Leigh Centurions beat Featherstone Rovers to go top of the Betfred Championship


Leigh Centurions went top of the Betfred Championship on Monday night with a deserved 32-12 victory over previous table-toppers Featherstone Rovers.

After beating Rovers in the 1895 Cup final in the latter stages of last month, Leigh have made it two wins out of three over Featherstone this season with the two sides set to meet once more in 2022 at the ‘Summer Bash’ weekend in Leeds.

The first half got off to a cracker with a disallowed try in the opening minutes after great work from Luke Briscoe, but his forward pass was spotted by the referee as the ball was slammed down in front of the home fans.

But as the scoreboard remained pointless, it wasn’t long before the deadlock was broken after great skill from Keanan Brand allowed Krisnan Inu to go over in the corner to open the scoring.

Soon after, Leigh had another after some patient build-up allowed John Asiata to slam the ball down and put the home side in control.

But the first half wasn’t all plain sailing for Adrian Lam’s side as Mark Khierallah raced onto the end of a forward kick which fell perfectly for the full-back as he touched down to get Rovers right back into the contest.

Five minutes on from that first Rovers try, Leigh didn’t waste any time in extending their lead as on the final tackle, Blake Ferguson rose highest to reach a looping kick and got the ball down to put the home side back in business after conceding.

A couple of short kicks from Featherstone goal-line drop-outs didn’t quite go to plan as they conceded two penalties from the 10-metre line on both occasions which Inu made no mistake from, taking him to three from five conversions for the first period and leaving Leigh 18-6 ahead at the interval.

Many neutrals were blown away by the first half action, with some of the rugby miles ahead of the expected level for the second division with all due respect. But just when you thought this game was ready to calm down, it never really did.

Featherstone came flying out the blocks in the second 40 minutes with Connor Jones carving the game wide open once again with a try just three minutes into the second half. With Fev pushing to level the scores, Leigh were really under the cosh and looked nervy with some fairly needless mistakes being made.

But as Leigh’s defence held strong despite a gruelling few minutes of defending, Blake Ferguson managed to break the line and relieve a bit of the pressure which turned out to be a huge turning point in the game.

Minutes on from that drive, Leigh got back on the scoreboard as Ferguson found himself in space on the right and piled over in the corner to give the hosts a 10-point cushion.

With just over 10 minutes to go, the game was sealed when young prospect Edwin Ipape broke through brilliantly to brush off the Featherstone challenges and score in front of the North Stand which had made for a brilliant atmosphere all night long.

As the game entered the final ten minutes, discipline which had been fairly in-tact all night appeared to go out the window as three cards were dished out respectively. Matty Wildie was giving a yellow card for interference with the ruck before Inu was giving a straight red three minutes from time for a high hit on Luke Briscoe.

And as the final hooter sounded, Sam Eseh hit high on Mark Loane which was met with the second red card of the night and left it as 12 V 11 as the final action took place where Leigh grabbed an extra two points to run out 32-12 victors.

In a game that had everything imaginable, it certainly lived up to the classic people were hoping for pre-match.

Speaking after the game, Adrian Lam was delighted with the result but also keen to keep his squad’s head’s out of cloud nine and feet still on the ground.

Lam said: “It’s taking us 15 rounds to get here (top of the league) but it’s really important for the club and being rewarded I guess so I’m just proud of the effort. I thought we was tough, there was a lot of penalties and ‘six agains’ which is a bit different to what we’ve had in the last couple of weeks, so I thought we was resilient as well.

“I think in regard to us with it being a home game for us and the crowd being here, I think that’s a good spectacle too (for Championship rugby) and we’re looking to build that up throughout the year especially after the success a couple of weeks ago. It’s a really good night for Rugby League in the north.”

With Leigh now facing a trip to Sheffield Eagles, Adrian Lam will be keen to continue the good form after a huge statement result with the second win against their main promotion rivals this campaign.

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