Leigh Centurions broke London hearts at Leigh Sports Village this evening – scoring three tries in less than 10 minutes – to edge a 24-20 victory.
A hotly contested first half saw a total of 19 penalties awarded, but it was London who were first on the scoreboard, when a brilliant team attacking effort set Alex Foster up to dive over the whitewash. Naiqama’s conversion attempt was slightly too wide.
22 minutes in Leigh were reduced to 12 men, after Dayne Weston found himself in the sin bin for his side’s persistent infringements. London capitalised on the advantage, and Cunningham (making his return from injury) was able to cross in the corner only minutes later. Naiqama slipped whilst kicking, and subsequently his conversion attempt was marginally left.
The penalty count continued to flow, and a Leigh knock on saw possession return to the Broncos. Not one to let an opportunity slide, Rhys Williams crashed over in the corner, and an incredible kick from Naiqama added the extras.
With time dwindling before the end of the first 40, it seemed inevitable that Leigh would leave the field scoreless, but Sam Hopkins found a gap in London’s defense, and touched down beside the posts. Lee Smith’s kick was good, and the halftime scoreboard read 6-14.
Naiqama got the second half underway, but on the back of massive defensive efforts from both sides, neither team were able to add anything to the scoreboard for 20 minutes. At long last Hellewell found a gap, and fantastic footwork saw him cross right beside the posts, followed by the extra two from Naiqama.
The next ten minutes saw control slip from London’s grasp, allowing tries from Acton, Emmitt and Chase, and Smith successfully converted all three. The Broncos weren’t able to regain control of the game, and Leigh found themselves a 24-20 victory.
Speaking after the match, Head Coach, Andrew Henderson, said he was gutted for his side.
“I’m very, very proud of the players today. I felt we probably didn’t deserve to lose the game, we probably deserved to get something out of the game. Whether it was at least a point – I thought we deserved that.
“I spoke to the players leading into the game this week about competing hard, about execution and game smarts, which we probably lacked a little bit of that in the last couple of games.
“We stuck to the plan, we executed it well, we played smart, we kicked well. I thought defensively we were strong and there were so many positives, but we had a spell there of probably seven or eight minutes in the second half where we just clocked off a little bit, and Leigh got a bit of a roll on around the middle there and unfortunately they punished us and that’s just something we’ve got to learn when you’re playing a team that’s one of the top sides.”
Whilst Henderson said his squad were understandably disappointed, it is not something the side plan to dwell on for too long.
“At the end of the day we’ve set some targets for this first month and we’re still on course for that. We’ve just got to now dust ourselves down and take the positives that were there.
“I spoke to the players – we’ve got to re-group quickly, we can’t dwell on that. We’ve just got to make sure we don’t drop our standards, and we maintain and deliver high standards and we’re better again next week when we travel to Workington.
“We’re two from three and hopefully we can make it three from four.”
Lee Smith, Adam Higson, Greg Worthington, Richard Whiting, Jonathan Pownall, Rangi Chase, Ryan Brierley, Fuifui Moimoi, Micky Higham, Dayne Weston, Harrison Hansen, Reni Maitua, Gareth Hock
Interchange: Lewis Foster, Sam Hopkins, Jamie Acton, Jake Emmitt
Tries: Hopkins (39), Acton (66), Emmitt (68), Chase (71)
Goals: Lee Smith (4/4)
Alex Walker, Rhys Williams, Ben Hellewell, Wes Naiqama, Illiess Macani, Joe Keyes, Scott Leatherbarrow, Nick Slyney, James Cunningham, Mark Ioane, Alex Foster, Matt Garside, Jack Bussey
Interchange: Andy Ackers, Daniel Harrison, Jamie Thackray, Eddie Battye
Tries: Foster (17), Cunningham (26), Williams (36), Hellewell (60)
Goals: Naiqama (2/4)