Leigh 11 Oldham 10
A BEN Reynolds drop goal with a minute remaining saw Leigh snatch victory over Oldham at the Sports Village.
The half-back, who was also captain for the day, kept his head to land the one-pointer just a few minutes after he converted Jonathan Walker’s try which leveled the game.
Leigh’s late fightback preserved their 100 per cent winning record in preseason friendlies adding to successes over Wigan Warriors, Keighley Cougars and North Wales Crusaders.
With the Kingstone Press Championship opener against Bradford Bulls just a week away, Leigh coach Paul Rowley chose to field what was effectively a reserve side. Only Jonathan Walker, Michael Platt, Jonny Pownall and Ben Reynolds could be described as first team squad players.
So it was left to the youngsters at the club to step up against a decent Oldham team featuring several players on dual registration from Huddersfield Giants including former Leigh full-back Scott Grix.
“I thought it was a wonderful achievement from our young lads to beat a strong Oldham side,” said Rowley. “I think our reserves are good enough to compete in Championship One.
“It was very ugly in attack but we defended resolutely against strong opposition. It was pleasing to get the win although these games are not always all about that. The lads can be very proud.”
Oldham, one of the preseason favourites to win Championship One having been beaten in last year’s Grand Final by Hunslet, made a bright start.
Former Leigh winger Adam Clay seemed destined to open the scoring in the 10th minute having been put clear in the corner but Cameron Pitman came to the rescue with a perfectly timed tackle which forced Clay into touch.
But Oldham did score moments later when loose forward Michael Lawrence powered over from 10 metres. Steven Roper added the conversion.
Despite enjoying more possession, Centurions struggled to create many clear openings but they scored in the 20th minute. Jack Hansen, Corey Lee and Platt combined to send Pownall in at the corner. Reynolds’ conversion from near the touchline hit the post.
As the half came to an end, Hansen was tackled into touch inches from the tryline. This came after Reynolds’ kick was well taken by Pownall who in turn flicked a pass up to Platt and he found Hansen. Oldham also blew a great opportunity as the hooter sounded with a wayward pass ending a promising 30 metre attack which split open the Centurions defence.
Oldham continued to enjoy the better of things after the restart and scored a second try in the 48th minute. Jake Holmes was quickest to react after a kick to the corner but Sam Gee was unable to add the conversion.
As the game went on there were errors from both sides on a damp, cold afternoon at the Sports Village. But Leigh produced the stronger finish and there was a frantic last five minutes. Walker barged over after taking a short ball from close range and Reynolds’ conversion made it 10-10. Centurions continued to press and with time almost up, Reynolds kicked a drop goal to give his side the lead for the first time in the game.
With time almost up, Oldham had the chance to regain the lead with a penalty from half-way but Tom Dempsey’s effort was well short.
Leigh: Lee, Pownall, Platt, S Peet, Pitman, Reynolds, Hansen, Liku, Foster, Walker, Dixon, Tracey, J Peet. Subs: Hill, Halton, Maden, Holland, Harper, Cox
Tries: Pownall, Walker
Goals: Reynolds 1/2 + 1DG
Oldham: Grix, Clay, Holmes, Gee, Ward, Roper, Wood, Neal, Owen, Mason, Crowley, Roberts, Lawrence. Subs: Neild, Hughes, Joy, Ward, Joy, Files, Tyson, Dempsey, Thompson
Tries: Lawrence, Holmes
Goals: Roper 1/1
Weather: Cold and damp
Referee: George Stokes