Rowley and Ridyard savour special night for Centurions

Leigh coach Paul Rowley and Man of the Match winner Martyn Ridyard after Leigh beat Featherstone at Headingley
Leigh coach Paul Rowley and Man of the Match winner Martyn Ridyard after Leigh beat Featherstone at Headingley

Leigh Centurions boss Paul Rowley said he was incredibly proud to have led his team to the Kingstone Press Championship title.

Leigh saw off Featherstone 36-12 in the final at Headingley, adding to the League Leaders Shield which they won with three games of the season remaining.

“Pride is the over-riding emotion tonight,” said Rowley who was a player when Leigh last won a Grand Final in 2004.

“A lot of emotion came out at full-time and I milked it for everything it was worth,” he said.

“I’m proud of the players, the fans, the town and the club. This meant so much tonight and I thought the players got what they deserved.

“The players have been a close unit all year and to share memories like this with such people is unique and wonderful.”

Although never behind in the game, Leigh had to battle through a tough period at the start of the second half which saw Featherstone get within eight points.

“There was a really harsh run of penalties against us,” said Rowley. “But once we got the ball in hand we were pretty unstoppable and undefendable. Featherstone are a strong team but we played sharp and deserved the victory.

“We play a certain brand of rugby which produces tries like we scored tonight and it’s entertaining and effective. They have got to be brave to play that way.”

Rowley paid special tribute to Man of the Match winner Martyn Ridyard. “He’s Super League quality,” said Rowley. “He’s been on an upward curve for the last four or five years and he showed tonight why he is the Championship Player of the Year. Martyn is a Leigh boy and he is so important to the club. He is a real leader and a real talent.”

Rowley said the season could act as a springboard for when the rugby league changes its structure in 2015.

“We are ambitious like all clubs,” he said. “We want to reach the promised land of Super League but so does everybody else. We want to cement our place in the top 16 of rugby league and improve steadily. This group has probably got five years together and with a few key additions each year we are not far off. I think some Super League clubs would worry if they got us in a Cup game next year. The club has made the move to full-time for next year to try and aid that progression. We are a capable outfit.”

Man of the Match winner Ridyard was also proud of the way Leigh had stormed the Championship in 2014.

“This means everything,” he said. “As a Leigh lad I’ve enjoyed seeing the team build and credit must go to the coaching staff. To get up there and win a Grand Final for my home town is brilliant.”