Late drama as Centurions snatch win over Eagles

Gregg McNally scores for Leigh against Sheffield. Photo: Brian King
Gregg McNally scores for Leigh against Sheffield. Photo: Brian King

LEIGH scored three tries in the last 10 minutes to extend their club record winning run to 20 games against Sheffield at the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster.

Paul Rowley’s side were trailing 22-18 as the game entered its final stages and it looked like Sheffield were going to be the first side to beat Leigh since last July.

Tommy Goulden of Leigh Centurions on the charge against Sheffield. Photo: Brian King

Tommy Goulden of Leigh Centurions on the charge against Sheffield. Photo: Brian King

But a stray pass from the otherwise impeccable Eagles full-back Quentin Laulu-Togagae on half way was snapped up by Ryan Brierley and the half-back streaked away to score under the posts. Martyn Ridyard’s conversion nudged Leigh into a 24-22 lead.

Centurions then scored further tries through Jake Emmitt and Brierley to give the scoreline a rather flattering look.

“I thought we were brutal in defence,” said Leigh boss Rowley.

“But we kept giving Sheffield the ball back either through penalties or silly errors.

“I don’t think we have played as dumb this season. But I am delighted with the way we showed heart and energy to deal with a very good Sheffield side.

“I am over the moon for the boys. We can learn a lot from it.”

Sheffield themselves came into the game on the back of an excellent winning run and games between the sides in recent years have produced some epic encounters such as the Northern Rail Cup Final in 2012.

“We were a bit clunky but if we can play bad against Sheffield and win then I will take that.

“The way to play against Sheffield is to play tough, get through your sets and tackle hard. I thought people like Jake Emmit, Sam Hopkins and Sam Barlow did that.

“We can be classy but sometimes you’ve got to be hard and we can do that.”

Centurions were missing hooker Sean Penkywicz while Gareth Hock made his first start for the club.

Sheffield started off at a furious pace and took the lead in the 11th minute. Scrum half Cory Aston, son of Sheffield coach Mark, scored under the posts after taking a short pass from Tony Tonks. Pat Walker added the conversion.

But Leigh were soon level. Bob Beswick popped out a short pass from dummy half and Sam Barlow arrived at pace to score from close range. Martyn Ridyard added the conversion.

The home side continued to enjoy the better of things and regained the lead in the 26th minute as a worked move at the scrum saw full-back Laulu Togagae join the line to devastating effect, racing 25 metres to the corner. Walker was unable to convert.

But Leigh were level from the restart as Ridyard’s kick off took a freakishly huge bounce backwards in the arms of the alert Tommy Goulden and he was able to score from 10 metres. Ridyard missed the conversion.

Centurions hit the front for the first time in the game eight minutes before half-time as a Ridyard kick through was well judged by McNally and he dropped on the ball to score. Ridyard’s goal extended his side’s lead to 16-10 and he also kicked a long range penalty early in the second half.

But when McNally was sin-binned for dissent in the 54th minute, Sheffield seized their chance and scored twice with Leigh down to 12 men. Winger Scott Turner and Laulu-Togagae both crossed in quick succession and with Kyle Briggs converting both, Eagles led 22-18.

Crucially for Sheffield, they couldn’t get the all important next score and when Laulu-Togagae threw an aimless pass near half-way, Brierley was there to scoop up the ball and race clear to score.

With heads dropping in the Eagles camp, Leigh finished on a high.

The win was sealed when Emmitt powered in from close range then when a short restart attempt went wrong, Barlow popped up the pass for Brierley to race away and score his second try.

Leigh: McNally, Pownall, Platt, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Hock, Beswick, Emmitt, Dixon, Goulden, Barlow. Subs: Foster, Hopkins, Aspinwall, Acton

Sheffield: Laulu-Togagae, Turner, Yere, Smeaton, Taulapapa, Briggs, Aston, Battye, Carlile, Tonks, Knowles, Langley, Walker. Dubs: Davis, Stringer, Davery, Thorpe

Referee: Mike Woodhead

Pitch: Good

Weather: Showery

Attendance: 1,454