Leigh Centurions 36 Bradford Bulls 24
LEIGH came back from 20-6 down to beat Bradford 36-24 in a truly amazing game at the Sports Village which saw six sin-binnings.
In front of Centurions’ biggest home gate in 10 years and their highest for a competitive game since leaving Hilton Park, Paul Rowley’s side had to demonstrate all the qualities which helped them become Kingstone Press Championship Champions last year.
Newly relegated Bradford dominated the early stages as Leigh appeared to be suffering from stagefright.
“I thought we came out looking nervous,” admitted Leigh coach Paul Rowley. “Maybe we were overconfident but at half-time it looked like Bradford were living up to their tag as bookies’ favourites.
“But we have been in positions like this before and once we settled into the game and started getting some ball, things changed. As bizarre as the game was, it panned out to be a terrific story with a happy ending.”
It was hard to see Leigh recovering from Bradford’s blistering start. Hooker Adam O’Brien went over for a try from close range after just four minutes and was soon followed by Chev Walker. Harry Siejka added both conversions and Bradford led 12-0.
But on a rare trip into the Bulls’ 20, Leigh were able to hit back as Martyn Ridyard’s delicate inside kick was well read by Ryan Brierley who collected the ball to score under the posts. Ridyard converted.
Leigh’s fightback was spiked by a yellow card for Jamie Acton after he was penalised for a punch in the 20th minute. Moments later, Gregg McNally appeared to be floored by a punch from Danny Williams and a mass brawl ensued which went dangerously close to ending up in the crowd. Referee Joe Cobb issued yellow cards for McNally and Williams.
As things continued to fizz, we saw a fourth yellow card - this time Bradford’s Siejka for going in on late shot on Sam Barlow. It was 11 vs 11 and the match threatened to explode when Fuifui Moimoi joined the action for his senior Leigh debut.
Leigh went close to scoring again nine minutes before the break but the final pass to the tryline-bound Adam Higson was deemed forward. Then we had the game’s fifth yellow card - Kurt Haggerty of Leigh sinbinned for tackling a player in the air. Bradford made full use of their extra man advantage with a try from Etu Uaisele which Siejka was unable to convert and it remained 6-20 at half-time.
Within 10 minutes of the restart, Liam Kay produced a stellar finish to score in the corner and he was soon followed by McNally after a telling pass from Brierley. Ridyard converted the latter from touch to get Leigh within four points.
Centurions’ hopes were further enhanced when Siejka was sinbinned for a second time for obstruction on the hour. A shattering break from Fuifui Moimoi put Leigh on a roll and Sean Penkywicz sent Tom Armstrong over for a try which leveled things at 20-20. Ridyard added the conversion to give Leigh the lead for the first time in the game, 22-20.
But the lead proved short-lived as Clough was first to react to a Tommy Goulden knock on and raced 30 metres to the try-line. Siejka missed what seemed a routine conversion but Bulls led again 24-22.
Inkeeping with the breathless nature of the game, Leigh led again six minutes from time as McNally raced in for a second try after some outstanding work from Kay. Ridyard added the conversion to make it 28-24 with six minutes remaining. A long range Ridyard penalty soon after gave Leigh a converted try lead and moments later, Brierley almost landed a drop goal but it hit the post.
As the game entered the final moments, some astute work from Penkywicz saw Leigh score the killer try which Ridyard converted to seal a famous win.
Leigh: McNally, Higson, Worthington, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Acton, Penkywicz, Wilkes, Haggerty, Goulden, Barlow. Subs: Beswick, Hopkins, Moimoi, Emmitt
Tries: McNally 2, Brierley, Kay, Armstrong, Penkywicz
Goals: Ridyard 6/7
Bradford: Mullaney, Uaisele, Purtell, Walker, Williams, Gaskell, Siejka, Clough, O’Brien, Sidlow, Olbison, Pitts, Addy. Subs: Mellor, Tahraoui, Ulugia, Walshaw
Tries: O’Brien 2, Walker, Mullaney, Vaisele. Goals: Siejka 2/5
Referee: Joe Cobb
Pitch: Very good
Weather: Dry and bright