Featherstone Rovers 34 Leigh Centurions 14
Leigh Centurions’ dream of reaching the Cooperative Grand Final at the first attempt were dashed when Featherstone Rovers staged a second half comeback to storm to victory.
It brought to an end Leigh’s seven match winning run, but at least they get another chance to claim a rematch with the Rovers if they can beat another of their bogey sides in Sheffield Eagles this Thursday night.
Yet, if Leigh can play like they did in that first half then they certainly can see off the Eagles and even the Rovers. Unfortunately they need to get a grip of their discipline and with 14 second half penalties given away, Featherstone didn’t need any other invitation to take hold of this game to beat Leigh for a fourth time this season, book themselves a third successive Grand Final appearance and the right to hang on to their Champions crown. It all started well for the visitors and it didn’t look like Leigh were going to need a second attempt to put themselves through to the September 30 Grand Final date at the Halliwell Jones Stadium when they roared into a 10 point lead.
It looked good for the Centurions when John Duffy and Martyn Ridyard linked to send in Craig Briscoe and Ridyard converted after just two minutes.
The Centurions struck again when Ridyard set up a try at the corner for John Pownall some eight minutes later, and although Ridyard missed the goal Leigh were looking good as their forwards ripped home with Tommy Goulden and Tom Spencer to the fore.
Featherstone cut the gap when Maloney plunged over for a 24th-minute try, but the Centurions increased their lead to 14-6 on the stroke of half-time when Finn’s speculative kick to the corner saw Pownall scoop up up the ball and race the length of the field for a spectacular 95 metre effort for his second try.
Leigh had looked in command and with Duffy and Ridyard going well and Greg McNally a constant threat from the back, the Centurions fans were eager for the second half. But what a difference there proved to be.
Nine minutes into the second half, Rovers struck back when Matt Gardner lost the ball on his try own line and Stuart Dickens pounced for a try that was converted by Finn.
Leigh were starting to see the penalties go against them and Finn then kicked two penalties to put Featherstone ahead for the first time.
Leigh’s Greg McNally and Gardner both had efforts ruled out by the video referee, firstly for obstruction and then for a debatable forward pass, before Rovers went further ahead when Finn’s slick pass sent Maloney charging in for his second try.
Featherstone sealed victory 12 minutes from time when Maloney put in Ian Hardman and to compound Leigh’s misery Kevin Henderson was sent off in the last minute for a high tackle on Kyle Briggs.
Thankfully Leigh get a second chance to book their first final appearance since 2004, but they must beat the side that knocked them out for the previous two seasons, to do so.
Tries - Maloney (20,59), Dickens (49), Hardman (66)
Goals - Finn 8/8
Leigh Centurions: McNally; Maden, Littler, Gardner, Pownall; Ridyard, Duffy; Ostick, Beswick, Spencer, Briscoe, Goulden, Thornley; subs - Brierley, Taylor, Henderson, Gallagher.
Tries: Briscoe (8), Pownall (10,40)
Goals: Ridyard 1/3
Dismissal: K Henderson (77) for high tackle
Half time: 6-14
Referee: G Stokes (Wigan)