Leigh Centurions’ Wembley dream disappeared as Widnes successfully planned a Viking raid on Leigh Sports Village.

Former Leigh coach Kieron Purtill will now spearhead the Vikings’ campaign under the Twin Towers at the inaugural AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final when they take on Sheffield Eagles in a month’s time.

In a tight, tough, penalty-littered game in the pouring rain Widnes halfback Danny Craven provided two moments of magic to decide the semi-final tie.

With Leigh leading 4-2 Craven shaped to kick on the last tackle down the left but instead sparked an attack involving Keanan Brand and Jordan Johnstone that ended in Anthony Gelling collecting a precision chip to score on the opposite side.

Then Craven’s deftness with ball in hand created a second try for ex-Leigh man Jack Owens in the left corner as the Vikings fans in the South Stand began to dream of Wembley.

Leigh fought to the end, Adam Higson scoring by the right corner flag to set up a grandstand finish but the Vikings held out.

For 55 minutes two Ryan Brierley penalties against one by Owens in reply provided the only scoring as referee Ben Thaler handed out 18 first half penalties, 12 against the visitors.

Mitch Clark and Johnstone were each sin binned after an early flare-up and twice Leigh were awarded penalties after Widnes players were placed on report.

But despite plenty of possession and territory Leigh were unable to unlock the Vikings defence until the game was in its dying embers.

Head coach John Duffy said: “I am gutted for everyone involved but if you don’t perform in the big games, especially early in that second half, you pay the price.

“We didn’t do enough with the ball to create anything. I’d expect us to play a bit more and when we were on top we didn’t take advantage. They scored two tries off Craven, who we did a lot of work on in the week and that’s where we lost the game.

“We have the league to focus on now, Swinton at home who are on fire at the moment and playing really well and Rochdale away who are desperate for points.

“We’ve got to put this to bed at quickly as possible and when the players come in on Tuesday, get the review done and then box it off and move on.

“Derby games are going to be fiery and that’s what it was. We weren’t smart enough with the ball when we had opportunities to play.”

Leigh Centurions: Gregg McNally; Adam Higson, Junior Sa’u, Iain Thornley, Stefan Marsh; Martyn Ridyard, Ryan Brierley; Luke Douglas, Micky Higham (Capt), Mitch Clark, Toby Adamson, Joe Batchelor, Joe Cator.
Interchange: Liam Hood, Jordan Thompson, Jake Emmitt, Luke Adamson.

Tries: Higson (77)
Goals: Brierley 2/ 3

Sin bin: Clark (3)

Widnes Vikings: Jack Owens; Ryan Ince, Anthony Gelling, Keanan Brand, Patrick Ah Van; Danny Craven, Joe Lyons; Jay Chapelhow, Jordan Johnstone, Dan Norman, Sam Wilde, Chris Dean, Brad Walker.
Interchange: Ted Chapelhow, MacGraff Leuluai, Harrison Hansen, Olly Ashall-Bott.

Tries: Gelling (55), Owens (67)
Goals: Owens 2/ 3

Sin bin: Johnstone (3)

Referee: Ben Thaler
Half-time: 2-2
Penalty count: 15-6
Attendance: 4,640

Main Match Sponsor: Impact Insurance
Match Ball Sponsor: The Centurion Public House
Digital Programme Sponsor: Zaun Group
Leigh Centurions Man of the Match: Joe Cator
Matchday Mascots: Harry Openshaw and Calleigh Smallman