Rochdale Hornets 22 Leigh Centurions 28
LEIGH will play Featherstone at the Sports Village in the fifth round of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup after a hard earned win over Rochdale at Spotland.
For the second week running, Leigh were pushed all the way by the Kingstone Press Championship’s bottom club having twice let slip potentially match-winning leads.
They also had to play with 12 men following the sin-binning of Stuart Littler after he was penalised for lying on with 16 minutes remaining.
Centurions led 18-0 after just 24 minutes only to be pegged back to 18-10 then in the second half saw a 28-10 advantage reduced to 28-22.
Leigh handed a start to Sam Hopkins following his loan signing from Wigan Warriors just days earlier. Littler was a late replacement for Tom Armstrong who took ill before the game with tonsillitis.
Oliver Wilkes scored twice in three minutes as Leigh dominated the early stages against a Rochdale side they had beaten in the league a week ago at the Sports Village. Wilkes’ first came in the fifth minute after taking a short ball near the line, capitalising on a good run by Hopkins. Martyn Ridyard added the conversion.
Wilkes was over again just three minutes later. Leigh ran the ball on the last tackle and space opened up for Wilkes to cut through. Ridyard again kicked the conversion.
It got even better for Centurions in the 24th minute when a spell of sustained pressure near the Rochdale line ended with a walk-in try for Ridyard. He also added the goal to give Leigh a commanding 18-0 lead.
But Rochdale hauled themselves back into the game with two tries in four minutes. Quick hands to the right ended with winger Sean Casey scoring out wide but Paul Crook was unable to add the conversion.
Nine minutes before the break, Hornets full-back Wayne English finished off a slick 30 metre attack, sprinting under the posts for a try which Crook goaled.
Leigh were unfortunate not to be further in front by half-time after Matt Sarsfield went in only for the ‘try’ to be disallowed for a forward pass.
Six minutes after the restart, Ryan Brierley scored the game’s best try. He took the pass on halfway, got half a metre clear of the first line of Rochdale defence then sprinted to the corner. It was the game’s best moment by some distance. Ridyard’s conversion from touch opened up a 14 point lead.
Soon after, some good approach play orchestrated by Brierley and Ridyard ended with Gregg McNally sliding in at the corner. Ridyard was unable to add the goal. But again, Leigh couldn’t shake off this determined Rochdale side.
A bizarre restart saw the ball bounce up off the slippy surface and hit McNally on the head. Rochdale’s Jordan case was quickest to pounce for a freak try. Crook’s goal made it 16-28.
On the hour, Rochdale got within a converted try of Leigh again. An ambitious counter attack ended with a kick ahead being grounded by English. Crook’s goal cut Leigh’s lead to just 28-22.
It looked increasingly like Rochdale would score again and potentially take the game to extra time. Leigh’s task was made all the more difficult when Littler was sin-binned for lying on 16 minutes from time.
Despite some nervy moments for the Centurions defence near the end, they held out to guarantee their place in the next round.
Leigh: McNally, Higson, Pitman, Littler, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Spencer, Penkywicz, Wilkes, Sarsfield, Haggerty, Hopkins. Subs: Beswick, Thornley, Acton, Emmitt
Tries: Wilkes 2, Ridyard, Brierley, McNally
Goals: Ridyard 4 (from 6 attempts)
Rochdale: English, Casey, Davies, Ratu, Sheridan, Crook, Millard, Cookson, Dandy, Thompson, Baines, Clare, Tilley. Subs: Gilchrist, Marsh, Bowman, Case
Tries: English 2,Casey, Case
Goals: Crook 3 (from 4 attempts)
Referee: David Sharpe
Weather: Showers throughout