearances. James Barker led the way with 11 tries as Martin Loveridge ended the season with 93 points – 35 of which were goal kicks.

Ian Jackson was again at the forefront of Featherstone Lions push towards the Division 1 playoffs. He scored 135 points from 60 goals, 3 tries and 3 drop goals. Jake Perkins was their leading try scorer with 12.

The Lions made the playoffs but suffered a defeat to Miners. They had a great start to the season winning 5 of their first 6 games and continuing their momentum throughout.

York Acorn ended the season in mid-table but the plus for them was to see Matt Chilton join League 1 Champions York City Knights. His 14 tries in just 16 appearances ensured stability to a side who lost in last season’s playoff final.

This season they tried hard again but ended up in the mid-table with Jordan Potter running in 14 tries with 10 each for Callum Worthington and Joe Budd. Tom Hill led the way picking up 5 man of the match awards during the season.

138 points from Carl Puckering helped Skirlaugh to remain in Division 1 in what wasn’t their best of seasons. It was helped by signing prolific try scorer Nathan Slater from Myton Warriors and who weighted in with 12 tries from just 9 appearances.

They started the season well winning 4 of their first 6 games, but a major dip mid-season saw a losing run of 5 defeats meant they wouldn’t have a major say. Former Hull FC man Reece Dean was also prominent in adding 19 goals to his 10 tries.

Oulton Raiders came up as champions of Division 2 in 2017 but struggled in Division 1 flirting with relegation time and again. They started the campaign well enough but an 11-game winless run was to give them a real mountain to climb in avoiding relegation from whence they came.

However, they won their last 6 games of the season to turn things around and stay up as Dom Flanagan picked up three man of the match awards. Adrian Holdsworth and Kieran Walpole were also prominent in their survival.

Ince Rose Bridge were the 3rd side to exit Division 1 after they finished 6 points adrift of Oulton Raiders. They managed just one win in their first 8 games and failed to turn things around winning just 6 games in total.

Brad Smith scored 123 points for Ince during the season from 8 tries, 45 goals and a drop goal, as Jamie Malone and Peter Valentine both ended the season on 8 tries.

They lost their last 4 games confirming their relegation for the 2019 season.

Bad defence lead to the eventual relegation of Shaw Cross Sharks. They won just 4 of their games during the season – losing 8 of their first 10.

Ryan Chalkley was the top man for the Sharks with 11 goals and 5 tries. Shaun Squires added 10 goals.

The use of 50 players certainly didn’t help with any form of consistency, meaning the side will play in Division 2 for 2019.

Bradford Dudley Hill will play Division 2 rugby in 2019, having been promoted in 2017. In their first 12 games of the season they won just 2 and failed to find any consistency as they lost their last 8 games.

Neil Wall picked up 7 man of the match awards as well as adding 13 tries and 4 goals. Simon Sewell was on kicking duties but winning just 3 games wasn’t enough to stay up.