The Championship game of the day lived up to billing in South Cumbria as Nigel Wright marked his first game in charge of Barrow Raiders after the surprise dismissal of Garry Schofield. Leigh Centurions were in town and an exciting game brought thirteen tries and a massive comeback. Leigh recovered from deficits of 14-0 in the 9th minute and 20-6 in the 16th minute to eventually win.
A two-try performance from Leigh’s veteran fullback Stuart Donlan was another highlight.
From the first whistle, Barrow attacked with great intensity and after winning the ball from the kick-off Jamie Thackray charged headlong for the line only for solid tackling to deny and injure the former Super League prop. Within seconds the ball came all the way out to the right for Jamie Rooney to send in Ned Catic for an unconverted try and a 4-0 lead.
A second try followed in the sixth minute when Rooney’s swirling kick into the early evening sky was allowed to bounce by Jamie Ellis and Matt James palmed back for the impressive Mark Gleeson to scamper over. Rooney goaled to make it 10-0 and the Raiders were flying when Gleeson, Rooney and Catic combined for former Gateshead second row Michael Knowles to step over.
At 14-0, Leigh were in trouble but the Centurions responded after 14 minutes following a big penalty kick by Mick Govin. Leigh’s pack put them in a great position for John Duffy and Ellis to link and get Tyrone McCarthy over for a try on his second debut for the club since joining on dual contract terms on Thursday. Mick Nanyn goaled but the Centurions were soon on the back foot again when Gleeson contested a short restart and Martin Ostler charged within ten metres of the try line.
As Leigh back-tracked, Barrow got their attack in order and Liam Harrison put free-scoring James Nixon in for his 7th try of the season. Rooney goaled superbly from the touchline and the Raiders led 20-6 after just 16 minutes.
The Centurions had to score next and did after 24 minutes with a superb six pass play that was started by James Taylor and featured Stuart Donlan, Ellis, Tommy Goulden and Govin before Andy Thornley took the last pass to sail over the line.
As Barrow pressured Leigh they created good field position and after Govin and Catic clashed in an incident that forced a knock-on and saw the Leigh stand-off put on report, the Centurions came close to leaking another try when Rooney moved in to intercept an inviting ball only to lose control at the last second. At the other end Tom Armstrong went close when he took an Ellis cross-field kick and released a pass that just went behind its intended recipient.
Four minutes from the break Liam Harrison showed the young centre how it was done when he latched onto a similar kick from Rooney and picked the pockets of the dual-contract man and Steve Maden. Rooney again converted and Raiders looked content to lead 26-12. Leigh had other ideas and a swift attack down the right brought reward for Maden and he ran over by the flag from some astute work by Stuart Littler.
The second half saw both teams play a game of patience as they went set for set with each other with the kicking of Ellis starting to outshine that of James Coyle and Rooney. Eventually, Leigh’s resolve triumphed when Ellis skimmed a pass out to Armstrong and he grounded for his 4th try for the club. Nanyn goaled to close the gap to four points and despite the closeness of the score, if Barrow had concentrated on completions, they may have had greater success.
As it was, Andy Ballard tried to win a penalty with an ambitious chip and chase and Leigh turned defence into attack for Govin to send Donlan over the line much to the disappointment of Rooney. A head knock saw the game stopped for a couple of minutes with Maden okay to continue.
It was then the Centurions turn to succeed when Catic tried to haul Dean McGilvray in touch and the winger linked with Nanyn who in turn was supported by Donlan for the fullback to roll back the years with a seventy metre finish – his 68th try in Leigh colours.
A seventh try followed for Leigh ten minutes later when Andy Gorski was fortunate as the ball rebounded loose to James Taylor. On the next play, Duffy and Goulden combined on the left for Nanyn to claim a score and although Catic was sinbinned, Raiders finished well and grabbed their sixth try in the FIFTH minute of added time when Rooney followed his high punt on the back of a chase by Gary Broadbent and Ballard. He then completed the score with his fourth goal but there was no doubting that Leigh deserved their victory having fought back from the heavy deficits.
BARROW: Broadbent, Nixon, Catic, Harrison, Ballard; Rooney, Coyle; Thackray, Gleeson, James, Knowles, Ostler, Luisi. Subs: Fletcher, Campbell, Walker, Mossop.
Tries: Catic (1), Gleeson (6), Knowles (9), Harrison (36), Rooney (85).
Goals: Rooney 4/6.
LEIGH: Donlan, Maden, Armstrong, Nanyn, McGilvray; Govin, Ellis; Hill, Duffy, McCarthy, Littler, Goulden, Taylor. Subs: Nicholson, Thornley, Gorski, Mills.
Tries: McCarthy (14), Thornley (24), Maden (38), Armstrong (54), Donlan (58, 67), Nanyn (77).
Goals: Nanyn 4/7.
Referee: Mr M Thomason.