Leigh Centurions 23
Batley Bulldogs 6
Free scoring Ryan Brierley blasted back from injury to grab a superb hat trick of tries that sent Leigh Centurions charging into the Northern Rail Cup Final with a cracking defeat of Batley Bulldogs.
But Brierley wasn’t the only one who stepped forward from the treatment room to put his body on the line to further the ambitions of the club, as Greg McNally, Matt Gardner, Simon Finnegan and dual registered Tom Spencer also played through the barrier after being unable to train all week.
Brierley grabbed his three tries, but it was Leigh’s incredible defence that frustrated Batley and when the opportunity arose, Leigh had Martyn Ridyard , Bob Beswick and McNally to find the gaps in the visitor’s line and claim the crucial tries.
Leigh got off to a great start when Brierley was quickest to Ridyard’s astute kick to touch down for a try that Ridyard goaled in the fourth minute. The tough running Sam Hopkins and Tommy Goulden were both denied tries by good Batley defence before Michael Ostick hauled down Batley’s Greg Johnson before Jason Walton lost the ball under more great Leigh defensive pressure.
But as Leigh weathered that storm they struck for their second try as Beswick and Ridyard combined to put Goulden away and he sent Brierley over for his second converted score on 17 minutes.
Batley again charged forward and after more pressure, that saw the hugely impressive Steve Maden and Stuart Littler putting in more defensive effort, the Leigh defence was finally breached when Alex Rowe crashed over the Leigh line. It didn’t look like he had got the ball down at all, and the video referee Ian smith spent ages deliberating before giving the try on the ’benefit of the doubt’ ruling. Gareth Moore goaled.
George Flanagan and Johnny Campbell were both hauled down millimetres from a score as Leigh held firm with Matt Gardner and Jonathan Pownall, Finnigan, Anthony Bates and Ryan Duffy putting in a huge effort. But with half time fast approaching and Goulden held close off a Ridyard kick, it was the Leigh half back who slotted over a field goal for a 13-6 interval lead.
The second half was just as tense as the first with McNally hauling down clean away Miles Greenwood , and Campbell losing a kick from Moore under pressure before Keegan Hirst was tackled on his back unable to get the ball down by Beswick and Goulden. Johnson and Campbell both had tries disallowed by the video referee. Leigh soaked it all up magnificently then on the hour mark as Leigh went up field, Brierley threw a superb dummy to slice through the visitors defence for his and Leigh’s third try.
Leigh still had to defend desperately but on 73 minutes scored a magnificent try of superb quality as Ridyard intercepted a pass inside his own 10 metre line, hared up field to put Pownall away before taking the return pass and then putting the kick to the corner for Gardner to win the race for the touchdown. Ridyard then goaled.
It was a great score and Leigh were through to their fourth Northern Rail Cup Final at Halifax on July 20.
Leigh Centurions: McNally; Maden, Littler, Gardner, Pownall; Ridyard, Brierley; Ostick, Beswick, Bates, Goulden, Finnigan, Hopkins: subs (all used) - Thornley, Penkywicz, Duffy, Spencer
Tries: Brierley (4,17, 60), Gardner (73)
Goals: Ridyard 3/5
Field Goal: Ridyard
Tries: Rowe (27)
Goals: Moore 1/2
Half time: 13-6
Referee: Jamie Leahy