Centurions edge epic battle

Oliver Wilkes of Leigh celebrates his match-winning try against Halifax. Photo: Brian King.
Oliver Wilkes of Leigh celebrates his match-winning try against Halifax. Photo: Brian King.

Leigh Centurions 26 Halifax 24

A freak try in the dying minutes gave Leigh a dramatic victory over Halifax in a thrilling and brusing encounter at the Sports Village.

With Leigh trailing by two, Sean Penkywicz’s improvised kick on the last tackle took a wicked bounce and evaded Halifax full-back Ryan Fieldhouse. The ball was collected by the grateful Leigh skipper Oliver Wilkes who touched down to level the game at 24-24 in front of a delirious North Stand,

Martyn Ridyard then kept his cool to kick the conversion and seal a vital win for Leigh and restore their seven point lead at the top of the Kingstone Press Championship.

There was great concern however after the game for Leigh prop Sam Barlow who suffered a head injury in a tackle by Halifax’s Dane Manning. The incident sparked a huge brawl which ended with Manning sent off along with Leigh’s Kurt Haggerty who was involved in the fight. Barlow spent the night in hospital but thankfully reports today suggest his scan was all clear.

It was a game which literally had everything and surely the closest Centurions have come to losing in the league this year. Once again Leigh were indebted to the non stop efforts of hooker Bob Beswick and Tommy Goulden in an end to end contest in front of more that 2,500 fans.

Leigh had raced into to a 12-point lead only to be pulled back by a determined Halifax side who went ahead with 10 minutes remaining.

The win was all the more impressive coming as it did just a few days after their epic Tetley’s Challenge Cup quarter final defeat at Leeds.

A long pass from Gregg McNally found Jonathan Pownall at the corner and he was able to squeeze in. Martyn Ridyard added the conversion from touch.

Centurions doubled their advantage moments later. Ridyard’s 40-20 kick put Leigh within striking distance of the Halifax line and from the scrum, Barlow’s disguised pass in the tackle saw Oliver Wilkes touch down under the posts. Ridyard again goaled.

Halifax replied in the 17th minute on a rare attack, Gareth Potts scoring in the corner and Steve Tyrer converting brilliantly from touch but again, Leigh’s response was swift - Barlow’s clever short ball got Matt Sarsfield some space who in turn found Bob Beswick and his pass gave McNally a 20m run to the line. Ridyard added the conversion.

But the visitors hit back moments before the break when a kick to the corner was caught by Tyrer under pressure and he was able to ground the ball. Tyrer added the goal himself to cut Leigh’s lead to a converted score.

Ten minutes into the second half, Ridyard kicked a penalty after he was the victim of a high tackle.

The game was halted for several minutes after Manning’s high tackle on Barlow which saw the former Halifax player helped from the pitch. In the ensuing brawl, Haggerty also saw red.

The disruption looked to have energised Halifax who scored a third try 16 minutes from time through Luke Ambler. Tyrer’s conversion cut Leigh’s lead to just two.

Halifax continued to press and took the lead for the first time 10 minutes from the end - Luke Adamson going over from close range and Tyrer added the goal.

Trailing 24-20, Centurions fought back up field and struck the vital blow through Wilkes after Penkywicz’s unorthodox kick. Leigh have no time to celebrate with Barrow next at the Sports Village on Sunday.

Leigh: McNally, Pownall, Hankinson, Haggerty, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Spencer, Beswick, Wilkes, Sarsfield, Goulden, Barlow. Subs: Penkywicz, Bate, Acton, Emmitt

Halifax: Fieldhouse, Fox, Cowling, Tyrer, Potts, Brown, Mennell, Ambler, Holden, Tonks, Manning, Divorty, Adamson. Subs: Bracek, Johnston, Casey, Spencer

Ref: Chris Leatherbarrow

Pitch: Perfect

Weather: Dry

Attendance: 2571