Hunslet Hawks 6 Leigh Centurions 36
Leigh Centurions’ hopes of a comprehensive victory at Hunslet Hawks were washed away in a second half deluge that changed the fast track playing surface into a waterlogged paddy field during this Championship clash.
But thankfully Leigh had done the damage during the first period when they had charged in for six super tries to claim a 32-0 interval lead that was always going to be enough to secure the three League points, no matter what Hunslet did.
And it wasn’t the home side that proved Leigh’s biggest problem, but the weather as something akin to a tropical storm hit the South Leeds stadium to make it a handling lottery as players and ball skidded and splashed their way through the largely fruitless next 40 minutes.
Leigh started superbly with their powerful forwards led by Michael Ostick and Rob Parker and with Anthony Nicholson scurrying behind at dummy half, pushing the home pack back from the first whistle.
Within four minutes Leigh had their first points on the board when a superb pass from the dominant John Duffy sent Tommy Goulden racing through the gap on a 40 meter scoring run that saw him shrug off the attempted tackle of Hawks full back Stuart Kain, en route. Martyn Ridyard couldn’t goal but he was on the mark three minutes later when his kick was taken by Matt Gardner, and the big centre used his weight to crash over for a converted try.
With Sam Hopkins running powerfully alongside MacGraff Leuluai and Goulden and Stuart Littler a threat, Leigh had a third try when Hopkins powered in from close range on 11 minutes.
Hunslet gave Leigh a bit of a hint that they could create problems when Kain broke, but hooker Luke Haigh spilled the ball when he should have scored, and fired by that let-off Leigh powered up field for Duffy to send Parker under the posts with consummate ease.
Leigh were playing some sparkling rugby on a firm wide pitch, and it was Duffy’s pass that seemingly put Gardner in for his second only for the centre to be adjudged to spill the ball in the act of scoring. Never-the-less Leigh were not denied long and Greg McNally arced in off a Duffy pass, before the outstanding try of the game on the stroke of half time.
Started by Ridyard deep in his own half, the ball moved through some 13 pair of hands, before Gardener went in for Leigh’s seventh try and that huge interval lead with the promise of plenty more points to come in the second half.
But what a difference! The rains came and when the two teams entered the arena for a second time, the running track was flooded and huge swathes of the pitch were showing standing water. Even so, Leigh scored within three minutes of the restart as Littler crashed in for an ungoaled try.
The rain deluged and huge swathes of the pitch were under water. Both teams manned up, but the game became a farce, and though the Match Adjudicator did appear to suggest the players should leave the field after lightning and thunder, the sides carried on.
Hunslet scored the only other try when Josh Nathaniel intercepted a Kevin Henderson pass and sprinted 80 metres for Luke Halliwell to goal. Hard as they tried, Leigh could not get another score, and the win was tempered by the relief that the game had not been abandoned and Leigh didn’t need to play it again.
Try: Nathaniel (75)
Goal: Halliwell 1/1
Leigh Centurions: McNally; Maden, Littler, Gardner, Pownall; Ridyard, Duffy; Ostick, Nicholson, Parker, Leuluai, Goulden, Hopkins. Subs: Beswick, Henderson, Thornley, Taylor.
Tries: Goulden (5), Gardiner (7, 39), Hopkins (11), Parker (18), McNally (28), Littler (46)
Goals: Ridyard 4/7
Half time: 0-32
Referee: Matt Thomason