Centurions’ “ugly win” sees them go 10 points clear at the top

Ryan Brierley touches down for Leigh at Whitehave. Photo: Brian King.
Ryan Brierley touches down for Leigh at Whitehave. Photo: Brian King.
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Whitehaven 10 Leigh 24

Leigh stretched their lead at the top of the Kingstone Press Championship to 10 points after a hard earned win at Whitehaven.

In what Centurions coach Paul Rowley described as their “ugliest” win of the season, a try from former Whitehaven favourite Gregg McNally proved to be the decisive moment in the 51st minute.

His touchdown following a clever reverse kick from Martyn Ridyard - then converted - opened up an eight point gap.

Leigh secured victory and denied Whitehaven a bonus point with another try nine minutes from time - Ryan Brierley finishing off after a clever pass in the tackle from Tom Spencer. Ridyard’s goal gave Leigh a 24-10 lead.

The win was all the more important given nearest rivals Featherstone suffered a defeat at Workington. It wasn’t a day for silky skills and building pressure was the key tactic for Leigh for whom Jake Emmitt, Tom Spencer and Matt Sarsfield impressed in the pack.

Looking for their 16th Championship win, Leigh found themselves behind after just three minutes. Whitehaven ran he ball on the last tackle and Jessie Joe Parker’s pass gave Craig Calvert a run to the line, just evading McNally’s challenge and the touch flag to score. Cain Southernwood was unable to convert.

The home side continued to dominate but they were left to rue several missed chances.

After soaking up so much pressure, Leigh were able to make some inroads into the Whitehaven defence. On their first real attack, Bob Beswick, playing in his 300th career game, sent a pass right to Brierley who in turn found Tommy Goulden running a good line to crash over and score. Ridyard added the extras.

Whitehaven had another glorious chance to score when Calvert got clear again but was denied by a well-timed tackle by Brierley to put him in touch.

Having weathered the initial storm, Leigh started to enjoy some space in midfield and scored a second try in the 28th minute. Jonny Pownall just had enough room to score in the corner as Leigh showed some quick passing to open up the home defence. Ridyard was unable to convert from touch but he did add a penalty soon after following a late challenge on Goulden as he chased Sean Penkywicz’s short kick.

Just before halftime, Whitehaven were reduced to 12 men when full back Tom Carr was sinbinned for a deliberate obstruction.

The home side started the second half brightly with a try from Parker, well converted by Southernwood to cut Leigh’s lead to just two.

Whitehaven continued to create and bomb chances during a long spell of sustained pressure in the Centurions half.

But Leigh showed patience when they had to and scored through McNally and Brierley to seal victory.

Leigh: McNally, Pownall, Pitman, Thornley, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Spencer, Beswick, Wilkes, Sarsfield, Goulden, Hopkins. Subs: Penkywicz, Hankinson, Acton, Emmitt

Tries: Brierley, McNally, Goulden, Pownall

Goals: Ridyard 4/5

Whitehaven: Carr, Ainscough, Taylor, Parker, Calvert, Seymour, Southernwood, Foster, Newton, Hans, McAvoy, Mitchell, Doran. Subs: Thorman, Crellin, Robinson, Tahrou

Tries: Calvert, Parker

Goals: Southernwood 1/2

Referee: Chris Kendall

Pitch: Good

Weather: Warm and sunny

Attendance: 959