WAYNE Wilson and Braden Hunter bagged doubles as Mirfield Stags made a winning start to their 2016 Yorkshire Men’s League Premier Division campaign, thrashing last-year’s top-flight runners-up Illingworth 50-22 at Hillrich Park.
In the highest level of competition the Stags have played in since their formation in 2014, visitors Illingworth looked set to provide a huge test, having defeated Mirfield 46-0 when the two sides last locked horns.
But they would prove no match for Richard Silverwood’s side, who overcame their Calderdale opponents following a closely-contested first half.
A pin-point Ross Hayden kick was collected by Braden Hunter and the BARLA Great Britain international powered over after just three minutes to make it 4-0.
Illingworth responded through Dean Williams shortly after, levelling the scores.
But the Stags were back in front after a quarter of an hour, as Wilson collected a neat pass and powered across the whitewash. Hayden added the extras.
Wilson was in again within four minutes of his initial effort, this time breaking through a wall of defenders before racing 30 metres to touch down for his second try.
Hayden was again on target with the conversion attempt, moving Mirfield a dozen points clear.
Illingworth rallied to narrow the gap before half-time, with Darren and Dean Williams crossing for quick-fire scores.
But a neat piece of play saw Hunter barge over with just seconds of the opening period remaining to ensure the Stags lead at the break.
Ben Mather took just six second-half minutes to extend Mirfield’s lead, Hayden’s successful conversion making it 26-16.
And the Stags were far from done there.
In-form winger Tom Coates crashed over in the corner to all but seal his side’s success prior to the hour mark, as AJ Boardman added his name to the list of try-scorers.
There was to be no mercy from the hosts as Hayden got on the end of his own kick-through to take Mirfield beyond the 40-point mark, before adding the extras with ease.
Then came arguably the moment of the match when prop Richard Casanove broke through the opposition line and galloped 50 metres, only to be hauled down inches short of the line.
From there, Nathan Hadfield fired wide a quick pass to Hayden and the full-back sent Phil Shotton in for another Mirfield try.
Kieran Nicholson hit back for Illingworth, scoring a try against the run of play, but his effort counted for little more than consolation as the Stags surpassed half a century of points on the opening weekend of their top-flight campaign.
Mirfield return to Pennine League Championship action tomorrow (Saturday, 2.30pm) when they host Stainland Stags.