Featherstone 42 – 10 Leigh

Leigh Centurions’ season came to an end at the LD Nutrition Stadium as their makeshift side, including seven academy players on debut, put up a brave fight before Rovers dominated the second half to become deserved winners of the Betfred Championship Shield.

Well over 500 Centurions fans cheered their side to the rafters in a fantastic show of support which was hugely appreciated by the players and staff and they stayed behind at the end to farewell the players and thank the youngsters who stepped into the breach to help the club.

 The Wigan Warriors Academy quartet of centre Sam Grant, stand-off James Barran and props Liam Byrne and Ben Kilner made their senior debuts for the Centurions alongside Castleford Tigers Academy hooker Jacques O’Neill and the Saints Academy pair of winger Kevin Brown and second row Chris Follin.

Leigh Centurions head coach Kieron Purtill said: “There’s a certain sense of relief that the season’s over now. It’s been tough at times. Today the fans have been absolutely fantastic again. They’ve been brilliant all season. As a club just to get 17 players out this week was a win in itself and I’m really proud and pleased with everyone’s efforts today, especially the new lads. I thought they were fantastic.

 “We had nothing to lose and we said we would go out there and give everything we’d got. We did that and thanks to all their parent clubs who allowed the young players to join us. They were brilliant.

“Tuesday we came to training and had eight people. Realistically the most we would have had was 12 and a few of those were busted. Ryan Bailey didn’t get through the captain’s run yesterday and had to pull out. It would not have been great for the club or the sport but luckily they saw some sense and then Saints, Wigan and Castleford lent us the players.”

The Centurions scored first and trailed only 8-6 at half time despite being hammered 9-4 in the first half penalty count and having Kevin Larroyer sin binned for obstrubction. Rovers dominated possession and territory but the Leigh fans warmed to the heroic defence of their side and the efforts of the players.

 Rovers ran in six second half tries with former Leigh favourite Martyn Ridyard influential against his hometown club and Harry Newman and Shaun Robinson each bagging braces while the impressive Ian Hardman finished with seven goals.

“We wanted to go downhill first half as we know Featherstone play the hill very well,” Purtill explained. “We had a lot of young guys out there and in the second half the amount of tackling they had to do did took its toll. We lost the game but I couldn’t be prouder of the guys who have been through a lot and the new lads who came in. I can’t thank them enough.

“There were a couple of intercepts and a little lack of cohesion. You get that when you throw a team together but there was no lack of effort. We had just two training sessions together.”

Leigh made a dream start as skipper Matty Dawson-Jones reacted first to a Drew Hutchison grubber kick to grab the first try with Jack Owens converting. Rovers levelled through Keal Carlile’s try from dummy half converted by Hardman and a 25th minute Hardman penalty gave the home side a two-point lead at the break.

Rovers stretched their lead to 20-6 with early second half tries by Tyler Dupree and Newman but Leigh stormed back as vice-captain Jack Owens burst over on the right.

But Rovers moved away after Ridyard sent Connor Farrell over on the left before Robinson grabbed the first of his brace from a flowing scrum move. Robinson’s second came after a thrilling length-of-the-field counter-attack following Newman’s long break and Newman’s 40 metre individual try sealed Rovers’ win before Jamie Acton became the second Leigh player to be sin-binned for a late challenge.

Purtill added: “The club has now got to get itself back together on the field and off the field and hopefully we will come back bigger and stronger.”

Featherstone Rovers: 1 Ian Hardman; 38 Dakota Whylie, 4 Misi Taulapapa, 28 Harry Newman, 2 Shaun Robinson; 6 Martyn Ridyard, 14 Matty Wildie; 17 Luke Cooper, 24 Danny Maskill, 22 Sam Brooks, 11 Connor Farrell, 20 Josh Hardcastle, 13 James Lockwood.

Interchange: 9 Keal Carlile, 39 Tyler Dupree, 40 Muizz Mustapha, 41 James Barraclough.

Tries: Carlile (16), Dupree (45), Farrell (57), Newman (51, 72), Robinson (60, 67);
Goals: Hardman 7/ 8.

Leigh Centurions: 18 Jack Owens; 42 Kevin Brown, 43 Sam Grant, 2 Matty Dawson-Jones (captain), 22 Ricky Bailey; 45 James Barran, 7 Drew Hutchison; 10 Jamie Acton, 39 Jacques O’Neill, 24 Jack Blagbrough, 11 Kevin Larroyer, 21 Nick Gregson, 41 Liam Byrne.

Interchange: 40 Ben Kilner, 33 Josh Johnson, 51 Chris Follin, 36 Mitch Cox.

Tries: Dawson-Jones (4), Owens (54);
Goals: Owens 1/ 2.

Sin bins: Larroyer (33), Acton (76).

Referee: John McMullen.
Half-time: 8-6.
Penalty count: 11-9.
Attendance: 2,123.

Photos courtesy of OnionBag Photography and Gorilla Photography.

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