Ryan Brierley dropped a goal with 33 seconds left on the clock to give Leigh Centurions the narrowest of victories over Super League Champions St Helens at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
John Duffy’s men recovered brilliantly from an 18-6 half-time deficit to roar back in the second half and claim victory in the pre-season warmup game which doubled as a Testimonial for Saints winger Tommy Makinson.
Leigh were looking on course to seal victory until Saints drew level with only three minutes remaining, Makinson getting his second of the night and kicking the conversion to make it 24-24. But Brierley kept his cool to land a one pointer and get the Centurions’ pre-season programme off to the best possible start.
Almost a year to the day since their last game, a Challenge Cup tie at Hull KR, Leigh Centurions gave debuts to a host of new recruits including Joe Mellor, Jamie Ellis and Matty Russell as they stepped up their preparations for the new Betfred Super League season.
The Leythers watching the game at home on OurLeague would have been greatly heartened by their team’s early efforts. With Ellis and Mellor linking nicely in the middle of the park, Leigh enjoyed a good spell of pressure before they went ahead in the 12th minute. Ellis was first to react to a spilled ball near the Saints line and he touched down for a try which he also converted.
The home side started to enjoy more possession and finished the half strongly. Jonny Lomax was an increasing threat for Saints and he was involved in the move which sent Kevin Naiqama striding clear for a try in the 22nd minute. Makinson added the goal which levelled the scores at 6-6.
With six minutes of the half remaining, a Lomax kick to the Leigh ingoal area was grounded by Joel Thompson. Saints continued to press and just when it looked like Leigh had weathered the storm, room was created on the right edge for Makinson to go in at the corner for a try just as the hooter sounded. Makinson made no mistake as Saints extended their lead to 18-6.
Leigh’s response in the second half was strong, with Russell producing a lovely finish to cut infield and score nine minutes after the restart. Ellis again added the goal.
Adam Sidlow powered over from close range in the 58th minute and with Ellis again kicking the goal, we were all square at 18-18.
Then a delightful piece of play saw Brierley read an Ellis kick over to perfection, collecting the ball and scoring under the posts. Another Ellis goal stretched Leigh’s lead to 24-18.
Makinson’s second try looked to have ended Leigh’s hopes of a win but up popped Brierley with that a late twist.
Leigh complete their pre-season programme on Thursday when they take on Warrington Wolves at the HJ Stadium in Chris Hill’s testimonial game.
Brierley, Russell, Thornley, Sa’u, Brand, Ellis, Mellor, Mason, Hood, Ioane, Hellewell, Gee, Thompson. Subs: Widlie, Gerrard, Peteru, Sidlow, Mullen, Spencer
Tries: Ellis, Russell, Brierley, Sidlow,
Goals: Ellis 4 (from 4 attempts)
Drop goals: Brierley
Welsby, Makinson, Simm, Percival, Naiqama, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Thompson, Bentley, Mata’utia. Subs: Amor, Passi, Smith, Dodd, Wingfield, Eaves, Norman, Nisbet, Foster, Rizzelli, Davies, Royle
Tries: Makinson 2, Naiqama, Thompson
Goals: Makinson 4 from 4 attempts
Referee: James Child