Leigh 26-24 Barrow

Leigh Centurions extended their winning run to 11 games and took over at the summit of the Co-operative Championship, albeit temporarily, after defeating big hearted Barrow.

The Raiders lost dual contract man Ben Davies in the build-up to the game and somehow hung on as Leigh launched wave after wave of early attack that surprisingly came to nothing. On their very first possession, Leigh chanced their arm but whereas it resulted in a break against Widnes, a wide pass from Martyn Ridyard was deemed forward.

Leigh continued to dominate field position with Chris Hill running strongly and Tommy Goulden was desperately unlucky when a teasing Jamie Ellis grubber kick bounced away from him. A break from John Duffy was also stopped and new dual contract signing Rhys Evans spilled a Stuart Littler pass on the line. The former Salford second row also coughed up possession as Barrow gained confidence from their defensive stint.

At the other end, Barrow forged a break from Chris Larkin that had the Centurions back tracking and Michael Knowles was caught in possession on the last tackle.

David Mills and Goulden were denied on the Barrow line before Liam Campbell linked with Mark Gleeson only for experienced fullback Stuart Donlan to chase back and deny him. With the Centurions stretched, Barrow quickly fired the ball left for Knowles and Liam Harrison to send Andy Ballard over for the opening try after 24 minutes. Ballard dragged his conversion attempt across the face of the posts and the score remained 4-0.

Leigh responded after half an hour when Ellis found an offload. James Taylor and Donlan were both involved twice in the move that saw Donlan sweep over for his first try of the game. Mick Nanyn goaled and Leigh held a short lived lead.

Soon after, the Raiders forged another chance down their right with only Dean McGilvray disrupting a Jamie Rooney attack. The halfback did turn creator for Barrow’s second try when a scrappy pass was picked up by Harrison and the big centre arced into an opening down the touchline. Rooney missed the conversion but Barrow were starting to enjoy the better of the game with the former Wakefield fulcrum drawing an error out of Steve Maden and a drop out. Ned Catic was then held out for the visitors before Leigh regained their composure with Ridyard desperately unlucky to concede a turnover when he chased down Ellis pin-point kick that had Gary Broadbent in trouble.

Early in the second half Ridyard troubled the defence again with a thirty metre break and a chip kick into space but the bounce was too far in front and Barrow retrieved possession. Marc Dixon then cleaned up a scrappy pass from Rooney and motored through the Leigh defence only for Donlan to use all his experience to tackle the winger into touch.

The visitors held on to their advantage until the 49th minute when Ridyard was bowled over without the ball as he chased a Goulden break. Less than a minute later, the Centurions were over when Maden and Littler were both involved in creating space for Evans to touch down. Nanyn missed the difficult conversion but Leigh followed that with another try as Ellis and Ridyard and Donlan kept the ball alive for Nanyn to claim his seventh try of the season on the left.

A superb spell of handling by Leigh had Barrow chasing but when a forward pass was ruled, the Raiders launched a counter attack that saw Ballard grab a second try following a rare mistake from Maden.

Leigh responded in determined fashion when Dean McGilvray, Ridyard and Higson combined in a sixty metre attack. Although that attempt was thwarted, Leigh did find a way through when Ellis dabbed the ball forward and grounded his twelfth try of the season having seen a similar kick earlier trickle away from him.

A Barrow short kick-off was recovered by the visitors and they made things interesting when Ned Catic strode through from a fine Zeb Luisi pass and Rooney goaled to close the gap to two points.

The game needed a big finish and didn’t disappoint when the Centurions went 90 metres in an attack started and finished by Donlan for a crowd pleasing second try. It involved six passes and some wonderful support to give Nanyn an easy kick under the posts that he added with ease to make it 26-18.
 
A late Barrow attack resulted in Chris Larkin touching down Luisi’s kick to the corner for Rooney to add his second goal of the game and secure the bonus point but it was the Centurions who took the win and top spot.  

LEIGH: Donlan, Maden, Evans, Nanyn, McGilvray; Ridyard, Ellis; Hill, Duffy, Hopkins, Littler, Goulden, Taylor. Subs: Higson, Thornley, Nicholson, Mills.

Tries: Donlan (30, 75), Evans (50), Nanyn (53), Ellis (68).
Goals: Nanyn 3/5.

BARROW: Broadbent, Ballard, Harrison, Larkin, Dixon; Campbell, Coyle; James, Mossop, Butler, Catic, Hughes, Luisi. Subs: Rooney, Gleeson, Knowles, Nixon.

Tries: Ballard (24, 63), Harrison (34), Catic (71), Larkin (79).
Goals: Ballard 0/1, Rooney 2/4.

Referee: Gareth Hewer.
Penalties: 6-3.
Attendance: 2,583.

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