Barrow promoted to the Championship
BRING on Leigh Centurions, bring on Toronto Wolfpack, bring on Toulouse – Barrow Raiders will compete against them in the Championship next season after grinding out a narrow 10-6 win over Whitehaven in the League One play-off final at Craven Park on Sunday.
Barrow went bananas when the hooter blew to mark the end of a tremendous tussle and the Raiders went to collect their trophy.
Scenes after the match, which attracted more than 3,000 supporters, will have left indelible marks on the players and coaching staff as they were mobbed and joined in the celebrations.
To say the match was tight would be an understatement, with just one try separating the teams, both of whom had fought it out to the wire to reach this stage in what has been a long, hard campaign.
Barrow had their own try scoring hero in the shape of Shane Toal, who was on the end of two fluent moves to grab his brace of touchdowns.
However, it was the Raiders pack who distinguished themselves as they more than matched a determined Whitehaven, who had played a marathon 105 minute game against York the previous week.
The plaudits quite rightly go to Barrow and especially coach Paul Crarey who engineered a campaign which had seen them lift the League One Cup and reach the Challenge Cup Sixth Round in a testing season.
In this final hampered by rain and wind both teams were guilty of handling errors by they showed plenty of guts as each looked to achieve their goal of promotion.
Barrow forward trio Martin Aspinwall, Bradd Crellin and Nathan Mossop returned for the match while for Whitehaven it was the final game from captain Scott McAvoy and winger Craig Calvert for the club, both of whom had announced their retirements.
Whitehaven started the stronger and it was looking increasingly difficult for the home side to brake away from their stranglehold.
However just when they needed a hero, up stepped prop Joe Bullock to set up their first opportunity, tearing into the Whitehaven defence and punching a hole wide enough to find fullback Ryan Fieldhouse, who picked out his winger Shane Toal to dive over in the corner.
Jamie Dallimore’s attempt, however, in a swirling wind proved too difficult and with no further score in the half Barrow went into the interval clinging on to their 4-0 lead.
Like in the first half Whitehaven began in a determined fashion and they soon brought the scores back level when James Newton’s prod forward was pounced on by Dion Aiyeand, moments later Paul Crook’s boot saw the visitors take the lead.
Elliott Miller thought he had stretched Whitehaven’s lead when he went over soon after but his effort was ruled out by Super League referee Scott Mikalauskas for obstruction.
Barrow quickly needed a response and Dallimore’s kick and chase almost caught Whitehaven naping, but he did bring his side back on level terms when he converted a penalty, awarded after a Jarrad Stack was the victim of a late challenge.
The side started playing with a renewed spirit and Brett Carter thoiught he had put them ahead once again, but his effort was ruled out for a forward pass.
As the tension mounted, with the scores level at 6-6, Barrow were awarded another penalty, awarded on the 40m line with Dallimore hitting an upright.
Both teams were visibly tiring and the match needed another spark, which once again was provided by the rampaging Bullock as he cut through the Whitehaven defence.
Declan Hulme, staying in close contact, received a pass and he in turn set Toal free to score in the corner, once again the kick proving too tough for Dallimore.
Barrow held out, the glory was theirs and the celebrations started.
BARROW RAIDERS: Ryan Fieldhouse, Brett Carter, Eze Harper, Declan Hulme, Shane Toal, Jamie Dallimore, Lewis Charnock, Joe Bullock, Karl Ashall, Oliver Wilkes, Jarrad Stack, Bradd Crellin, Martin Aspinwall. Subs (all used): Nathan Mossop, Tom Walker, Dan Toal, James Duerden.
WHITEHAVEN: Elliott Miller, Craig Calvert, Jesse Joe Parker, Christopher Taylor, Jordan Burns, Dion Aiye, Paul Crook Marc Shackley, James Tilley, Carl Forster, Karl Olstrom, Scott McAvoy, Steven Roper. Subs (all used): James Newton, Connor Holliday, Tom Holland, Glenn Riley.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas.
Catch after match interviews with Barrow coach Paul Crarey, two try hero Shane Toal and RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer on the Raiders Facebook page.