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Rugby union: Shotton Steel reach first ever cup final with semi-final win over Benllech

Benllech 11 Shotton Steel 30

INVINCIBLE in the league, Shotton Steel remain on course for a double-winning season as they saw off hosts Benllech to reach the North Wales Intermediate Cup final – the club’s first major cup final.

The Division Three North champions outscored their rivals three tries to one to come out on top at Treetops.

Benllech enjoyed their fair share of possession but the Steel defence was in good form to limit the home side’s chances.

The visitors got off to the perfect start when in the opening moments a scrum set up a good platform on halfway for fly-half Steve Ellson to chip through for winger John Ketland to gather and cross. Ellson then added the extras before slotting over a penalty to stretch the lead to 10 points.

Benllech were able to settle and enjoyed some good possession, keeping the ball tight to the breakdown with the forwards looking to get the hard yards. Shotton’s defence held strong for the most part but two penalties, one for a breakdown infringement and one for offside, brought the home side back into the game.

Another Ellson penalty gave the Steelmen a bit of a cushion as they went into the break leading 13-6.

The home side were preparing to hit their visitors with everything they had and the Steelmen knew it.

As a result the Flintshire side knuckled down in the opening stages of the second half and attempted to shut-up shop to take the sting out of Benllech’s drive.

And it worked as it was the visitors who would notch the first points with another Ellson penalty.

Before long Nick Wood took advantage of another good platform set by the scrum as the scrum half picked up to snipe over from close range.

But as the Steelmen seemed to be cruising towards the final, with 20 minutes remaining they were reduced to 14 after a tip tackle.

This revitalised the home side and they thought they had crossed in the corner only for a terrific last-ditch tackle to deny them.

They would not be denied soon after however when they made the most of a big overlap to score, an unconverted try and reduce the deficit to 23-11.

With time running out Shotton were able to get some good territory and possession to see the game out, and quick thinking from Ellson from a penalty close to the Benllech line saw him go over for a try.

He converted to make it six from six with the boot and bring his personal tally to 20 points.

Steel will now face Swalec League Division Two North side Machynlleth at Colwyn Bay’s Eirias Park on May 12.

Shotton captain Mark Higgins said: “The main thing today was to get the win and make sure we made the final.

“I thought defensively we did well and played some decent stuff at times, especially in the second half.

“It is fantastic for the club to reach a final, I’m not aware of us reaching one before and to play at the new Eirias Park will be really special.

“To play Machynlleth will be great as we always want to test ourselves against higher level opposition and it will be a good yard stick for us a we head into Division Two next season.”