Leigh Centurions 26 Hull KR 36
LEIGH’s Super 8 campaign got off to a disappointing start as they failed to build on a 24-6 half-time lead against Hull KR, going down 36-26.
The Ladbrokes Challenge Cup finalists ended Leigh’s unbeaten two year home record thanks to a strong second half comeback.
Leigh opened the Middle 8s with a great first half to leave Rovers, who face Leeds in the Challenge Cup final later this month, shell-shocked.
They led 24-6 at the break but Rovers dug deep to run in five tries in the second half with Shaun Lunt plunging over for an important touchdown.
Hull KR trailed 26-24 before the outstanding Lunt scored the try from short range and then Ben Cockayne grabbed a late touchdown.
It was a tough lesson for Leigh who showed they have the capabilities to worry several Super League teams in the qualifiers.
Leigh, who had already taken Super League scalps of Wakefield and Salford in the Challenge Cup this season before losing to Warrington, ran out of steam in the second half.
Hull KR made only one change from the side which stunned Warrington in the Challenge Cup semi final with Dane Chisholm replacing the injured Albert Kelly at stand off.
Leigh, undefeated in their last six matches, were at full strength aiming to maintain their remarkable record at the LSV Stadium in front of a 4,454 crowd.
The Centurions made a lively start with typical enterprising play but came unstuck after nine minutes when Greg McNally spilled the ball near the Rovers line after a strong run by Liam Kay.
It proved costly with Chisholm racing the full length of the field for a spectacular try - his first for the club - with Mantellato adding the conversion.
Kay almost snatched a try for Leigh from Martyn Ridyard’s long pass but was bundled into touch.
It came as no surprise when Leigh drew level after 18 minutes after Kieran Dixon was penalised for holding down Adam Higson.
Gaz Hock’s smart off load in a tackle sent Ryan Brierley over for his 34th try of the season with Ridyard tagging on the conversion.
Brierley was again involved for Leigh’s second try after taking a pass from Sam Barlow on the half way line.
Brierley raced clear before his kick was collected by McNally who darted under the posts for a superb touchdown to make it 12-6.
Hull KR lost Cockayne with a facial gash before Leigh added a third try in eight minutes with Andrew Dixon powering through the defence on an angled run to stretch the lead to 18-6.
Leigh finished the first half on the attack with only a loose pass from McNally to Kay preventing Hull KR going further ahead before the video referee ruled Tom Armstrong had scored in the corner with Ridyard booting the touch line conversion.
Outplayed Rovers could have no complaints at the 24-6 interval score line and needed an early score after the break.
Kieran Dixon obliged after taking a pass from Graeme Horne who ploughed through Andrew Dixon’s tackle with Mantellato landing the conversion.
McNally almost went over from Sam Hopkins pass but was held down illegally by Kris Welham with Ridyard’s penalty making it 26-12.
Hooker Micky Higham caused Rovers problems with his incisive running from dummy half but Leigh lost Hopkins who limped off with a leg injury.
Hull KR gave themselves renewed hope when Maurice Blair surged through Greg Worthington on the hour from Adam Walker’s pass to cut the deficit to 26-18.
Lunt was held up over the line as Rovers piled on the pressure and Tony Puletua plunged through the cover from short range to reduce the arrears to two points.
Rovers went ahead with the impressive Lunt knocking off several defenders to touch down with the video ref giving the final verdict.
Mantellato landed his fifth goal to make it 30-26 and Cockayne added a late try when Kay lost possession.