Centurions produce stunning fightback to claim second Super League scalp

Bob Beswick reaches over to score for Leigh at Wakefield. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography
Bob Beswick reaches over to score for Leigh at Wakefield. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 30 Leigh Centurions 36

Leigh overturned a 22-0 deficit to dump Wakefield out of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup and extend their club record winning run to 25 matches.

The Championship pacesetters turned the sixth-round tie on its head with five second-half tries, with former Wakefield forward Oliver Wilkes scoring the match-winner eight minutes from the end.

The Centurions, who knocked out Salford in the last round, had trailed for most of the match but rallied magnificently and fully deserved their 36-30 success, which puts them within two games of a trip to Wembley.

Wakefield look certain to finish bottom of Super League after suffering 11 successive league defeats and coach James Webster now faces a major task in lifting his side for the run-in after squandering such a handsome lead.

Wakefield were boosted by the return from injury of skipper Danny Kirmond, as well as the vastly-experienced overseas trio of Lopini Paea, Ali Lauitiiti and Dean Collis, who all played their part in establishing their team’s early dominance.

The Centurions, whose winning run goes back to last July, needed a half-time pep talk from coach Paul Rowley to turn around their fortunes after a first half littered with handling errors and penalties appeared to leave them with too much to do.

In cult figure Fuifui Moimoi and ex-England forward Gareth Hock, Leigh had the physicality to match their hosts but lacked the composure to make it count against opponents who were more disciplined and played the percentages well.

It was from an error by centre Michael Platt that Wakefield opened the scoring on seven minutes, prop Nick Scruton demonstrating quick thinking to get winger Chris Riley on a 70-metre run to the line.

Scruton was also a tryscorer after charging onto a short pass from hooker McShane while centre Joe Arundel touched down neat grubber kicks from Tim Smith and McShane to grab a first-half brace.

At 22-0, it was beginning to look ugly for the Championship leaders but their 1,000-strong fans eventually had something to cheer when scrum-half Ryan Brierley pulled a try back on 32 minutes after a rare run at the Wildcats defence.

Martyn Ridyard’s goal cut the deficit to 22-6 but Wakefield full-back Craig Hall kicked a penalty on the stroke of half-time, to add to his three conversions, to put more daylight between the teams.

The game was then turned on its head in a dramatic third quarter as Leigh responded to the words of Rowley.

Both teams were reduced to 12 men for 10 minutes when Kirmond and his former team-mate Liam Kay were sin-binned for coming to blows and the visitors scored from the resultant penalty when right winger Jonny Pownall accepted Brierley’s cut-out pass to touch down at the corner.

A 40-20 kick from Ridyard kept Leigh on the front foot and, after Wakefield stand-off Jacob Miller was pulled up for a spear tackle on Brierley, skipper Bob Beswick forced his way over from close range for his side’s third try.

And it was all square on 56 minutes when Brierley regathered his own chip kick over the Wakefield defence to get centre Tom Armstrong over for the try of the match, which Ridyard goaled.

The Centurions thought they had taken the lead when Brierley followed up Ridyard’s kick that a casual Hall failed to clear but the try was disallowed for offside by the video referee.

Wakefield went back in front on 61 minutes when substitute Jon Molloy went over for their fifth try and Hall added the conversion but it did little to halt Leigh’s momentum.

Another 40-20 kick, this time from Beswick, set up the position for forward Sam Hopkins to charge over for a try that once more levelled the scores.

After Ridyard had failed with a long-range penalty attempt, the Centurions went in front for the first time eight minutes from the end when Kay kept the ball alive and Beswick got Wilkes over for the all-important try.