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Leigh Centurions defy travel chaos to advance to 5th round of Challenge Cup
Limoux 20 Leigh Centurions 32
Remember the film "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" from the 1980s?
That was nothing compared to the Centurions nightmare trip to the South of France for this Challenge Cup tie.
Having been scheduled to leave Leigh at 10am for a lunchtime flight on Thursday, Centurions were caught in the ensuing travel chaos caused by the closure of UK airspace in the wake of Iceland's volcanic eruption and subsequent ash cloud.
After many frantic phonecalls, alternative travel was sourced and the team eventually left the LSV Stadium at 7pm on Thursday to make a Saturday kick-off.
Having stopped overnight in Folkestone, the squad set off at 10am Friday morning but did not arrive at their destination hotel in Carcassonne until 4 AM on Saturday, the day they were taking on French hosts Limoux Grizzlies.
The evidence from this game suggests that even nightmares can have happy endings. Despite their obvious problems, the Centurions got away to a fine opening and led 10-0 after fourteen minutes.
After Robbie Paul had won the Centurions a decent position, the ball was moved to MacGraff Leuluai and he sent a pass wide for Dave Alstead to grab his 9th try of the season, which was converted by Mick Nanyn.
A second try soon followed for Leigh when Martyn Ridyard's grubber kick was too hot to handle and recalled Nick Stanton touched down.
Back came the hosts with a try from substitute Maxime Herold and then Limoux grabbed the lead before half-time when Bastien Almarcha intercepted deep in his own half and then sped the length of the field for Phil Ramage to goal and edge Limoux in front 12-10.
Early in the second half a flowing play brought another try for Limoux, this time fullback Russell Bussian was the scorer but Leigh responded quickly when Nanyn found the line after 48 minutes.
Ten minutes later, Mike Morrison scored his first try of the season with Nanyn converting for a 20-16 lead and there was finally daylight between the teams when Chris Hill got over for another Nanyn improved score after 65 minutes.
Limoux then peppered the Leigh line and scored a fourth try through Mathieu Almarcha 12 minutes from time to set up a grandstand finish but determined Centurions finished well with big centre Nanyn going over for his tenth try of the season and adding his 4th goal for a personal tally of 16 points.
This encouraging win in difficult circumstances will give Leigh the chance to play Super League opposition in the shape of Steve McNamara's Bradford Bulls at the Grattan Stadium in the fifth round on May 8/9.
Russell Bussian, Hervé Marrot, Mathieu Mayans, Sam Key, Bastien Almarcha; Phil Ramage, Mickael Murcia; Artie Shead, Sylvain Teixido, Aaron Wood, Joris Casal, Mathieu Almarcha, Nicolas Piccolo.
Subs: Maxime Hérold, Thibaud Braconnier, Jérôme Laffont, Stéphane Selles.
Hérold (22), Bastien Almarcha (37), Bussian (42), Mathieu Almarcha (68)
Stuart Donlan, Steve Maden, Dave Alstead, Mick Nanyn, Nick Stanton; Martyn Ridyard, Robbie Paul; Chris Hill, Dave McConnell, Ricky Bibey, Jimmy Taylor, Macgraff Leuluai, Tommy Goulden. Subs: John Duffy, Dave Armitstead, Mike Morrison, Adam Higson.
Alstead (6), Stanton (13), Nanyn (48, 78), Morrison (58), Hill (65)