Leigh Centurions 26 Featherstone Rovers 16
By Dave Parkinson
LEIGH marched on in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup thanks to a home performance built on hard work, guts, no little skill and a hat-trick from star halfback Ryan Brierley.
The Centurions’ 11th game of the 2014 season began in superb fashion with a try after 45 seconds.
Swift play down the left saw Liam Kay slice through and Ryan Brierley was there to collect the offload and scoot to the posts. Martyn Ridyard goaled but Featherstone soon found their feet.
Ian Hardman kicked for the corner and Will Sharp touched down. Gareth Moore missed the conversion, the first of four misses for the halfback but Rovers swept into the lead after 15 minutes when a speedy move down their right saw one time Leigh dual contract man James Mendeika go over.
In this period Rovers were running hot and although Sean Penkywicz went within millimetres of getting Kay over for a try, Featherstone grabbed their third try when swooping on a broken move for Hardman and Mendeika to combine and send Sharp into the same corner.
Once more Rovers attacked but when a ball went loose, Liam Kay swept up possession and ran down field.
Cameron Pitman took the next drive before Sam Barlow charged at the defence and offloaded perfectly to get Gregg McNally in space.
The fullback then held the ball long enough for support to arrive and Brierley went in for his second with Ridyard tying the game up.
There were still chances before the break as Pitman was held over the line and Jamie Cording knocked on an angled kick.
Then with the clock ticking down, Mendeika split the defence only for Kay to chase back and dislodge the ball.
Rovers dominated the opening stages of the second half and forced numerous repeat sets without fully working a way through the defence.
Leigh held out and after forcing a couple of drop outs of their own, surged into the lead after 57 minutes. Ridyard was the creator, kicking forward for Kay to win the race but the halfback was forced from the field.
The Centurions put that behind them to claim a crucial try after 64 minutes when Kurt Haggerty crashed over having seen an earlier effort wiped off for double movement.
With eight minutes remaining Leigh made the game safe when the outstanding Tommy Goulden surged down the right and sent the ball inside for Ryan Brierley to speed over for his third. He also converted to open a 26-12 advantage.
Rovers hit back with a late try but it was Leigh that progressed to the next round.
Centurions: McNally; Higson, Pitman, Armstrong, Kay; Ridyard, Brierley; Wilkes, Penkywicz, Duffy, Sarsfield, Goulden, Barlow. Subs: Beswick, Spencer, Haggerty, Hopkins.