Last gasp win keeps Leigh on top

Leigh's Adam Higson scored twice at Keighley
Leigh's Adam Higson scored twice at Keighley

Keighley Cougars 26 Leigh Centurions 28

ADAM Higson scored a last minute try to snatch victory for Leigh and keep them top of the Kingstone Press Championship.

With barely a minute left and with Centurions trailing 26-24, the winger went in at the corner to ensure his side maintained their perfect start to the season.

Leigh had seen an 18-6 lead whittled away by a determined Keighley side who went ahead 10 minutes from the end.

“We have a lot of respect for Keighley, especially on their home ground,” said a relieved Centurions coach Paul Rowley.

“Their performance wasn’t a surprise given the way they had started the season.”

After scoring 52 points in each of their first three games of the season, this was a different type of test for Leigh and Rowley acknowledged it may in fact do them a power of good in the long run.

“We have been in a true contest today,” said Rowley. “Games like that can do you good. We were not arrogant enough to think we could just turn up here and go home with another big win without earning it.

“But we showed determination to keep going until the last minute and we are really happy to get the win.”

Higson’s late winner rescued a uncharacteristically error-strewn second half from Leigh who found themselves confined to defending for long periods.

Keighley, playing down hill after the restart, enjoyed plenty of possession and will be disappointed they only managed two tries.

There was no indication of the late drama to follow as Leigh built a 20-12 half-time lead. Bob Beswick scored after just 90 seconds for a try Martyn Ridyard converted following earlier strong runs by Tom Spencer and Tommy Goulden.

The home side were level in the 10th minute when quick passing to the right got Richie Barnett in at the corner. Danny Jones kicked the conversion in the 11th minute.

Leigh’s response was swift; attacking kicks by Ridyard and Ryan Brierley set up Tom Armstrong for the try which Ridyard also goaled.

Centurions had a try chalked off in the 24th minute – Matt Sarsfield unlucky after the touch judge spotted a forward pass in the build-up. But on the half hour Brierley continued his amazing scoring run – winning the race for the ball after Stuart Littler hacked forward a loose pass just inside his own half. Another Ridyard goal made it 18-6 and Leigh appeared to be well set.

Five minutes before half-time, the busy Paul Handforth set up James Craven with a nice inside pass and the conversion from Jones cut Leigh’s lead to 18-12.

Just before the break, Ridyard kicked a penalty after Keighley were caught holding down. As the hooter sounded, Ridyard had a failed shot at goal from long distance after Keighley were penalised for a ball-steal.

Keighley made an excellent start to the second half and some slick approach work saw centre Daley Williams in plenty of space to score. A Jones conversion cut Leigh’s lead to just two at 20-18.

Centurions restored their six point cushion in the 57th minute as a long pass to the corner got Higson in for hist first try. Ridyard was unable to convert from the touchline.

But back came the Cougars and with an hour played, Neil Cherryholme’s well-timed pass put Jack Lee over and the Jones conversion levelled the scores at 24-24 with around 20 minutes left.

Keighley looked the side most likely to score next as their forwards kept rolling down the slope forcing Leigh into some desperate defence. As it was they settled for a penalty with 10 minutes left, again for a ball steal. Jones kicked the simple goal to give Keighley the lead for the first time in the game, 26-24.

But there was to be final twist as Leigh worked the ball right and Higson squeezed in with a last minute try which settled it.

Leigh: McNally, Higson, Littler, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Spencer, Beswick, Aspinwall, Sarsfield, Goulden, Barlow. Subs: Wilkes, Penkywicz, Emmitt, Haggerty.

Tries: Higson 2, Beswick, Armstrong, Brierley. Goals: Ridyard 4 (from 6 attempts)

Keighley: Craven, Barnett, Lawton, Williams, White, Jones, Handforth, Shickell, Haigh, Hesketh, Lynam, Rawlins, Lindsay. Subs: Sheriffe, Cherryholme, Graham, Lee. Goals: Jones 5 (from 5 attempts)

Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow; Attendance: 1,309