The game was the thriller everyone expected it to be, and almost the upset that the majority of people were hoping for. But Warrington, losing at half time, opened the 2nd half with a new vigour and were too much for the Centurions in the end.
But, let it not be thought that the tie was a usual Super League vs Championship affair, in which the former is dominant over the latter.
For large portions, and perhaps even the majority of the game, the Leigh Centurions were the better side, making more breaks, less mistakes, and dominating possession and field position.
Ashton Sims opened the scoring for the Wolves after seven minutes. It took Warrington five consecutive sets on the Leigh line to eventually break over, which was done by neat play from Chris Hill, with a delicate pass at the end putting fellow prop forward Sims over under the posts. O’Brien couldn’t miss the conversions: 6-0.
It took the Leigh side only four minutes to return with a try of their own. A tremendous little kick from Brierley beat the onrushing Wire defence, and Greg Worthington was on hand to fall on the ball before it ran dead. Ridyard duly converted: 6-6.
End to end
The scoring now was back and forth, with Warrington going in next. On 18 minutes, Ben Harrison stole the ball from a Leigh attacker legally, and the ball found its way to Ben Currie, who showed all too much pace to run around the Leigh defenders – the majority of whom still believed their team to be in possession – and score in the corner. O’Brien converted: 12-6.
Warrington never held their try advantage for long, and after 22 minutes Leigh replied. A towering kick from O’Brien went high but barely forward, and as all players allowed the ball to bounce it fell to Brierley, who had too much pace for all the chasing back Wire defence, running around Ratchford easily. Ridyard missed the conversion: 12-10.
The sides went set-for-set with one another now; the defences of both being too much for the opposing offence. Besides a Moimoi double movement, and a Ratchford forward pass to Penny, neither side looked like scoring.
The spell was broken by Leigh with an incredible try. Great hands to the left on the last play fooled Warrington, and Kay raced down the touchline. With defenders on one side, the touch judge on the other, the winger kicked inside with a wonderfully weighted kick straight into the arms of Greg McNally, who dove over the line.
Ridyard missed another conversion, and the score at half time was 12-14 to Leigh.
It was the beginning of the 2nd half that would prove to shape the game. On the first set from the kick off, Warrington went the length of the pitch and scored. A neat break from Dwyer found Ratchford, who must have beaten half a dozen Leigh defenders before sending the ball out to Penny on the wing, who went in unopposed. O’Brien converted: 18-14.
Warrington returned the ball from the kick off, and their end of set kick forced a drop out. From this, Penny was in again with, if not the best try, then certainly the best finish of the game. A great move sent the ball from left to right, and Penny lunged (perhaps flew) for the line, clearing the ground by at least a metre, with the entirety of his body over the touch line, save the left hand with which he placed the ball down. O’Brien missed the conversion: 22-14.
The 2nd half was six minutes old before Leigh had their first attacking set. With this set, the side broke down field, and O’Brien was sent from the field for 10 minutes for a professional foul: take your pick whether it was for holding the man back without the ball, or laying on too long when the man was tackled.
Leigh couldn’t capitalise on their extra man advantage, and it was Warrington who were next over the line, again with Ben Currie. However, the try was ruled off with Penny deemed to have knocked the ball on in the build-up.
Their next effort came to a better end result for the home fans. Dwyer kicked the ball through and – almost a mirror of Leigh’s opener – George King landed on the ball before the Leigh defence could kick it away from beneath him. Westwood – O’Brien still in the sin bin – converted: 28-14.
Were Leigh to stay in this game, they had to score next; and score they did. Another kick, another try. Ridyard this time stabbed the ball through for his halfback partner Brierley to score his 2nd of the afternoon. Ridyard kicked the conversion also: 28-20.
Out of reach
The game was put out of reach a few minutes later. An error from Leigh gave Wire good field position, and good hands found Currie in the right corner, who needed only to step back inside to score. The conversion kicked: 34-20.
Wolves fans still celebrating, Leigh were given a penalty from their own kick off, with a Wire player obstructing the kick chasers. The penalty but the Centurions in good position, and Tom Armstrong crashed over from 5m out. Ridyard missed another conversion: 34-24. If all missed conversions had been scored, the Leigh side would only have been 4 points behind.
Despite their best efforts, Leigh could not score again for the remainder of the time: the final score being 34-24.
A 10 point defeat is nothing to be upset about for Leigh, who can take nothing but positives away from the game: Warrington only scored a single try more than the Championship side. Indeed, it was only the great start to the 2nd half, in which Warrington scored 2 tries before Leigh ever had the ball, which separated the sides. These sorts of experiences will only help the Leigh side, especially with the Super 8s now almost upon us.
For Warrington, the game could not be lost under any circumstances. They would perhaps have liked to have had a more comfortable game, in that they were against a Championship side, but will not rue over their performance, but congratulate the skill of their opposition.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford, Ormsby, Laithwaite, Atkins, Penny, O’Brien, Myler, Hill (C), Clark, Sims, Westwood, Currie, Harrison (subs) Dwyer, Asotasi, Philbin, G. King
Tries: Sims, Currie (2), Penny (2), G. King
Goals: O’Brien (4), Westwood
Leigh Centurions: McNally, Pownall, Worthington, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Wilkes (C), Beswick, Hock, Dixon, Goulden, Emmitt (subs) Higson, Hopkins, Moimoi, Spencer
Tries: Worthington, Brierley (2), McNally, Armstrong
Goals: Riydard (2)