Leigh Centurions 22 Halifax 14
BOB Beswick sealed a dramatic victory for Leigh over Halifax in a bruising encounter to extend Centurions’ club record winning run to 24 games.
The hooker scored at a time when both sides had 10 players following a flurry of yellow and red cards.
It was a bizarre end to what had been a fascinating game which Halifax looked like winning for long periods. Leigh had already lost Tom Armstrong with 13 minutes remaining having been sent off for an alleged head butt on James Saltonstall.
But a tackle on Kurt Haggerty five metres from the Halifax try-line sparked a mass brawl which saw the game held up for several minutes.
Referee Matt Thomason took advice from his assistants and sent off Leigh’s Jamie Acton along with Steve Tyrer and Andy Bracek of Halifax.
Yellow cards were also issued to Mitch Cahalane of Halifax and Leigh forward Haggerty.
It meant the final moments of the game were played out as 10 vs 10 with Leigh defending a narrow 18-14 lead.
The fiery clashes were not entirely unexpected given the history of games between these sides. In the same game last year, Sam Barlow had to spend the night in hospital after a late challenge by Dane Manning which saw the Halifax player banned for 10 games.
Beswick’s try two minutes from time won the game for Leigh who had trailed 14-6 with half an hour remaining.
Halifax had opened the scoring in the seventh minute after some quick passing to the right got stand-off Scott Murrell over. Steve Tyrer was unable to convert. The try came as the fans inside the Sports Village were paying tribute to the tragic Keighley player Danny Jones who died last week aged just 29. In the sixth minute - chosen because of Jones’ squad number - fans sang “Stand up for Danny Jones” and as the song grew louder, it was hard not to get goose bumps. Before the game, a minute’s silence was held in respect of Jones who was born in Halifax and also played for the club.
With the high tide of emotion relenting, Centurions went ahead moments later - Jonny Pownall made a great break after a quick 20 metre tap restart and the ball was worked out to Liam Kay who finished well in the corner. Martyn Ridyard converted brilliantly from the touchline.
The try signalled a good spell of pressure from Leigh but they were unable to get over the line despite a near miss from Haggerty.
With 13 minutes of the half remaining, a kick through took a kindly bounce for Halifax centre Ben Heaton and he regathered the ball to score. Tyrer’s conversion edged Halifax further ahead at 6-10 which was also the half-time score.
Heaton scored a second within five minutes of the restart and the visitors were good value for a 14-6 lead.
The introduction of Ben Reynolds from the bench in place of Ridyard coincided with Leigh’s best spell of the game during which they scored twice to take the lead. Beswick and Gregg McNally linked in midfield before Greg Worthington cut inside to score, Ryan Brierley took over the goal-kicking responsibilities and landed a cracker from touch.
Leigh continued to dominate and they retook the lead 17 minutes from the end when a Brierley kick took a freakish bounce and sat up for Tommy Goulden to collect and score. Brierley’s conversion gave Leigh an 18-14 lead.
Armstrong was red carded after apparently head-butting Halifax’s Saltonstall and the incident merely lit the blue touch paper for the
Leigh: McNally, Pownall, Worthington, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Moimoi, Beswick, Acton, Haggerty, Dixon, Barlow. Subs: Reynolds, Hopkins, Goulden, Wilkes
Halifax: Johnson, Saltonstall, Heaton, Tyrer, Saxton, Murrell, Craven, Ambler, Mancely, Cahalane, Divorty, Manning, Bracek. Subs: Kaye,
Spencer, Robinson, Moore
Referee: Matt Thomason
Pitch: Very good
Weather: Overcast but dry