“Forwards carry the piano, backs play the piano.”
It’s a well used cliché quote, first attributed to Maurice Bamford, a fantastic character and coach to many professional and amateur teams, including the full GB team.
Maurice was putting simply that forwards do the hard work in a game and set up the chances for the backs to shine.
It’s a fact borne out by the statistics with Leigh’s backs scoring 12 hat-tricks between them this season up to and including the Featherstone game with four by Liam Kay, three each for Gregg McNally and Ryan Brierley and one each to Jonny Pownall and Adam Higson.
Hat-tricks by prop forwards are pretty rare, so rare in fact that Fuifui Moimoi’s hat-trick against Featherstone Rovers is believed to be only the fourth such occasion in Leigh’s long history.
The first such instance was Paddy O’Neill, a great Leigh forward in the early days of the Northern Union. He scored a hat-trick for Leigh in a Lancashire Cup-tie against Warrington in October 1906 in an 18-31 defeat.
In those days there were no set positions for forwards and the Leigh team played in un-numbered shirts. But newspaper reports of the time highlighted the scrummaging skills of O’Neill and his team-mate Aaron Lee who was referred to as the ‘striker’ or ‘hooker’ so it is reasonable to assume that O’Neill was the equivalent of a modern day prop forward.
Fast forward to 1990 and Mark Sheals, now a successful actor became the second Leigh prop to score three tries in a game. Mark achieved the feat in a second division game against Barrow at Hilton Park just before Christmas as Leigh won 40-4. Even more impressive was that all his tries came in the first half.
In the previous season Sheals had scored a hat-trick for his old club Swinton against Huddersfield, at the time becoming only the second Lions’ forward in history to score three tries in a match.
After the match Mark said: “In the Huddersfield game two of my tries came late on and none were particularly spectacular. But in the Barrow game everything seemed to go right and, as they were the first tries of the match, they set us up for what was a good win.
“The first was set up by good work by Bo Beardmore, the second following a brilliant run by Mick Round and the third after a set move involving Brian Case. It’s always good to get on the score-sheet but to get three was a great Christmas bonus.”
It was well into the summer era of the game that Chris Hill emulated the feats of O’Neill and Sheals. Chris scored a hat-trick from prop in Leigh’s 52-12 National League One victory at Oldham in September 2006.
And against Featherstone Rovers at LSV Fuifui Moimoi, who along with several teammates had attended the film premiere of Sheals’ film The Caravan earlier in the year became only the fourth man to join this illustrious list with the first hat-trick of his distinguished career.