Leigh win on weather hit weekend

Leigh Centurions got their Northern Rail Cup campaign off to a winning start with a 24-12 win over Oldham Roughyeds at Leigh Sports Village.

Championship One Oldham more than matched their higher ranked opponents for much of the first half, before a sloppy fifteen minutes before half time gave Leigh an advantage they would never relinquish.

Leigh should have struck early after Oldham conceded two quick penalties ten metres from the line. Dave Armitstead looked to have forced the ball over, but was sinbinned, leaving Leigh with twelve men. Oldham however couldn’t capitalise, first Martyn Ridyard catching well under pressure behind his line and then Dave McConnell intercepted well to set Leigh on the counter attack.

Oldham threatened again after Neil Roden’s high kick into the corner, but Leigh survived to keep the game scoreless before Armitstead returned. Oldham had their first try scoring opportunity after Craig Littler’s interception, but a forward pass in the buildup denied Oldham.

But approaching the half hour, things were about to get better for the home side as a careless forward pass by Oldham on the halfway line handed possession back to Leigh. The Roughyeds did their best to intercept as Leigh worked the ball wide, but Steve Maden collected the loose ball to touch down in the corner. Nanyn missed the conversion from out on the touchline to leave the score at 4-0.

The try lifted Leigh, who had been very sluggish in the early part of the game. It also rattled Oldham, as the Roughyeds began to concede possession and penalties. Leigh were handed the chance to extend their lead almost immediately as a result of another Oldham penalty, this time conceded by Wayne Kerr holding down after the tackle. Robbie Paul kicked for the touchline to gain more metres, but a promising move was cut short by MacGraff Leuluai’s knock on ten metres from the line.

Another Leigh attack was cut short with Ridyard just short of the line, but the ball bounced loose in the tackle, and the referee awarded Oldham the scrum. Possession was conceded cheaply again however as Littler was forced into touch almost immediately. Oldham were now threatening to self destruct, as Fogerty was sinbinned, and before coach Tony Benson could bring on Ben Heaton, Dave McConnell found space to run in Leigh’s second try in ten minutes. For the second time, Nanyn couldn’t add the extras.

Leigh’s prolific end to the half continued, as in the final minutes, Armitstead’s pass released Tommy Goulden to run through and touch down just to the left of the posts. Nanyn couldn’t miss this time, and converted his first try of the game to give Leigh a 14-0 half time lead.

Still down to twelve for the opening minutes of the second half, Oldham were forced to stand up to more Leigh pressure, as Armitstead was held up just short of the line. They were on the attack when Fogerty returned to the fray however, and were unfortunate not to score their first points as Chris Clarke collected a loose ball after Matty Ashe’s high kick on the last tackle. But the try was disallowed for a knock on and Leigh restarted from the ten metre line. Leigh were now the side conceding possession and penalties needlessly as Oldham began the second half how they began the first.
However, the game was now getting scrappy, as a lot of the good work by both sides was being undone by sloppy play. Leigh at last produced the first quality of the half, after an excellent break from Nanyn created the chance, and after he was tackled, the ball was played to Paul who worked it wide for Maden to touch down his second try of the game in the corner. Nanyn’s wayward kicking continued as he missed his third conversion of the match.
Oldham at last got their first points on the board, but in controversial circumstances. Clarke looked to have knocked on, but the penalty went Oldham’s way, despite the boos of the home crowd. Neil Roden picked up the ball and his stabbed kick found Lucas Onyango to touch down in the corner. The game’s recurring theme of wayward kicking from the touchline continued as Ashe missed his attempt. The try renewed Oldham’s belief, and they touched down again with fifteen minutes left, and again it was controversial. Dave Ellison’s break began the move, and with fans calling for a forward pass, the move continued, John Gillman touching down the loose ball after a high kick had been fumbled. Ashe missed his second kick of the match to leave Oldham just ten points behind. The Oldham fightback was halted when Leigh scored their fifth try of the game with just over ten minutes left, thanks to an excellent jinking run by replacement Dale Cunniffe. Nanyn converted to seemingly end Oldham’s hopes.

Tempers threatened to boil over late on, as Neil Roden’s high tackle on Higson incensed the home crowd, as did the decision of the referee to offer no further punishment but the Leigh penalty. Higson received length treatment, but managed to recover enough to be helped from the pitch. Oldham added some deserved respectability to the scoreline with a late third try as Clarke won the chase to collect Neil Roden’s kick over the top, and with Oldham outnumbering Leigh, Clarke found Fogarty who had all the time in the world to touch down in the corner. Ashe missed his third kick of the game at the hooter to sum up a poor afternoon of kicking for both sides.

Only two other games survived the weather in the Northern Rail Cup – Dewsbury thrashed London 50-4, while Keighley left it late to steal a 24-22 win away at Blackpool, having been behind for almost the whole match, recovering from a 16-2 deficit at one stage.

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