Leigh Centurions 16 Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 17
Leigh’s hopes of automatic promotion to Super League look to be over after they were narrowly beaten by Wakefield at the Sports Village.
Centurions, beaten by Hull KR and Salford in their previous two games, were hoping for a win which would reignite their promotion push and for long periods they looked on course against the team which finished bottom of Super League.
With Jacob Miller crossing for a pair of tries, it was also revenge for Wakefield’s Challenge Cup exit at the hands of Leigh at Belle Vue in May.
The eagerly awaited clash between the Centurions, by some distance the best team in the Championship this year, against Super League’s wooden spoonists lived up to expectations, with little to choose between the pair in a fiercely-contested affair.
Leigh could hardly have made a worst start, with Martyn Ridyard knocking on from the kick-off and prop Fuifui Moimoi losing the ball on his own 20-metre line to give their opponents an early chance to attack their line.
The Wildcats duly seized their opportunity, with impressive centre Bill Tupou squeezing out a return pass for full-back Lee Smith to go over for the game’s first try.
Smith added the touchline conversion to make it 6-0 but the Centurions soaked up the rest of the early pressure and scored from their first attack, with Moimoi crashing over from close range.
Visibly growing in confidence, Leigh began to turn on the style and hit their visitors with two tries in nine minutes to open up a 16-6 lead.
Right winger Jonny Pownall celebrated his 24th birthday by juggling with a cut-out pass from Ridyard to touch down before left winger Liam Kay twice hacked the ball forward after Ridyard had launched a speculative kick from a scrum on his own team’s 10-metre line.
It was a try that amply illustrated the Championship club’s attacking flair and, with Ridyard adding both conversions, Leigh were good value for their 10-point lead.
However, fleet-footed Wakefield stand-off Miller pulled a try back four minutes before the interval after a darting solo run and produced an almost identical run after 58 minutes to claim a second.
Smith’s second goal levelled the scores before Wakefield were reduced to 12 men after 61 minutes when hooker Michael Sio was punished for a ‘crusher’ tackle on full-back Gregg McNally.
The visitors were still a man short when Smith put over a drop goal to restore their lead.
Winger Chris Riley thought he had made the game safe for Wakefield when he scooped up a loose ball to sprint 40 metres to the line but the try was disallowed for a double knock-on.