Leigh Centurions 12, Leeds Rhinos 60
Leigh Centurions Carnegie Challenge Cup semi final dream was blown away by a clinical display from Super League Champions Leeds Rhinos.
But although the undoubted difference in power and speed was there for all to see, Leigh gave their fans plenty to cheer and were able to walk out of the tie with their heads held high after a gutsy and courageous display that saw them score two cracking tries and come within a whisker of grabbing two more that may well have been ruled good, had there been a video referee.
The Centurions pack was outstanding and with half backs Bob Beswick and Martyn Ridyard prepared to take on their opposite numbers, Greg McNally linking intelligently from the back and Stuart Littler, Steve Maden, Matt Gardner and Jonathan Powell eager to get involved, Leigh posed more than a passing threat to the World Champions.
Of course it was the Leigh forwards who bore the brunt of the challenge and with Rob Parker, James Lewthwaite and Tommy Goulden outstanding, and Anthony Nicholson impressing, the fans had plenty to cheer.
However Leeds had pace to burn and with Kevin Sinfield amassing 28 points from two tries and 10 goals as he steered his side around the park, the home fans were treated to some spectacular tries from the international packed visitors for whom the introduction of Ryan Bailey and ex-Leigh man Richard Moore from the bench certainly gave them a fillip when Leigh were hinting at a difficult night for the Yorkshiremen.
Leigh started strongly and had the best chance on six minutes when Steve Nash spilled Ridyard’s pass for a potential try from close range. But two minutes later, Leeds scored against the run of play when a Sinfield kick, hit a Leigh player and quick as a flash Lee Smith was on to the ball to race 50 metres and send Danny McGuire under the post for Sinfield to goal.
Leigh hit back in spectacular fashion, keeping the ball alive superbly through a dozen or so passes before Littler put Maden away and his inside ball saw Tommy Goulden crash in for a spectacular touchdown that Ridyard goaled to level on 12 minutes.
Leigh were giving as good as they got, but it was another kick that was their downfall on 20 minutes, when McNally misjudged Sinfield’s testing ‘bomb’ and as it bounced New Zealander Brent Webb was on hand to snap up and dash under the sticks for a second goaled try.
Leeds third score came just short of the half hour mark when winger Ben Jones-Bishop was put in at the corner, and McGuire sent Ryan Hall racing the length of the field for another superb try and goal.
But Leigh didn’t waver and when they put on a set move from the scrum, Lewthwaite sent McNally streaming for the line with Leeds in pursuit from 50 metres out. Incredibly Webb and Jones-Bishop made the tackle on the line, and McNally’s ‘score was ruled out for losing the ball, something that maybe a video ref could have countered, and Leigh had to settle for trailing 24-6 at half time.
Leigh continued to battle bravely in the second half with Sam Hopkins, Michael Ostlick and Ryan Brierley going close to breaching the Leeds line.
But after Leeds pressure Rob Burrow darted over and Leigh then conceded tries to Shaun Lunt and Sinfield quickly added others.
Leigh kept going though and on the hour mark McNally did get his try when Pownall and Goulding had gone close before the Leigh full back regathered his own kick to score and Ridyard again goaled,
Leigh almost scored again when Parker burst over following more good play, but Littler was adjudged to have hit Bailey in back play and again without a video ref, the try was ruled out.
Leeds finished strongly with Smith, Sinfield and then Hall on a 90 metre intercept completing their 10 try tally to which Sinfield added an impeccable 10 goals.
Leigh were out but they had gone out with pride intact.
Leigh Centurions: McNally; Maden, Littler, Gardner, Pownall; Ridyard, Beswick; Ostlick, Nicholson, Parker, Laithwaite, Goulden, Nash; subs - Brierley, Briscoe, Hopkins, Gallagher
Tries: Goulden (12), McNally (60)
Goals: Ridyard 2/2
Leeds Rhinos: Webb; Jones-Bishop, Smith, Hardacre, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Leuluai, Burrow, Kirke, Jones-Buchanan, Hauraki, Clarkson; subs - McShane, Bailey, Moore, Lunt
Tries: McGuire (8), Webb (20), Jones-Bishop (31), Hall (34,80), Burrow ( 47), Lunt (53), Sinfield (58, 74), Smith (70).
Goals: Sinfield 10/10
Half time: 6-24
Referee: Ben Thaler