Blast from the Past: Leigh win 2004 Northern Rail Cup

Leigh Centurions are preparing for a record-breaking fifth Northern Rail Cup final appearance when they face Sheffield on Saturday.

Since losing 36-19 against Salford in 2003, the Centurions have beaten Hull KR (2004 and 2006) and Halifax (2011) in their last three final appearances.

Current coach Paul Rowley was a member of the first Leigh team to get its hand on the trophy, starting at hooker in the 2004 final against Hull KR that Leigh won 42-14 at Rochdale’s Spotland Stadium.

Rowley said: “I remember that day well. I’d missed the previous three games through injury and I came back in the final. Simon Knox got a couple of tries for us and we were always in control.

“Rovers had a strong side, but we were too good. We were the most dominant side in the division that year and we thought beating a fired-up Hull KR would be a good chance to prove that.”

Danny Halliwell (two), Ben Cooper, Neil Turley and Tommy Martyn also touched down, with Turley and Martyn both adding drop goals and Turley landing six kicks from nine attempts.

“We were always confident,” says Rowley. “Our club breeds an air of confidence and an air of arrogance, because we’re confident people. We work hard and play hard and we had a big belief that year.

“It all culminated in a nail-biting Grand Final against Whitehaven that went into extra time.

“We scored some points that year and we had some real quality players, but the overall competition is five levels better nowadays in terms of quality and intensity.”

Rugby league has been in Rowley’s blood for as long as he can remember, and it’s not hard to see why he loves the sport.

“Within the space of about 20 houses on our street there were probably 20 professional players,” he says. “If you didn’t play rugby, you didn’t fit in.

“My dad, Allan, played, so I had a natural interest through watching him at Swinton, Workington and Leigh.

“As I got a bit older I was given a choice – go to cubs or go to Leigh Rangers. It was an easy decision!

“My first coach was Martin Ridyard’s dad, Alf. He doesn’t miss a game, he’s still coming to watch and he’s still got the same moustache he had 30 years ago. It’s strange how I’m now coaching his son, so many years after he coached me.

“And I still remember my first try. I didn’t stop running until I got to the fence at the end of the pitch, so my first rugby lesson after that was to put the ball down when I reached the line.”

 

To win tickets to Leigh’s next home Kingstone Press Championship match, against Swinton on Sunday 4th August, click here.

Kingstone Press Cider has teamed up with LoveRugbyLeague to celebrate all things great about the rugby league Championships. For the rest of the season, ‘Championing the Championships’ campaign will put a weekly spotlight on each Championship and Championship 1 club to focus on their most memorable moments, look back at the clubs heroes and reward the loyal fans. Read more.

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