Leigh Centurions 24 Oldham 12
LEIGH Centurions claimed a scrappy win in their opening game of the Northern Rail Cup.
One of only three games to beat the wintry weather, it left a disappointing aftertaste at snowy Leigh Sports Village.
Overall, the game was perpetuated by handling errors and wrong options which displayed to everyone what a massive job Ian Millward has taken on, but unlike many occasions last season Leigh prevailed to take the win, which in itself is a positive.
The game started slowly with Oldham conceding several early penalties, however Leigh failed to take advantage and suffered a lapse in discipline themselves.
Deputy prop David Armitstead was the guilty party, sin-binned after just three minutes for back-chatting referee Ron Laughton.
During the next 10 minutes Oldham twice saw opportunities pulled back for forward passes.
First former Leigh player Neil Roden fired the pass for Mick Foggerty and then John Gillam was denied in the act of scoring thanks to another.
Leigh responded with a strong 50 metre break from Steve Maden but could not find a scoring play.
MacGraff Leuluai, who was one of Leigh’s best, then put down a pass by Robbie Paul and frustration continued with two further missed chances.
The afternoon threatened to turn really sour for Centurions when they lost ever consistent prop Chris Hill to a suspected dislocated shoulder.
Leigh knew they would have to take a chance soon and finally it happened.
The breakthrough came after 24 minutes when Paul linked and Dave McConnell passed right.
Although Oldham got hands on the ball, Maden collected the rebound to go over. Mick Nanyn missed the conversion attempt from way out on the right.
Still Oldham battled on, with former London Skolar Dave Ellison breaking to within inches of the line, while Leigh saw another chance bypass them when Martyn Ridyard, playing in an unfamiliar wing position, stepped inside from a Leuluai pass.
Leigh had been threatening for a couple of minutes by the time Foggerty was dispatched to the sin bin for interference in a tackle.
Centurions immediately made their advantage count when a quick pass from Tim Hartley released McConnell to open his try scoring account for the season.
A third try followed quickly when former Oldham skipper Tommy Goulden showed good speed and strength to split the defence from Paul’s pass to gallop 20 metres for the finish.
Nanyn’s first successful goal saw the Centurions clear 14-0 at half time.
Leigh attacked first in the second half and went within metres of the try line before loose hands saw a harsh knock on ruled against Ian Mort.
Oldham swept downfield and created their first chance of the second half through a clever kick from Matt Ashe.
Foggerty palmed back and only a last ditch tackle from Adam Higson denied Chris Clarke.
Leigh further extended their advantage after 51 minutes when Nanyn broke from Leuluai’s offload.
Oldham chased back, three times bringing the centre to ground without being penalised.
From the next play, the ball moved right at pace to Paul, and McConnell found Maden for his second try.
The visitors found inspiration from somewhere and scored the next two tries.
Neil Roden created the first with a threaded kick that saw Craig Littler get the slightest of scoring touches ahead of Onyango.
Four minutes later a towering kick from Ashe saw Foggerty and Maden contest and although the Leigh player felt he had been taken out, the ball broke for former Rochdale man Gillam to ground.
A period of five minutes then brought the best out of the Centurions as they moved up field.
Danny Meekin, Armitstead and Andy Ainscough played their part as the pack finally seemed to take control.
Paul placed a kick to the try line and an equally good James Taylor tackle forced Paul O’Connor behind his line.
Oldham worked hard to scramble and prevent a hat-trick score from Maden, before Dale Cunniffe spied his opportunity from close range and darted through from dummy half.
Nanyn goaled and the game looked safe at 24-8 with 13 minutes remaining. It proved an eventful day for Maden, who then switched to full back and was involved in giving the ball away via interception to Ashe before he rescued the situation with a chase and flying tackle along with Ridyard.
Oldham finished strongly while Leigh lost Higson to a swinging high tackle from Neil Roden.
To compound matters, Neil Roden created the final try with a kick that was touched in flight.
O’Connor was quickest to react and Wayne Kerr handed on for Foggerty to just outflank Maden at the corner and secure a bonus point for the Roughyeds.
It left Leigh kicking themselves that after creating so many chances they were unable to put more points on the board against their Championship One opponents.
Ian Mort; Steve Maden, Adam Higson, Mick Nanyn, Martyn Ridyard; Tim Hartley, Robbie Paul; Chris Hill, Dave McConnell, David Armitstead, James Taylor, Tommy Goulden, MacGraff Leuluai. Subs: John Duffy, Danny Meekin, Dale Cunniffe, Andy Ainscough.
Maden 24, 51, McConnell 35, Goulden 39, Cunniffe 67.
Goals: Nanyn 2/5.
Paul O’Connor; Lucas Onyango, Craig Littler, Mick Foggerty, John Gillam; Neil Roden, Matt Ashe; Jason Boults, Martyn Roden, Dave Ellison, Joe Chandler, Chris Clarke, Valu Bentley. Subs: Wayne Kerr, Ben Mellor, Danny Whitmore, Ben Heaton.
Littler 57, Gillam 61, Foggerty 79.
Mr R Laughton.
12-10 to Leigh.