Opinion: Centurions’ Super League dream is still alive ... but only just

Leigh half-back Martyn Ridyard launches a kick against Wakefield. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography
Leigh half-back Martyn Ridyard launches a kick against Wakefield. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography
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New Leigh Reporter columnist Dave Parkinson reflects on another defeat for Leigh in the Super 8 qualifiers

Winning their way into either an automatic promotion spot of the million pound game may sound like a tall order but it’s one that I feel Leigh Centurions are still capable of.

A third loss in as many qualifying games to Wakefield on Saturday, coupled with Bradford’s 41-10 hammering of Salford has made the Centurions promotion prospects that little bit tougher.

But, after everyone enjoys a short Wembley hiatus there is a run of three games against Championship clubs, all of which are winnable in my eyes and a game at inconsistent Widnes.

In my last article I mentioned where I felt the Centurions could improve and they certainly did this week. Following a slow start Leigh found their place in the game and after conceding the first try thanks to alertness from Lee Smith, they fought back with Fuifui Moimoi and followed that up with further tries from birthday boy Johnny Pownall and Liam Kay following a massive kick from the base of a scrum by Martyn Ridyard.

There was also an unfortunate (but on the balance of probability - correct) call to stop Ryan Brierley from scorching away on an intercept. I thought Leigh showed some good fight in the first half to establish their 16-6 advantage and like the bulk of the West and North stands I was looking forward to a comfortable advantage only for the Leigh DNA to throw up a risky attack at a time many other sides would have sacrificed style for conservatism.

The saying that comes to mind is “live by the sword, die by the sword” and Jacob Millers try before half-time gave the visitors just enough momentum for a big second half effort. There was also plenty to admire about Leigh in the second half. Martin Aspinwall and Tom Spencer were good, Jake Emmitt again proved his Super League class with a hard-working game and nothing got past Greg Worthington all game. He has certainly grown to be an important part of the Leigh armory in the right centre. Kay and Armstrong continued to look dangerous if given space and I reckon Armstrong must have run over a hundred metres for the third successive game. Ultimately though the old kicking game came into play with Leigh’s kicks and last tackle options often playing into the Wildcat’s hands while all too often at the other end, Wakefield were able to clear and push the Centurions back.

I was pretty impressed with Lee Smith throughout and after Miller’s second try, Michael Sio was binned for a “crusher” tackle on Gregg McNally. Smith certainly stepped up to help guide the visitors to victory.

When they nudged their way in front with a drop goal, I have to admit that I was still confident of Leigh victory, after all there was 11 minutes remaining. Time however just ran out and Wakefield’s experienced Australian boss Brian Smith was full of praise for Leigh’s attacking principles suggesting it took “every ounce of energy” from his side to close down the Centurions. He also shared warm words with Paul Rowley as the pair swapped over in their press conference.

While I know that all losses hurt, this one was disappointing as I thought overall, on balance, Leigh played the better rugby and created chances but couldn’t take them and that kicking game was something mentioned yet again, suggesting there will be lots of work again in training.

Bradford’s big win had Odsal rocking and it sounded like Jake Mullaney had a cracker. Like Lee Gaskell, Bradford are a different, more potent side with him in their ranks and they had plenty to prove after being routed by Wakefield last time out.

Rob Worrincy helped himself to a hat-trick as Sheffield Eagles finally flew in the Qualifiers at the expense of Halifax, while I had a second opportunity to see Hull Kingston Rovers as their kick-chase and eager defence proved the winning formula on a wet day in Widnes when you could tell from very early on that the Vikings weren’t really up for the battle.

With Wembley on their mind Rovers rested a few players, handing opportunities to teenagers Matthew Marsh and George Lawler. Both impressed in a low scoring affair that saw the visitors win 12-8. Having seen Widnes on several occasions this season due to my commitments with broadcasting for Warrington and Halton Hospitals I was expecting much more from the Vikings and local reporter John Lawless was right in his prediction.

I’m glad that week three of the Qualifiers finally saw the competition sparkle - it’s just a shame that Leigh didn’t add that extra shine!

One Leigh side that did add victory to their natural panache and flair at the weekend was Leigh Miners Rangers and my hearty congratulations to everyone involved following an excellent 40-10 road trip win at West Hull. In the Conference away wins often decide the difference between top, play-offs or mid table and after a couple of indifferent games on their travels I was really pleased to see Miners come out on top.

Sticking with Miners and through this column I’d like to bring attention to the fact that the club reaches its big five-oh next year. Miners Rangers have launched an appeal to all supporters, players past and present, or any followers of the game who might have memorabilia, photos, match reports, newspaper articles or memories to get in touch. All photos and other materials made available will be returned.

If you have any information, or would like to help please contact through their website (www.leighminersrangers.net), or social media (Twitter: @leighminersrl), by calling in on a matchday or by contacting Jeff Gorse at the club.

If you do fancy a bit of pre-Wembley rugby league entertainment in the town then Twist Lane is the place to be on Thursday night (27th) when Miners host Thatto Heath with a 7.30pm start.

Finally, congratulations must also go to the Centurions Reserves who top the table for the second successive year in what has proved a frustrating and stop-start competition. Paul Anderson deserves immense credit for the work he is doing with the club’s young players and The Leigh Reporter will be the first place to read about when and where their Grand Final will happen.