Leigh Centurions ensured their place in the play-offs for the Betfred Championship with a six-try victory over the Wembley-bound Vikings.
But John Duffy’s side paid a heavy price for the win that avenges their AB Sundecks 1895 Cup semi-final defeat at Widnes’s hands as they picked up several injuries and finished the game with a threadbare look.
Junior Sa’u was forced off in the first half with a quad injury and Iain Thornley, Cory Paterson, Ben Reynolds and Adam Higson were amongst those in the wars.
Andy Thornley and Stefan Marsh each scored two tries with Higson and Man of the Match Liam Hood also crossing.
Martyn Ridyard became only the third player in Leigh history to score 2,000 points for the club with the third of his five goals, joining John Woods and the late Jimmy Ledgard in the record books.
Duffy said: “I was happy with the result. I thought Widnes were outstanding with their young side. We toughed it out with players paying out of position. I’m really happy with the players especially those that were in at the start of the journey.
“I’d like to thank all the Players, Staff, Directors, Owner and Chairman. It’s been a great team effort from everyone at the club.
“I’m happy for everyone and the supporters have been fantastic all season.
“It’s been a proud moment for Martyn. All his family were here today and it’s a great achievement by him.”
Reflecting on securing a top five place Duffy said: “It’s a massive achievement with where we were in November. At my first training session we had nine players, didn’t have any kit, not even a ball. But we know we need to get better.
“It’s been tough especially at the start of the journey. We’ve recruited well and everyone has bought into what I wanted to achieve. We’ve just got to carry on and finish the league strongly and then have a big effort at the play-offs.
“We did it tough as we did last week. I’m proud of the lads. To be shifted around as much as they had to be and come on top against a good young side was a big effort. We were struggling on that right edge with injuries and ended up getting bunt down and there was some great cover from our middles.”
Leigh now have a week off before taking on fourth-placed York City Knights at LSV. “The York game is a massive one but we always knew it was going to be,” Duffy said. “They’ve had another great win over Featherstone today. They’ll come here with their tails up and we hope to have a few of our players back from injury.”
Leigh started fluently with an early try to Higson in the corner but Widnes hit back with Jayden Hatton’s try. Andy Thornley’s brace, both converted by Ridyard, the second giving Ridyard his landmark moment, put Leigh in control of the game.
Marsh crossed in the corner for his first try to give Leigh a 22-6 interval lead.
Keanan Brand’s try hauled Widnes back to within ten points but Hood effectively sealed the game with an outstanding individual try from 40 metres.
Widnes finished strongly with further tries by fullback Olly Ashall-Bott and Brand but Marsh’s second in-between those scores kept Leigh’s noses firmly in front as the injury toll rose.
Leigh Centurions: Ryan Brierley; Adam Higson, Junior Sa’u, Iain Thornley, Stefan Marsh; Martyn Ridyard, Ben Reynolds; Luke Douglas, Micky Higham (capt), Jordan Thompson, Toby Adamson, Andy Thornley, Joe Cator.
Interchange: Liam Hood, Mitch Clark, Jake Emmitt, Cory Paterson.
Tries: Higson (6), A Thornley (19, 33), Marsh (39, 71), Hood (56)
Goals: Ridyard 5/ 6
Widnes Vikings: Olly Ashall-Bolt; Ryan Ince, Lloyd Roby, Keanan Brand, Jayden Hatton; Tom Gilmore, Joe Lyons; Ted Chapelhow, Josh Ganson, Hep Cahill, Harrison Hansen, Ellis Robson, Brad Walker.
Interchange: Jay Chapelhow, Jacob Dugdale, Owen Farnworth, MacGraff Leuluai.
Tries: Hatton (8), Brand (47, 79), Ashall-Bott (60)
Goals: Gilmore 3/ 4
Referee: Greg Dolan;
Penalty count: 9-5;
Main Match Sponsor: Lyndon Scaffolding Ltd;
Match Ball Sponsor: RM Couriers;
Programme Sponsor: Anthony’s Travel.
Mascots: Kaitlin Clarke and Jacob Dick-Roberts
Leigh Centurions Man of the Match: Liam Hood