Featherstone Rovers 54 Leigh Centurions 16
Leigh’s dreams of holding on to the Northern Rail Cup were derailed by a rampant Featherstone Rovers that hit the Centurions like an express train to steam through to the Final.
Leigh were always going to be up against it through injury to key players and a three day turn around to facilitate the game being televised.
Ironically the net result was not the spectacle the TV backers wanted and a weary Leigh were blasted out of the competition through a 10 try salvo fired by the Championship champions.
Yet despite the score line Leigh were in this game far more than the eventual margin suggests and with Martyn Ridyard trying hard to organise the midfield and such as Anthony Nicholson, Sam Hopkins and Tom Spencer going well, Leigh gave the Rovers a couple of anxious moments most notably at the start of each half.
But with Liam Finn directing the big, robust and non-nonsense Rovers six, and four-try Sam Smeaton grabbing his scoring opportunities, the home side proved a formidable obstacle for Leigh to overcome for the third time this season striking just before the break to ensure that the visitors would have a mountain to climb in the second half.
Playing down the slope Leigh started brightly and both Stuart Littler and Hopkins had half chances escape them as the first spilled Ridyard pass and the second was hauled down short by Ian Hardman.
But Featherstone play their small pitch superbly and after Smeaton was hauled back for a forward pass, he cut through to send his winger Jack Briscoe in for a try that Finn goaled on 13 minutes. Within three minutes Adam Clay hauled down Hardman on the break, but Smeaton was soon over the whitewash for his first try, before spinning through three defenders for his second some four minutes later as Finn goaled twice.
Leigh responded with a superb try as Rob Parker was making his presence felt when coming off the bench and worked with Steve Maden to put Ken Henderson in at the corner.
It looked like Leigh might close the gap as Michael Ostick and Craig Briscoe ran well, but on the stroke of half time Leigh gave away a penalty as Maden appeared to hit out whilst in possession, and immediately Andy Kain put in Smeaton for his hat trick try and a 24-4 interval lead.
The second half started with Leigh running strongly as Maden and Clay, Littler and Matt Gardener went well, and when Ridyard split the defence off the pass of a patched-up John Duffy, Hopkins was on hand for the try of the match to which Ridyard added the extras.
Leigh fans dared to hope only to have Smeaton dash their hopes with his fourth try. Within two minutes Tommy Saxton crashed over too before Greg McNally broke clear to put Stuart Littler in for a third Leigh try.
But as Leigh faltered, and players took the knocks Featherstone relentlessly hit home and in the final quarter Stuart Dickens crashed under the posts, Finn scampered over and then Briscoe claimed his second and Featherstone’s tenth try to complete Leigh’s misery.
Tries: Briscoe (13, 76), Smeaton (16, 20, 40, 49), Saxton (28, 52), Dickens (64), Finn (69)
Goals Finn 7/10
Leigh Centurions: McNally; Maden, Littler, Gardner, Clay; Ridyard, Brierley; Nash, Nicholson, Spencer, Hopkins, Thornley, Briscoe; subs (all used) Henderson, Duffy, Ostick, Parker
Tries: Henderson (36). Hopkins (42), Littler (59)
Goals Ridyard 2/3
Half Time 24=4
Referee Mr Jamie Leahy