Nick Rawsthorne scored with seconds remaining to deny Leigh Centurions a place in the sixth round of the Coral Challenge Cup.
The Hull KR winger crashed over seconds before the hooter sounded to snatch victory for the Super League side and inflict a first defeat of 2020 on John Duffy’s men.
It was a heartbreaking finish after Leigh had fought back from 18-12 down to level the scores before going ahead with 11 minutes remaining thanks to a drop goal from Josh Woods. But they ended the game with 12 men after Adam Higson was sinbinned for a second time in the game – his third yellow card in two games.
“I thought we were sensational in the second half,” said Duffy who saw his team suffer the same fate as they did at the same stage last season. “Our two tries in the first half were great – straight off the training field – but discipline cost us with Adam Higson being sinbinned twice.
“To hold a Super League club out with 12 men for as long as we did speaks volumes for us but we’ve got a team full of disappointed men in that changing room.
“The way we reacted and came back in the second half – I thought that was fantastic. I can’t knock their effort. We have got to learn from that scenario for the rest of the season.”
Leigh went into the game on the back of four Betfred Championship wins from four as well as a Coral Challenge Cup Round Four win over Batley. And they got off to a superb start, scoring twice in the first 20 minutes. Higson crossed out wide in the eighth minute before a worked move from the scrum ended with Ben Hellewell going over. Ben Reynolds converted both to give Leigh a 12-0 lead.
The home side replied with two tries in quick succession to level the scores. Kane Linnett and Shaun Kenny-Dowall crossed within four minutes of each other and the conversions of Mikey Lewis meant the scores were level at 12-12 with 12 minutes of the first half remaining.
Hull KR continued to press and they took the lead moments later when Will Dagger was quickest to react after a kick to the corner by Jordan Abdull took a wicked bounce away from Leigh winger Ryan Shaw. A third conversion from Lewis gave the home side an 18-12 lead which is how it stayed till half-time.
It was an encouraging start to the second half from Leigh as they dominated possession but they were reduced to 12 men when Higson committed a professional foul for holding down in the 53rd minute.
Hull KR were unable to capitalise on their extra man and with Leigh back to their full complement, they scored a third try with 15 minutes remaining. Liam Hood, who had an outstanding game, spotted a gap from dummy half and crashed over for a try which Reynolds converted to tie the scores at 18-18.
After a positive spell of pressure in the Rovers half, Woods slotted over a drop goal with 11 minutes remaining to give Leigh the slimmest of leads. With Hull KR throwing everything at the Leigh defence, their task was made even more difficult when Higson was shown a second yellow card after a high tackle.
Leigh looked to be edging towards a famous upset until Rawsthorne popped up on the left edge to score in the corner and seal a dramatic win for the home side and leave the visitors and their travelling fans heartbroken.
Leigh: McNally, Shaw, Thornley, Sa’u, Higson, Reynolds, Woods, Gerrard, Hood, Ioane, Hellewell, Thompson, Addy. Subs: Wildie, Glohe, Spencer, Field
Tries: Higson, Hellewell, Hood
Goals: Reynolds 3 (from 3 attempts).
Hull KR: Quinlan, Daggerm Kenny-Dowall, Rawsthorne, Ryan, Abdull, Lewis, Lawler, Minichella, Murray, Hauraki, Linnett, Livett Subs: Trout, Litten, Harrison, Gee
Referee: Gareth Hewer