MATCH REPORT: Superb Rovers shock Leigh
Snapshot: Skipper Shaun Lunt scored twice after starting on the substitutes bench. Ryan Shaw with the other try as a superb defensive effort secures the spoils for the Robins.
Hull Kingston Rovers defeated Super League’s Leigh Centurions in thrilling fashion in the second round of the Qualifiers, securing a 20-16 at Leigh Sports Village.
Following last week’s victory over Halifax in the opening round of the Qualifiers, head coach Tim Sheens made two changes to his side, with James Greenwood and Chris Clarkson both returning from injury to take their place in the matchday 17. Centre Thomas Minns dropped out with a dead leg, Maurice Blair taking his place alongside Justin Carney on the left flank, whilst prop Robbie Mulhern was the other player to make way.
It was a solid start from the Robins as they went toe to toe with the home side early on before withstanding a barrage of four consecutive sets from the Centurions. Ryan Shaw briefly broke the shackles with a break up the right flank but Leigh’s greater possession soon told as Harrison Hansen took advantage of an offload to burst through the middle and send the supporting Daniel Mortimer over under the posts, Josh Drinkwater converting.
Trailing 6-0 after 14 minutes, Sheens responded by sending skipper Shaun Lunt on from the bench and it coincided with another evenly contested period of the match, with half chances at either end combining with some scrambling defence. Mose Masoe and Carney were both held up just short of the line in KR’s forays into Leigh territory, before Lunt finally managed to find a way over with a trademark dart from dummy half after Danny Addy had drawn in the defence and found a quick play-the-ball.
Jamie Ellis slotted the conversion and then kicked a clever low 40/20 on the following set to give Rovers another chance to attack the opposition line, but a forward pass to Clarkson on the right flank halted the momentum.
Leigh responded with another spell of pressure, a penalty and a crucial knock-down from Shaw giving them further repeat sets. With the clock ticking down for half-time, Rovers were penalised again in the shadow of their own posts and Drinkwater took the opportunity to nudge his side ahead at the break by a narrow two-point margin.
Half-time: Leigh Centurions 8-6 Hull KR
Again, Sheens’ men began the second half in positive fashion and were only denied taking the lead for the first time by some desperate Leigh defence. First, great feet from Andrew Heffernan saw him skip past his opposite number down the right touchline only for his supporting player to be held back, then Blair was halted inches short by a superb tackle after a charging run on the opposite side of the field.
At the other end of the field, the Centurions were struggling to create the space they had in the first half, but a penalty against Lee Jewitt in midfield gave the home team the opportunity to stretch their lead via the boot once more.
Rovers were now four points behind heading into the final half an hour but maintained their composure and continued to complete sets. A clever switch of play by Carney then created space for Blair, who in turn linked up with Kieren Moss and Matty Marsh to break clear. From the following set, the Robins then struck as Ellis launched a pin-point kick to the right corner for Shaw to climb highest and touch down brilliantly inside the whitewash to level the scores.
The touchline conversion from Ellis found the mark and KR led by two points heading into the final quarter.
That advantage was further extended a few minutes later when Moss was obstructed chasing a high kick toward the Leigh line, Ellis stepping up to convert the penalty to take the scores to 14-10.
However, the game was far from over and the Centurions hit back with 12 minutes left on the clock with a short range try, Atelea Vea having too much strength close to the line as he powered through a tackle from Matty Marsh. Drinkwater converted via the post and the home side were back in front to set up a tense finish for the travelling Rovers supporters.
Half back Chris Atkin was on from the bench for the Robins by this stage and tried a chip over the top to break through the Leigh defence but lost his footing in the attempted chase, with the Centurions reclaiming possession on half way. That looked to be crucial as an attacking grubber Drinkwater bobbled dangerously into the in-goal, but Moss got across to snuff out the danger just in time.
From the following set, Carney came up with a try-saver to prevent Vea from charging over for his second, before Marsh then came to the rescue with a similar effort on the next play as KR survived.
That sparked a counter-attack from the Robins as Shaw broke upfield again before Ellis’ low kick was spilled by Leigh inside their own 10, handing Rovers another chance. From the scrum, it was worked left and Lunt then came up with another crucial play as he spun over in carbon copy fashion to his try in the first half, the video referee giving the nod.
Ellis kept his cool with the conversion to give his side a four-point lead heading into the last four minutes .
Leigh piled on the pressure in response and got a fortunate repeat set when Shaw was adjudged to have played at a Drinkwater kick, but some excellent scrambling defence from Rovers held the hosts at bay on the resulting set.
Moss then knocked on from the scrum as the tensions mounted but somehow Sheens’ side found a way to survive to secure a crucial victory.
Full-time: Leigh Centurions 20-16 Hull KR
Leigh Centurions: McNally, Dawson, Fleming, Langi, Higson, Mortimer, Drinkwater, Hansen, Higham, Maria, Vea, Paterson, Burr
Subs: Hood, Richards, Tickle, Stewart
Hull KR: Moss, Carney, Blair, Heffernan, Shaw, Marsh, Ellis, Scruton, Lawler, Jewitt, Addy, Clarkson, Kavanagh
Subs: Lunt, Greenwood, Atkin, Masoe
Referee: J Smith Attendance: 5,335