Leigh Centurions 34 Rochdale Hornets 22
LEIGH remain top of the Kingstone Press Championship thanks to a hard earned win over bottom club Rochdale at the Sports Village.
A Tom Armstrong try two minutes from the end finally gave Leigh some breathing space after they had been pegged back from 28-10 to 28-22 with 12 minutes remaining.
The Rochdale second half fightback suggests Sunday’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup fourth round tie between the two sides at Spotland will be just as tense.
Such a close finish seemed unlikely at half-time when Leigh led 22-4 thanks to four well worked tries. Leigh coach Paul Rowley was without forwards Martin Aspinwall and Matt Sarsfield. Rowley also gave a home debut to Australian centre Cameron Pitman who was named the sponsor’s man of the Match after an eye-catching display, especially in defence.
Liam Kay and Ryan Brierley scored two tries each while Jamie Acton and Tom Spencer had busy days in the pack.
There were only 26 seconds on the clock when Liam Kay finished off a 70 metre move. Armstrong did well to break clear and Kay raced in for a try which Martyn Ridyard was unable to convert.
Kay got his second 15 minutes later. This time a dummy from Ryan Brierley created hesitancy in the Rochdale defence and his long pass found Kay in space to score. Ridyard added the extras.
Centurions continued to dominate but saw a score ruled out by the referee in the 19th minute - Kurt Haggerty’s pass to Adam Higson was judged to be forward by referee Jamie Bloem.
Leigh did get their third try soon after however. Some short passing in midfield created the gap for Gregg McNally to race 25 metres to the line. Ridyard’s goal made it 16-0.
But Rochdale were back in the game eight minutes before half-time when a kick to the corner was collected by winger Gaz Langley and he was able to squeeze in at the corner. Paul Crook was off target with the conversion.
Moments before half-time Leigh ensured they’d have an 18 point lead at the break when a stylish attack ignited by the busy Kay ended with Ridyard’s inside pass to Brierley who sprinted in. Ridyard’s conversion made it 22-4 at the break.
Tommy Goulden saw a try disallowed minutes after the restart before Rochdale scored their second try through sub Adam Bowman. Paul Crook added the goal. Hornets were invigorated by the score and started to enjoy some good spells of pressure in the Leigh half. But their hard work was undone when on 52 minutes, a loose pass was scooped up by Brierley and he raced in to score from just inside his own half. Ridyard’s goal opened up what looked to be a match-winning 28-10 lead.
But an altercation after the play-the-ball just after the hour mark saw Leigh’s Acton and Tony Suffolk of Rochdale sin-binned. The incident appeared to fire up Rochdale and they scored twice in three minutes through Chris Baines and Danny Davies. Crook goaled both to reduce Leigh’s lead to just six points.
The visitors continued to dominate and moments after a 40-20 kick had put them within sight of the Leigh line, they saw a try ruled out for a forward pass. Having rode their luck, Centurions secured victory when quick passing got Armstrong in at the corner. Ridyard’s touchline conversion made it 34-22.
In the dying seconds, Brierley was tripped by Langley just inside the Hornets half and the incident was placed on report. With time almost up, Ridyard couldn’t kick the resulting penalty which would have denied Rochdale a deserved bonus point.
Leigh: McNally, Higson, Pitman, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Spencer, Beswick, Acton, Haggerty, Goulden, Barlow. Subs: Penkywicz, Thornley, Wilkes, Emmitt
Tries: Brierley 2, Kay 2, McNally, Armstrong. Goals: Ridyard 5 (from 6 attempts)
Rochdale: English, Langley, Davies, Ratu, Teo, Crook, Millard, Cookson, Tilley, Thompson, Baines, Case, Suffolk. Subs: Marsh, Sheridan, Bowman, Clare
Tries: Langley, Bowman, Baines, Davies. Goals: Crook 3 (from 4 attempts)
Referee: Jamie Bloem
Pitch: Very good
Weather: Sunny but windy