Leigh Centurions 35 North Wales Crusaders 22
Leigh scored twice in the last 10 minutes to finally decide a see-saw battle with North Wales Crusaders at the Sports Village.
Liam Kay and Sean Penkywicz crossed in the closing stages for tries which Martyn Ridyard converted - then Ridyard denied the visitors a deserved bonus point with a last minute drop goal.
There was never more than six points in it for 70 minutes though Centurions were only behind for 10 minutes in the whole game.
The win sees Leigh cement their place at the top of the Kingstone Press Championship having won all five of their league games in 2014.
Adam Higson scored a 16 minute hat-trick for Leigh for whom Tommy Goulden, Oliver Wilkes, Bob Beswick and Tom Spencer impressed in the pack. There were also some key plays from Penkywicz and Ridyard while Ryan Brierley raced almost the length of the field for a thrilling interception try.
North Wales Crusaders started brightly and led after seven minutes. Back to back penalties afforded the Welsh side a great attacking position and the ball was moved quickly to the left where winger Rob Massam had room to touch down. Tommy Johnson converted brilliantly from the touchline.
The home side, having been forced to defend for much of the early stages started to enjoy some quality possession with Ridyard and Brierley busy in midfield.
Centurions got off the mark in the 17th minute, A Ridyard 40-20 kick had put Leigh into a great position and from the scrum quick hands to the right got Higson in for his first try. Ridyard was unable to add the extras.
The same move paid off for Leigh a few minutes later. Tommy Goulden’s break was supported by Ridyard and Brierley’s pass found Higson who claimed his second. Again, Ridyard could not add the goal.
Higson scored his and Leigh’s third try seven minutes before half-time. This time it was a long ball from Gregg McNally which gave him the opportunity to finish off. Ridyard again failed to add the extras.
Crusaders were level within six minutes of the restart after Adam Lawton shrugged off a couple of tackles on a 25 metre charge to the line. Johnson added the conversion.
And just when it looked like the visitors were going to score again, Ryan Brierley picked off a long pass and raced 90 metres to score under the posts. This time Ridyard did add the conversion and Leigh led 18-12.
North Wales weren’t behind for long - drawing level in the 58th minute after some good approach play created space for Johnson to score a try he also converted.
Leigh regained the lead just a few minutes later as an astute Penkywicz pass got Wilkes over. Ridyard’s second goal opened up a six point lead but almost inevitably it wasn’t to last. North Wales prop Mark Offerdahl crashed over by the posts but Johnson, having kicked beautifully all afternoon, missed the relatively simple conversion which would have tied up the game at 24-24.
With a two point lead to defend, Leigh decided their best option was to attack and they produced a stirring finish in front of another 2,000-plus Sports Village crowd. Kay produced a clinical finish when one-on-one with Johnson to score in the corner but Ridyard’s missed conversion meant Crusaders were just a converted score away.
So there was understandable relief from the home fans when Penkywicz ghosted in from dummy half - his try converted by Ridyard to virtually seal the win. With time almost up, Ridyard kicked a drop goal to extend Leigh’s lead to 13 thus denying North Wales a precious bonus point.
Leigh: McNally, Higson, Littler, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Spencer, Beswick, Aspinwall, Sarsfield, Goulden, Barlow. Subs: Penkywicz, Wilkes, Haggerty, Emmitt
Tries: Higson 3, Brierley, Wilkes, Kay, Penkywicz
Goals: Ridyard 3 (from 7 attempts) + 1DG
North Wales: Johnson, Clay, Reardon, Hulme, Massam, Mousdale, Dallimore, Walker, C Ashall, Offerdahl, Bannister, Lawton, Wild. Subs: Stephens, Mills, Reid, K Ashall
Tries: Massam, Lawton, Johnson, Offerdahl.
Goals: Johnson 3 (from 4 attempts)
Referee: George Stokes