Leigh Centurions completed a hat-trick of wins inside eight days in another nail-biter on the 4G surface at Olympic Legacy Park.
After last Wednesday’s dramatic AB Sundecks 1895 Cup win over Barrow, the Centurions gave head coach John Duffy an early birthday present as they maintained their play-off aspirations in the Betfred Championship.
With rivals Toulouse, Featherstone Rovers and York City Knights all pulling off wins, Leigh’s third win of the season over the Eagles saw them retain third spot, level on points with second-placed Toulouse and fourth-placed York but crucially they opened up a four-point gap over Mark Aston’s side who are in sixth.
Liam Forsyth continued his outstanding try-scoring run, taking his tally to six in his last three games while the returning Ryan Brierley marked his 200th career game with a trademark try to leave him just four points short of 1,000 in his career before limping off with a knee injury.
Martyn Ridyard, Leigh’s match-winner against Barrow, was again to the fore with a try and three crucial goals as Eagles managed only one conversion.
Duffy, 39 on Tuesday, said: “It was very sweet, we had to work hard for that win today against a very good side. You can see how much they’ve come on this season Sheffield as a club and they’ve got some great players.
“We ground out a real tough win after a tough week. We had a few things going against us and Ryan’s injury forced us to move some personnel. I’ve got to give a big shout-out to Cory Paterson. To come back and play three games in a week shows just what a good player he is.
“But it was a real team effort this week and we’ve got to make sure we continue to do the right thing as it’s all hotting up at this stage of the season. We’ve got to keep working hard.
“I’m just glad Sheffield played on the Wednesday as well otherwise it may have been a different outcome. It’s a real tough surface on the joints and you get a lot of wins in tackles so you have to be good on your one per-centers. It was real together performance to get the win today.
“Ryan we thought it was ligament damage when he first went down there but it’s a bang on his shin so hopefully we can get him back for next week.
“Liam has been sensational, he’s been a great signing for us. He’s scored some great tries for us and tries we’ve needed at big parts of games.”
Leigh’s ninth win in their last ten games was in the balance right to the end as the resurgent Eagles, who conceded 50 first half points in the corresponding fixture last season, demonstrated their vast improvement.
Just as they did after their dramatic 42-38 defeat at LSV in May Aston’s side were left to rue small margins, but crucially they failed to take advantage of an 11-4 penalty count in their favour.
Leigh led 10-6 at the break after an intense first half in the sweltering heat, Forsyth opening the scoring from Josh Simm’s pass on a smart fifth tackle move and Brierley finishing in familiar style for his 139th try in a Leigh shirt, with the outstanding Anthony Thackeray replying for the Eagles as he capitalised on Pat Walker’s 40/20 kick.
As the swirling wind increased and the temperatures dipped Leigh went further ahead when Forsyth somehow twisted and contorted his body to force his way over in the corner for his second try. Eagles responded as Thackeray and Josh Guzdek combined to send Ben Blackmore over in the right corner to reduce the arrears to six points.
Leigh looked to have opened-up daylight as Hood’s creativity at dummy half sent Ridyard over for a converted try just after the hour-mark that opened-up a 22-10 lead. A startling midfield break by Toby Adamson, carried on by brother Luke then came to nothing and the Eagles made the most of their let-off to dominate the closing stages.
Ryan Millar’s spectacular finish by the left corner flag reduced the arears and with five minutes remaining Blackmore notched his second in the opposite corner. Crucially James Meadows failed with both difficult conversion attempts and somehow Leigh held on in a dramatic, nerve-shredding finish.
Meadows, on dual reg from London, was sent-off for dissent as the final hooter sounded.
Duffy added: “I’ll have a good birthday on Tuesday with this win. I’d like to thank the Leigh fans today. We needed their support after a tough week and they’ve done it again for us. They were special for us.”
Sheffield Eagles: Josh Guzdek; Ben Blackmore, Jason Crookes, Jacob Ogden, Ryan Millar; Pat Walker, Anthony Thackeray; Pat Moran, James Davey, Brad Knowles, Joel Farrell, Oliver Davies, Aaron Brown. Interchange: James Meadows, Patrick Burns, Nathan Mason, Sadiq Adebiyi.
Tries: Thackeray (29), Blackmore (58, 75), Millar (68)
Goals: Walker 1/ 2, Meadows 0/ 2.
Sent-off: Meadows (80) dissent
Leigh Centurions: Ryan Brierley: Liam Forsyth, Josh Simm, Iain Thornley, Matty Costello; Martyn Ridyard, Josh Woods; Tom Spencer, Micky Higham, Luke Adamson, Toby Adamson, Andy Thornley, Joe Cator.
Interchange: Liam Hood, Cory Paterson, Jordan Thompson, Gareth Hock.
Tries: Forsyth (25, 50), Brierley (33), Ridyard (63)
Goals: Ridyard 3/ 4
Referee: M Mannifield
Penalty count: 11-4