Leigh Centurions 12 North Wales Crusaders 24
CHAMPIONSHIP newcomers North Wales Crusaders scored a last minute try to kill off Leigh’s hopes in a closely fought friendly at the Sports Village.
The game took place at Leigh East, having been originally scheduled for last Sunday at the stadium but postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.
It essentially Leigh’s under 20s with a scattering of first team regulars including Steve Maden, Craig Briscoe, Martin Aspinwall, Anthony Bate and Ryan Duffy.
The match also offered opportunities for fringe players such as Australians Cameron Pitman and Michael Dengate to make their case for a senior starting spot.
It was a strong Crusaders team which included eight substitutes, which was always going to test the home side on a cold and windy evening.
The visitors started strongly with two tries inside the first 13 minutes. First Michael Platt raced onto a kick into the in-goal area and then ex-Leigh winger Adam Clay crossed out wide. Tommy Johnson converted one from two to give the Welsh side a 10-0 lead.
Centurions struggled to build pressure, despite the promptings of half-backs Matt Pendlebury and Josh Ward, while Ryan Duffy was the pick of the forwards.
It was Pendlebury who sparked Leigh into life as he kicked ahead for Ward to score in the 27th minute. Ward also kicked the conversion.
Centurions finished the half strongly and almost scored again when Anthony Bate was brought down inches short of the try line.
Nine minutes into the second half, Crusaders extended their lead when a high bomb was somehow kept in play by some quick passing allowing Platt to score a second try.
Centurions responded well with Andy Thornley going close to scoring, but he was held up over the try-line.
Moments later the pressure told for Leigh when a short pass to Duffy saw the prop forward barge his way over for a try which Ward converted, cutting the deficit to 12-14.
But Leigh were unable to capitalise on their territorial superiority and were again undone on the counter attack when second rower Stephen Bannister cut infield to score a try which Dan Birkett was unable to convert.
The six point gap didn’t look like it was going to be enough for Crusaders, especially when Leigh started to keep the ball alive in ever more desperate attacks.
But some poor decisions on the last tackle kept costing Leigh and they were made to rue those missed opportunities in the last minute when Crusaders stand-off Chalky White was put clear and raced to the line. Birkett’s goal gave his side an unassailable 12-point lead with less than two minutes remaining.
Leigh continue their pre-season preparations with a friendly against last year’s beaten Grand Finalists Warrington Wolves at the Sports Village on Sunday.