Leigh 42 – 38 Sheffield

Leigh Centurions scored three converted tries in the last ten minutes of an outstanding Betfred Championship encounter to clip the high-flying Eagles’ wings.

Liam Hood, playing as a makeshift centre, scored the match-winning try to send the North Stand wild and seal what had looked an unlikely comeback after the Eagles set up a 38-24 lead.

Hood put the finishing touches to a last gasp attack with the clock ticking down, spying a gap in the defence and cutting through before racing under the posts in jubilant fashion.

Man of the Match Martyn Ridyard kicked seven conversions and his 100 percent record with the boot ultimately proved decisive.

Leigh Centurions head coach John Duffy said: “I thought we were really poor today but on the flip side to show that drive and togetherness we have as a group and come up with that last play was outstanding.

“We have showed where we can be at the end of the season. We had to put Liam in the centre in the last few minutes when Andy Thornley came off injured and it paid off with that great play by him.”

The Eagles held a 20-12 half-time lead despite being on the back foot for most of the first quarter and also having James Davey sin-binned for a dangerous lift in the tackle. And after the Centurions fought back to lead 24-20 early after the resumption the visitors, inspired by the outstanding Anthony Thackeray then rallied again to set up a seemingly dominant position.

“We spoke about Sheffield all week. In broken field they are the most dangerous side in the competition,” Duffy said. “With our errors in good ball and not coming up with the play in the first half we put ourselves under pressure. I thought we should have been 20 points up in the first ten minutes and by not being clinical then we almost got punished for it at the end with their offloads.

“To come through and show the spirit we did at the end was absolutely amazing. I thought the fans were superb as well.

“I was quite calm at half time. I’ve ripped a few signs off walls this year but the lads responded well just after half-time and regained the lead but we took our foot off the gas again, just as we had in the first half. I thought Easter caught up with us and we were a bit leggy especially through our middles who’ve done a lot of minutes these past few weeks. I’m just glad of the win. We are still in the top five and have gone joint third with Sheffield and it’s up to us we keep building and getting better.

“We’ve got to have a good back end to the season. There’s loads still us yet and hopefully we can repay the fans and keep getting those wins.

“There are lots of teams that don’t play for the jersey any more in Rugby League. That’s something I wanted to bring back here. The lads have all shown they want to play for Leigh and the fans have bought into that. And I thought second half especially the fans were superb. The lads have got to commend themselves for their efforts in the first half of the season.”

Martyn Ridyard said: “The Championship gets better every year and some of the long distance tries Sheffield scored were outstanding. We pride ourselves on our defence but we slipped away from our high standards today, but we showed outstanding character to get a win from that situation.”

Though Andy Thornley got Leigh off and running with an early try the home side had nothing else to show for their territory and possession in the opening stages and the Eagles came to life when Aaron Brown levelled the scores in their first spell of pressure. Gregg McNally restored Leigh’s lead after collecting Ryan Brierley’s long pass to the wing with James Davey in the sin bin for a dangerous lift in the tackle.

But Eagles attacked from deep and went in with that eight-point advantage at the break after scoring three tries in quick succession. Ben Blackmore got on the end of Thackeray’s kick to the corner before Ryan Millar and James Glover each finished off classy moves to send the visitors in 20-12 ahead.

Leigh’s response was immediate as Ryan Brierley sliced over for his second try in as many games since returning to the club on loan and Iain Thornley then was first to react to a loose ball over the Eagles line.

But the Eagles again scored three quick-fire tries to seemingly take control. Thackeray finished off another long distance attack and Pat Walker’s conversion put the Eagles 26-24 ahead. Walker’s smart low kick created the opportunity for James Meadows to pounce and Thackeray then punished a tiring defence by shrugging off three attempted tackles.

James Laithwaite’s close range try raised hopes of a comeback and the decibel levels grew from the North Stand after Josh Eaves reduced the deficit to just two points after Iain Thornley had parried Ridyard’s kick. As Leigh poured everything into one last desperate effort Hood showed his opportunism and match-winning qualities to score the 14th and final try of a wonderful game.

Leigh Centurions: Martyn Ridyard; Jack Higginson, Andy Thornley, Iain Thornley, Gregg McNally; Ryan Brierley, Josh Woods; Luke Douglas, Micky Higham, Sam Brooks, Toby Adamson, James Laithwaite, Joe Cator.
Interchange: Liam Hood, Josh Eaves, Jake Emmitt, Tom Spencer.

Tries: A Thornley (4), McNally (29), Brierley (42), I Thornley (46), Laithwaite (71), Eaves (77), Hood (80);
Goals: Ridyard 7/ 7.

Sheffield Eagles: Josh Guzdek; Ben Blackmore, Jacob Ogden, James Glover, Ryan Millar; James Meadows, Anthony Thackeray; Pat Moran, James Davey, Matt James, Oliver Davies, Joel Farrell, Aaron Brown.
Interchange: Pat Walker, Blake Broadbent, Sonny Esslemont, Brad Knowles.

Tries: Brown (20), Blackmore (34), Millar (37), Glover (40), Thackeray (53, 63), Meadows (59);
Goals: Glover 2/4, Walker 3/3. ; Sin bin: Davey (24).

Referee: Tom Grant;
Half-time: 12-20;
Penalty count: 7-4;
Attendance: 3,031;

Main Match Sponsor: The Leigh Arms;
Match Ball Sponsor: 24/7 Technology
Digital Programme Sponsor: Estate Agency Signs.
Man of the Match: Martyn Ridyard.

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