Leigh Centurions 34 Rochdale Hornets 22
LEIGH Centurions were made to scrap all the way for the league points against Rochdale but had enough fire power to be able to extend their winning run at the top of the Kingstone Press Championship to three games.
Once again Leigh started strongly and built a comfortable half-time advantage only to see the visitors work their way back into the game and claim a losing bonus point.
Things looked good early on when after the first drive of the game from Tom Spencer, Leigh switched the ball quickly left for Tommy Goulden and Tom Armstrong to open the defence.
Liam Kay supported, burst away from two defenders and dashed over the line with 30 seconds of the match gone. Although Martyn Ridyard missed with the conversion, he was at the hub of most of Leigh’s best moves in the first 40 minutes.
Rochdale then mounted a couple of attacks on the Leigh line, forcing a drop out before Gaz Langley saw the ball trickle through his outstretched fingers when it looked easier to touch down.
Ridyard’s 40/20 put the Centurions in ascendancy and they made it count by drawing the defence in near the line for Ryan Brierley to cleverly pass left for Kay to notch his second.
Ridyard converted and the Leigh half back was soon in action again when his clever pass found an incisive Gregg McNally who scythed to the line from 40 metres. The conversion made it 16-0 after 26 minutes but back came the visitors.
Their half back Paul Crook was in equal pivotal form and his kick to the corner was plucked out of the air by Langley who just managed to outjump Tom Armstrong.
In the other centre, Cameron Pitman, making just his second appearance for the club was having a busy afternoon, making a series of important carries to get the hosts forward.
Three minutes from the break, Leigh broke through again. Kay did a lot of the running down the left, Ridyard supported and Brierley took his pass to sail between the posts for Ridyard to goal and make it 22-4 at half time.
The new half brought a disallowed try from Tommy Goulden and despite Adam Bowman going over the line for Hornets, Leigh looked more dangerous with Higson unfortunately pulled back in full flight.
With 53 minutes gone, Higson and Pitman took their frustrations out on Mike Ratu. The big centre spilled possession under pressure and Brierley scooped up and blazed over from half way.
At 28-10 the game became fractious and a confrontation led to the powerful Jamie Acton and Rochdale’s Tony Suffolk sent to the sin bin.
While both players kicked their heels for 10 minutes, the extra space seemed to benefit Hornets and in particular Crook who masterminded field position and created tries for Chris Baines and Davies.
That brought Rochdale right into the contest with Leigh holding a narrow advantage, but the Centurions rode their luck with Crook being denied a try thanks to the call of a touch judge.
With time ticking down, Leigh needed inspiration and it was provided by Brierley and Higson. Brierley kicked long and an enthusiastic chase from Higson resulted in Wayne English hitting the ball out of play for a drop out.
From the resulting possession, Leigh worked Rochdale for Armstrong to cross in the left corner and Ridyard added the touchline conversion to make the winning 34-22 scoreline.
Leigh: McNally; Higson, Pitman, Armstrong, Kay; Ridyard, Brierley; Spencer, Beswick, Acton, Haggerty, Goulden, Barlow. Subs: Wilkes, Penkywicz, Thornley, Emmitt.
Referee: Jamie Bloem