Leigh Leopards 26 Featherstone Rovers 14.

Umyla Hanley scored a first half hat-trick as Leigh Leopards made a successful, but sometimes unconvincing, start to the defence of the Betfred Challenge Cup.

Hanley, among Leopards’ non-playing squad at Wembley seven months ago, has now touched down five times in three games since getting his chance due to Tom Briscoe’s calf injury.

The holders were certainly grateful for his interventions as Championship Featherstone forgot their off field financial problems to provide a sterner test than had been predicted.

Leopards were also sparked by Lachlan Lam’s introduction early in the second half ; the home side scoring two quick tries to move towards Monday’s quarter-final draw.

But it was far from picture perfect and Gareth Gale’s 71st minute try and later Fev pressure made it an uncomfortable finale.

Twelve months ago, Adtrian Lam’s side took a far easier first step towards historic Wembley glory with a 40-12 win at Wakefield.

But while this was the Leopards’ debut fixture in the 2024 competition, Rovers had beaten Thatto Heath Crusaders, Keighley Cougars and Trinity to reach the last 16.

Keanan Brand was named Leigh full-back for this sixth-round clash, one of two changes to the starting line-up from Leopards’ opening Super League triumph at Hull FC. Matt Davis also coming in for on loan Brad Dwyer.

And it was Brand who kicked off with Leopards defending with the North Stand behind them. However, the attack was quickly on the money.

Harry Bowes’ fumble led to a home counter and Zak Hardaker sent in Hanley for his third try in as many games. Matt Moylan pulled wide his opening conversion attempt.

Moylan then failed to find touch with a penalty inviting Rovers to attack the home try line for the first time.

And it needed Hardaker’s tackle to deny former England Knight Greg Minikin an equalising try.

Brand hobbled off after 14 minutes with Hardaker, who began his career at Rovers back in 2010, switched to his favoured full-back role and Jack Hughes moved to centre.

After the early try boost Leigh dropped their standards and Fijian winger Manoa Wacokecoke scored a memorable 19th minute try, shrugging off Josh Charnley and Hardaker on the way to his long-range stunner.

Suitably stung into action, Leigh responded 12 minutes from the break. A swift left to right counter ended with Hardaker and Hughes combining to send in Hanley, son of four times Wembley winner, Ellery Hanley, again.

Moylan adjusted his sights and this time goaled sweetly to make it 10-4.

Three minutes from half-time Leigh moved tentatively towards the quarter-finals with Hanley’s third try.

McKenzie Yei was sin binned for a tip tackle on Owen Trout. Instead of taking a safe two points as demanded by coach Lam, his players ran the ball with the Hardaker-Hughes axis sending in Hanley.

Rovers were still down to 12-men when Ben McNamara’s pass was picked off by Wacokecoke who motored 70 metres without a hand being laid on him. Danny Addy goaled and Rovers were only four points adrift.

Recovered from a badly gashed leg, Lam’s arrival after 49 minutes was well received by the North Standers.

The reigning Lance Todd Trophy holder’s appearance also pepped up his team mates too.

The forced a goal line drop out before Lam sprang Leigh’s left edge into life. Josh Charnley was the beneficiary after 50 minutes while Lam’s burst was prelude to another try from Ricky Leutele.

Rovers wouldn’t go away, invited on by basic Leigh errors, and Gale finished off a slick handling move. There was no great escape though and Moylan kicked a penalty on the hooter to round off victory.


Leigh: Brand; Hanley, Hardaker, Leutele, Charnley; Moylan, McNamara; Norman, Davis, Mulhern, O’Donnell, Halton, Hughes; substitutes: Nakubuwai, Holmes, Trout, Lam.

Tries: Hanley (3, 28 37), Charnley (50), Moylan (53).

Goals: Moylan 3/6.

Rovers: Aekins; Wacokecoke, Hardcastle, Minikin, Gale; Bowes, Lacans; Springer, Jones, Albert, Day, Tomlinson, Addy; substitutes: Turner, Wynne, Yei, England.

Tries: Wacokecoke (19 and 44), Gale (71).

Goals: Lacans 0/1, Addy 1/1, Wynne 0/1.

Half-time: Leigh 14 Featherstone 4.

Referee: Jack Smith.