The super-eights concept has raised the question whether a Championship side could realistically earn promotion via the qualifiers however Leigh have certainly eased the criticism and propelled their promotion push with an 18-25 victory over Hull KR.
Leigh’s victory mean they become the first Championship side to beat a Super League side away in a middle-eights fixture. The Centurions have now won all four of their middle-eights fixtures and have now defeated two Super League sides following their victory over Salford three weeks ago.
It was against Hull KR in last year’s middle-eights when Leigh let slip a 24-4 lead at half-time slip away and suffered a narrow 26-36 defeat at home which started their end of season dip in form.
Three tries in sequence in the early stages of the second-half allowed Leigh to take the lead. Andrew Dixon, Matty Dawson and Josh Drinkwater all scored. Sam Hopkins had crossed to pull the Centurions to within six points before half-time. A late Martyn Ridyard drop-goal confirmed victory.
KR did lead by twelve points after two early tries from Ken Sio and Josh Mantellato. Matty Marsh scored with fifteen minutes remaining but it wasn’t enough to force a comeback for the home side. Sio eventually left the field with an eye injury. Albert Kelly missed the game for the Super League side following a suspension from the club for arriving home from Australia late.
Leigh now sit in 2nd place in the qualifiers behind, the only other team with a 100% record, Leeds. As for KR they remain in 4th place which means they would have to compete in the ‘Million Pound Game’ currently against London Broncos.
Four Centurions defenders dumped Thomas Minns into touch with the very first tackle of the game and it looked as though it would sent the tempo for the visitors. However, Leigh conceded three consecutive penalties in the following defensive set and Hull KR gained control of the game.
Cory Paterson shoved Ben Cockayne to the floor which awarded KR their third penalty which gave them the opportunity to kick at goal which Mantellato took and converted.
A huge kick from Maurice Blair soon forced a goal-line dropout as Dawson couldn’t escape the chasing KR defenders. From the resulting set some quick hands out wide from the home side eventually found Sio on the bounce, the winger scooped up the ball and finished well after falling to his knees.
Drinkwater conceded a 4th Leigh penalty in ten minutes and KR crossed for a second when a looping pass was taken well by Mantellato. Mantellato missed the conversion but did sink a penalty goal following an obstruction six minutes later.
Despite all KR’s pressure they couldn’t score again before the interval. Leigh did force their way over when Sam Hopkins powered his way over Ben Cockayne and Mitchell Allgood. Ridyard’s conversion meant the Championship side only trailed by six points at half-time.
Leigh’s lightning start for the first tackle was repeated in the second-half but the Centurions managed to prolong their momentum by scoring three tries in five minutes. Dixon was the first to score as he collect Ridyard’s offload and raced to the line.
A high Josh Drinkwater bomb caused issues for Cockayne who dropped the ball in testing conditions Dawson reacted quickest and planted the ball down to give Leigh the lead. Drinkwater scored one himself just moments later when Paterson split the KR defence and then found the Australian half-back who finished under the posts.
But the game wasn’t over Cockayne stepped through the Centurions line and had half-back Matty Marsh in support who couldn’t be caught. Mantellato’s conversion pulled KR within four points of the visitors.
However Ridyard’s drop-goal four minutes from time sealed the victory for Leigh and means they head into the game against Huddersfield still unbeaten. Hull KR travel to London.
Hull KR: Cockayne, Sio, Minns, Thornley, Mantellato; Marsh, Blair; Tilse, Lunt, Allgood, Greenwood, Clarkson, Walker.
Interchanges: Mulhern, Larroyer, Donaldson, Lawler.
Leigh: McNally, Higson, Worthington, Brown, Dawson; Ridyard, Drinkwater; Hock, Higham, Weston, Maitua, Tickle, Paterson.
Interchanges: Hood, Hansen, Dixon, Hopkins.
Referee: R. Hicks. Touch Judges: A. Martin & C. Kendall. Video Referee: J. Child.