Two of the Kingstone Press Championship’s heavyweights meet at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday with a place in the quarter finals of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup at stake.
Centurions currently top the table and have won their last 10 games in all competitions. But Rovers are in good form themselves and will arrive at the Sports Village confident of reaching the last eight of the Cup.
Leigh and Featherstone Rovers have met on nine previous occasions in the Challenge Cup, Rovers running out winners on six occasions, including semi-final triumphs in 1952 and 1974.
The teams first met in the competition in February 1948 when first round ties were played over two legs. In the first leg Leigh won 18-3 at Post Office Road, getting on top in the forwards in the second half. Standoff Jimmy Rowe scored Leigh’s first try just before halftime and Frank Daley, Harry Dagnan and Jack Wood added second half tries. The return leg was dominated by Leigh giving a debut to their new record signing Jimmy Ledgard. The ex-Dewsbury fullback kicked two penalty goals and Wood scored two fine tries on a pitch that resembled a sea of mud in Leigh’s 10-6 victory before a crowd of 10,000. Leigh lost at Warrington in the next round.
In March 1952 Leigh met Rovers in the semi-final at Headingley, and a stern, forward duel took place on a cold and windy day before a crowd of 35,000. Ledgard gave Leigh the lead with a penalty goal in the ninth minute and they maintained that slender advantage well into the second half. With the elements at his back Miller levelled the scores with a penalty after 63 minutes and kicked two more in the final six minutes to send Rovers to Wembley for the first time in their history, where they lost 18-10 to Workington Town in the final.
Leigh rued missed chances when the sides met again in a third-round tie three years later. Rovers edged home 13-9 at Kirkhall Lane before a crowd of 20,000, Metcalfe scoring a crucial try and Fennell kicking four goals, Fox the other. Bill McFarlane gave Leigh hope with a late try and Ledgard kicked three goals. Rovers lost to Workington in the last four.
Leigh beat Rovers at home 17-11 in a first round tie in 1957 after another tough game. Jack Gibson, Bill Kindon and Brian Fallon scored tries and Joe Hosking kicked four goals before a 12,000 crowd. Leigh went on to reach the semi-final but lost to Barrow after a replay.
Rovers’ pack dominated a third round tie at Post Office Road in 1962, and beat Leigh 23-9 before 11,000 spectators. Fox (2), Waterworth, Lingard and Lambert scored Rovers’ tries, Mick Martyn grabbing Leigh’s consolation. Rovers lost to Wakefield Trinity in the semi-final.
Forty years ago Leigh faced Rovers in the semi-final at Headingley before the smallest semi-final crowd in the competition’s history, just 7,971. Leigh were well in the game until Rovers took control in the second half with tries by Bridges, Dyas, Smith and Mason to run out winners by 21-14. Tommy Davies and Denis Boyd scored Leigh’s tries and captain Jimmy Fiddler kicked four goals. Rovers lost 24-9 to Warrington in the final at Wembley.
In 1978 player-coach John Mantle led from the front as then second division Leigh put up a stern fight against Rovers in a first round tie at Hilton Park. But Paul Coventry scored three tries as Rovers ran out 23-14 winners before a crowd of 5,539. Dave Macko and Mantle scored tries for Leigh, who had Paul Grimes sent-off late in the first-half. Rovers lost to Leeds in the semi-final.
It was to be 25 years before the teams met again in the competition, Rovers defeating the Centurions 28-22 in a fourth round tie in 2003. In a game of six sin-binnings, four against Leigh, the visitors staged a late revival with tries by Dale Cardoza, David Alstead and Damian Munro but Rovers held out in an exciting finish. Danny Seal scored two of Rovers’ four tries, Stuart Dickens kicking five goals. Rovers lost to Swinton in the next round.
Leigh v Featherstone Rovers in the Challenge Cup
Played 9, Leigh won 3, Rovers won 6, Points: Leigh 115, Rovers 134.
1948 First Round (two legs): Rovers 3 Leigh 18 (5,000); Leigh 10 Rovers 6 (10,000);
1952 Semi-Final (at Headingley): Rovers 6 Leigh 2 (35,000);
1955 Third Round: Leigh 9 Rovers 13 (20,000);
1957 First Round: Leigh 17 Rovers 11 (12,000);
1962 Third Round: Rovers 23 Leigh 9 (11,000);
1974 Semi-Final (at Headingley): Rovers 21 Leigh 14 (7,971);
1978 First Round: Leigh 14 Rovers 23 (5,539);
2003 Fourth Round: Rovers 28 Leigh 22 (2,257)