Leigh Centurions head coach Paul Rowley admitted his players were bitterly disappointed despite pushing First Utility Super League heavyweights Leeds Rhinos all the way in their Tetley’s Challenge Cup quarter-final.
Rowley’s Championship outfit arrived at Headingley Carnegie on the back of a 16-game winning run in 2014, and they played like a side at the top of their game as they kept pace until the final seven minutes before losing 25-12.
Tom Spencer and Tom Armstrong went over to put the Centurions 12-6 up after half an hour and the visitors had chances to edge in front in the second half with the scores level.
Young hooker Robbie Ward scored the game-breaking try to break Leigh’s hearts before Zak Hardaker also crossed two minutes from time.
The scoreline flattered Leeds at full-time but that was no consolation to Rowley.
“We didn’t want to speak about being proud and putting on a good performance, we genuinely believed we could win,” he said.
“I’m as proud as ever but just disappointed because I don’t like losing. We’ve got a winning culture.
“We’ll get over the disappointment quickly but at the moment it is a bitter disappointment at not winning.”
Asked if he took satisfaction from putting the magic back in the cup, Rowley added: “I would have been more satisfied getting to Wembley, which sounds ridiculous coming from the coach of a Championship club.
“You might think I’m disillusioned but if you don’t believe in what you are doing then you shouldn’t be here.
“Every moral fibre of me wanted to put my strongest team and beat Leeds at Headingley Carnegie. We nearly did it but nearly isn’t good enough.”