Leigh Centurions 33 Dewsbury Rams 22
Kingstone Press Championship play-off semi final
LEIGH secured their place in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship Grand Final after an epic tussle with Dewsbury at the Sports Village.
The League Leaders Shield winners were made to battle hard for their place in the Headingley final with victory only assured in the dying stages.
Adam Higson scored a hat-trick for Centurions while Martyn Ridyard’s kicked six goals from seven as Paul Rowley’s side reached their first Grand Final in 10 years. It also meant Leigh had gone through the entire year without losing a competitive game at the Sports Village.
Half-backs Ridyard and Ryan Brierley had outstanding games while Bob Beswick was terrific at hooker.
Higson’s first two tries came during a first quarter which Leigh dominated. Only four minutes had been played when Michael Platt’s break was well supported by Brierley and his final pass saw Higson finish well. Ridyard converted from touch.
Centurions continued to dominate and scored a second try in the 15th minute, Brierley again involved with a kick to the corner which Higson judged to perfection. Ridyard again goaled.
The arrival of forwards Tommy Gallagher and Mikali Aizue from the bench invigorated the Dewsbury attack, and some fisticuffs in the 22nd minute saw Leigh’s Liam Kay and Jobe Murphy of the Rams sent to the sin-bin.
The disruption affected Leigh for a few moments and with both sides down to 12, the busy Jamie Thackeray scored a well-taken try in the 26th minute which Tom Hemingway converted.
But Leigh spiked the Rams revival with a third try before half-time - Platt taking on the line before cutting through with the defence waiting for a pass to Higson which never came. Ridyard again goaled superbly from touch and also added a penalty for an off the ball challenge soon after. With half-time approaching, Ridyard spotted an opportunity to drop a goal from 30 metres with the hooter having just sounded.
Dewsbury, whose form in the play-offs has seen them handsomely beat Workington and Halifax, started the second half like a train. They almost scored from the kick-off after some adventurous attacking but did actually get over in the 43rd minute when quick passing to the left gave Ben Hellewell space to score. Hemingway was unable to convert.
The visitors kept the pressure on and struck again in the 49th minute as Joel Farrell ran a great line to score from 15 metres. A Hemingway conversion meant Leigh’s lead had been cut to just five points.
Having been under pressure for so long, Centurions struck back in breathtaking style in the 55th minute. Matt Sarsfield made a superb break and his inside pass resulted in Gregg McNally racing away to score. Ridyard again added the extras.
From the restart, Leigh played out their five tackles before Ridyard unleashed a 40-20 kick to give his side a great attacking position. From the scrum, Leigh took full advantage as fast hands to the right saw Higson claim his hat-trick try. No conversion from Ridyard this time, but the lead was 31-16.
As the game entered the final quarter, Dewsbury set up a grandstand finish with a try from Dale Morton converted by Hemingway.
A nine point gap looked precarious but Leigh produced the perfect response, starving the tiring visitors of possession and a Ridyard penalty in the last minute sealed a famous win.
Leigh: McNally, Higson, Playy, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Emmitt, Beswick, Wilkes, Sarsfield, Haggarty, Barlow. Subs: Penkywicz, Walker, Acton, Bate
Tries: Higson 3, Platt, McNally
Goals: Ridyard 6/7 + 1DG
Dewsbury: Pryce, Morton, Hellewell, Grady, Wood, Hyde, Thackeray, Haggerty, Hemingway, Hepworth, Spicer, Hale, Murphy. Subs: Wright, Aizue, Farrell, Gallagher
Tries: Thackeray, Hellwell, Farrell, Morton
Goals: Hemingway 3/4
Referee: Matt Thomason
Weather: Dry and bright