Centurions stage amazing fightback to win at Halifax

Leigh's Matt Sarsfield
Leigh's Matt Sarsfield

Halifax 28 Leigh Centurions 36

LEIGH staged a stunning fightback to win at Halifax and stretch their winning run in 2014 to nine games.

In what was billed as the Championship game of the season so far, the home side raced into a 24-0 lead after just 26 minutes.

But the league leaders showed great character to battle back and were level 12 minutes inside the second half. This despite having Sam Barlow sent off in the 47th minute for apparently hitting Halifax winger Gareth Potts as he was being substituted.

Barlow, playing against his former club and booed every time he got the ball like a pantomime villain, had already been sinbinned in the first half. In fact, two players from each side saw yellow in a fractious period just before half-time meaning we were watching 11 aside for a while.

It was Barlow’s try just before half-time which gave Leigh a glimmer of hope after they were punished by Halifax’s flying start.

Andy Bracek, Ross Divorty and Ryan Fieldhouse - twice - scored tries in a sensational 11 minute spell. With Steve Tyrer adding all four conversions, Halifax looked set for victory at 24-0 with only 26 minutes gone.

A couple of altercations - the first being especially volatile - saw a player from each side sent off in separate incidents in the 28th and 32nd minute. Bracek and Barlow were first to go quickly followed by Halifax’s Tony Tonks and Jamie Acton of Leigh.

The incidents served to give Leigh something of a gee up. They had some decent possession then got lucky with a try on half-time when a high kick was spilled and Barlow was first to react. Ridyard’s conversion meant Leigh were not quite out of it.

Centurions carried on where they’d left off after the restart, scoring within two minutes of kick off. A well-placed Ridyard pass found Tommy Goulden - who was outstanding for Leigh - on an angled run and he touched down. Ridyard’s goal meant Leigh were within two converted scores.

It got better for Leigh five minutes later when a Ridyard pass appeared to hit a Halifax player and Matt Sarsfield was quickest to react and scored a try which Ridyard goaled. In the aftermath of the try, Barlow got his marching orders for the incident with Potts and you could have been forgiven for thinking that would stop Leigh’s fightback in its tracks.

In fact it galvanized Leigh who were attacking with confidence and width at every opportunity, making a mockery of their handicap. They drew level in the 52nd minute when Adam Higson made a cutting break before kicking ahead and Ryan Brierley was quickest to the bouncing ball. Ridyard’s goal meant we were all square at 24-24.

The momentum was with Leigh and although Ridyard saw a drop goal attempt go wide, they scored twice in three minutes to complete the revival. Tom Armstrong, enjoying another strong game in the centres, finished off a slick attack to score and give Centurions the lead for the first time. Ridyard added the extras.

Another Higson break caused chaos on the Halifax edges and his pass inside saw Brierley finish off in style from 30 metres. Ridyard’s sixth goal gave Leigh a 36-24 lead.

Halifax managed a try from Ben Heaton four minutes from time but Tyrer’s missed conversion meant they were still more than a converted try behind and Leigh were able to see the game out for a famous victory.

Teams

Leigh: McNally, Higson, Pitman, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Spencer, Penkywicz, Wilkes, Sarsfield, Goulden, Hopkins. Subs: Beswick, Acton, Barlow, Emmitt

Tries: Brierley 2, Barlow, Goulden, Sarsfield, Armstrong. Goals: Ridyard 6 (from 6 attempts)

Halifax: Fieldhouse, Saxton, Tyrer, Heaton, Potts, Murrell, Mennell, Ambler, Kaye, Bracek, Manning, Divorty, Adamson. Subs: Holden, Tonks, Davies, Casey.

Tries: Fieldhouse 2, Bracek, Divorty, Heaton. Goals: Tyrer 4 (from 5 attempts)

Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow

Pitch: Good

Weather: Overcast

Attendance: 2282