Leigh Centurions came back from 24-10 down to edge a thrilling Betfred Championship derby at Leigh Sports Village.
But they were thankful for Ryan Brierley’s 79th minute drop-goal that gave them a seven-point cushion as Lions winger Matty Ashton capped his own outstanding display with his fourth try of the game in the last play of the game.
Leigh Centurions head coach John Duffy was far from impressed by his side’s display. “We took two points, that’s about it,” he said.
“I’ve never seen us like that. All credit to Swinton, I thought they were absolutely superb and they have been in the last few games. We knew that but unfortunately, we didn’t turn up with the right attitude.
“We shouldn’t need Ryan’s drop-goal. You can’t turn up with that attitude and I’ve just told the players that. It’s not acceptable at this club. I don’t know why they did that at this stage of the season so there were some harsh words said at half-time and again after the game.
“They are going to have a real tough week this week. I’m going to go hard on them. We go to Rochdale next week who are desperate for points so we move on.”
Leigh started brightly as Martyn Ridyard’s sleight of hand sent Andy Thornley over on the angle from 20 metres for a converted try.
But Ashton sparked Swinton’s amazing first half display, gliding over from 70 metres for a breakaway try and then finished off a sweeping move as he cut inside the cover.
Jack Hansen kicked both conversions and added a penalty for a 14-6 lead.
Iain Thornley tracked back to make a try-saving tackle on Samuel Kibula before Ashton brought up his hat-trick with another breakaway try from distance to open up a 20-6 lead.
Leigh responded with Liam Forsyth’s try in the corner before Mike Butt squeezed in at the left corner for that 24-10 advantage. But the Lions knocked-on from the kick-off and just before the hooter Matty Costello clawed back a try to send the home side in trailing by ten points.
Mitch Clark snapped up a loose ball and raced over from 40 metres to spark Leigh’s second half revival to cut the deficit to four points.
A late tackle on Brierley then sparked a mass confrontation which ended in referee Gareth Hewer handing out yellow cards to Joe Cator and the Lions pair of Kibula and Rhodri Lloyd.
With the Centurions briefly one man to the good Junior Sa’u burst over for his first Leigh try to tie the scores.
No sooner had the teams been restored to parity than Ridyard’s creativity saw Cory Paterson score a decisive try, goaled by Ridyard who assumed the kicking duties.
Leigh survived an intense spell of pressure after a penalty award against them ten metres from the line and got down the other end for Ridyard to set up Brierley for that well-worked drop-goal which ultimately proved so important.
There was still time for Hansen’s kick to create another try for the quicksilver Ashton in the corner but the final hooter had sounded and the Lions had only tears for souvenirs after a fantastic effort.
Leigh Centurions: Gregg McNally; Liam Forsyth, Junior Sa’u, Iain Thornley, Matty Costello; Martyn Ridyard (capt), Ryan Brierley; Luke Douglas, Liam Hood, Sam Brooks, James Laithwaite, Andy Thornley, Cory Paterson.
Interchange: Josh Eaves, Joe Cator, Mitch Clark, Jake Emmitt.
Tries: A Thornley (5), Forsyth (37), Costello (40), Clark (46), Sa’u (63), Paterson (69)
Goals: Brierley 2/ 5, Ridyard 1/ 1
Drop-goal: Brierley (79)
Sin bins: Brierley (22), Cator (59)
Swinton Lions: Jack Hansen; Matty Ashton, Craig Mullen, Chris Hankinson, Mike Butt; Jake Shorrocks, Rob Fairclough; Paddy Jones, Luke Waterworth, Lewis Hatton, Rhodri Lloyd, Frankie Halton, Nick Gregson.
Interchange: Billy Brickhill, Jose Kenga, Samuel Kibula, Ben Morris.
Tries: Ashton (13, 19, 31, 80), Butt (38)
Goals: Hansen 5/6
Sin bins: Kibula (59), Lloyd (59)
Referee: Gareth Hewer;
Penalty count: 6-8
Main Match Sponsor: CDX Security;
Associate Match Sponsor: Bolton Steel Structures Ltd;
Match Ball Sponsor: BD Joinery;
Digital Programme Sponsor: Ascot Services;
Match Day Mascots: Ellie Mae Davies and Evie Terri Davies.
Leigh Centurions Man of the Match: Junior Sa’u