Leigh Centurions 40 Keighley Cougars 14
A second half hat trick of tries from super-sub Ryan Brierley sparked a much needed second half revival for Leigh Centurions to keep them on course for a second place finish in the Co-operative Championship.
But it was far from as convincing as the scoreline suggests with a lack lustre first half frustrating coaches and fans alike as Leigh struggled to break down a resilient and dogged Keighley Cougars, who had seemingly learned great deal since their 26-0 home defeat by the Centurions a couple of weeks ago.
Yet the second half was to be a different story as Leigh followed the lead of half back Martyn Ridyard and Bob Beswick, to take the game to the Cougars and create the space that the free scoring Brierley was able to exploit as Leigh moved clear of their opponents.
It had been tough the other week to break down the Cougars, but this time, the visitors hit the straps from the first whistle and their audacious beginning reaped rewards when the lively Sam Obst shot from dummy half and a bewildering move that involved three players ended with Obst taking Danny Lawton’s pass to score a try that Lawton could not goal.
Tom Spencer and Michael Ostick were taking the ball up hard for Leigh but their counterparts Neil Cherryhome and Andy Schickell were tough to tackle and Leigh’s defence was being sorely tested.
Eventually Leigh did get their own attack going and on 14 minutes a clever Beswick kick was snapped up by Kevin Henderson to grab the try that Ridyard goaled for the lead.
Yet that that didn’t halt Keighley’s resolve and despite losing full back Craig Moss to a cracking Tommy Goulden tackle, the Cougars continued to push Leigh back as the home side made numerous errors. The nearest to another score came when Brierley broke, but as he put Stuart Littler away , a forward pass was called and that was that leaving Leigh hanging on to a tenuous 6-4 interval lead.
Leigh needed a bright start to the second half and got it when Ridyard chased his own high kick and wrestled the ball from Gavin Duffy to crash it down for a try he goaled.
But Keighley responded when Ridyard had the ball snatched back from him by Jason Demetriou off Feather’s kick and Lawton goaled.
Then came the turning point as Fijian international, Semi Tadulala went high on Leigh’s Greg McNally and received a yellow card from referee Gareth Hewer. Within minutes Leigh had scored again when Ridyard exploited the extra man and put in winger Dean McGilvray, before adding the extras. Brierley then claimed his second with a 75 metre return to Demetriou’s attempted clearance kick, for another goaled try, and when Tadulala returned it was just in time for a Beswick 40/20 to set up the position from which McNally linked to put McGilvray in for his second try and Leigh’s third in seven devastating minutes.
Tadulala pulled back a Keighley try, but they were a spent force, and two more cracking Brierley tries to complete his hat trick in the final eight minutes plus Ridyard’s sixth goal, ensured Leigh’s dream was still very much alive.
Leigh Centurions: McNally; Maden, Littler, ardener, McGilvray; Martyn Ridyard, Beswick; Osticvk, Nicholson, Spencer, Briscoe, Goulden, Henderson; subs (all used) - Brierley, Mendeika, Taylor, Gallagher.
Tries: Henderson (14), Ridyard (43), McGilvray (54,61), Brierley (58.72.76)
Goals: Ridyard 6/7
Tries: Obst (4), Demetriou (45), Tadulala (66)
Goals: Lawton 1/3
Sin bin: Tadulala (50) for preventing 20 metre restart.
Referee: Gareth Hewer
Half time: 6-4