Leigh Centurions slipped into Co-operative Championship One despite a convincing victory over an under-whelming Whitehaven outfit.
The Centurions overcame a rocky start to compile a comprehensive eight-try win as Whitehaven’s handling and discipline undermined a promising early lead.
“… we’ll not panic even though we’re disappointed. We’ll come back stronger.”
But it counted for nothing with fellow relegation-battlers, Batley and Gateshead also logging big wins, to condemn the Lancashire club to rugby league’s third tier in 2010. Quite what that means for the ambitious recruitment plans in place at the club – with former Leigh, St Helens and Wigan coach, Ian Millward, already contracted for next season – remains to be seen.
It will be a long way back for them, although the Northern Rail Cup offers a juicy carrot for next season. Victory in that will give them the right to press their engage Super League ambitions even from the depths of Championship One.
‘Haven hit the front with an incisive break down their right flank. Carl Rudd racing clear to send winger Paul Ballard in at the corner, rousing the vociferous travelling support to a frenzy.
News that Batley trailed by a similar score at Featherstone was cold comfort for the home fans.
Leigh rallied after a fiesty opening to snatch the lead back, with hooker, Dave McConnell, forcing his way over at right-centre from close range. Mick Nanyn landed a superb conversion from wide out.
With all the play going through the classy Rudd ‘Haven looked likely to hit back quickly, but poor passing saw them squander their opportunity.
Leigh marched downfield courtesy of a Haven penalty. And despite losing Chris Hill to injury they exacted full value from the chance. McConnell again squirming from the tackle for force his way over wide out on the right. This time Nanyn’s kick was wide.
Haven continued to show a lack of composure coughing up the football in midfield and then conceding a penalty in front of their own posts, which Nanyn converted for a 12-4 lead.
Nanyn added to his points total on 26 minutes, crashing onto a neat offload from Higson to score. His conversion edged the Centurions closer to Championship safety at 18-4.
Leigh padded their half time lead with a well crafted try, as Ian Watson lobbed a one handed pass out to send Wingfield over at the right corner on the stroke of half time.
Shocking Whitehaven defence enabled Martin Ridyard to come inside off Watson lofted pass and bounce of three tackles to touch down betweenthe posts. Nanyn tagged on the two points for a 28-4 lead.
However that counted for nothing with Batley leading 18-14 at Featherstone, whilst Gateshead were 34-0 up on Doncaster; Championship One beckoned the Centurions.
Dave Alstead added a further try, with Nanyn again converting. But these were empty points. Batley now lead 24-14, with Thunder 40 points up too.
Good handling from Dexter Miller, Rudd and Scott McAvory created a try for Ballard at the corner, with Rudd converting to make it 35-10.
Nanyn raced clear to score and convert, extending the home lead further on seventy minutes, Jackson pegging a try back for Haven moments later as the game wound down.
Alstead’s late interception try was cheered for every one of the ninety metres it covered and Nanyn’s goal made it 47-14.
1 Donlan,2 Alstead, 4 Stewart, 31 Nanyn, 3 Maden, 23 Ridyard, 7 Watson, 16 Hill, 9 McConnell, 28 Meekin, 12 Taylor, 11 Armistead, 13 A Smith
Subs: 15 Higson, 30 Leuluai,26 Durbin, 29 Wingfield
T: McConnell (11, 19), Nanyn (26, 67), Wingfield (37), Ridyard (47), Alstead (58, 77)
G: Nanyn 7/10
D: Watson (63)
1 Benson, 32 Ballard, 3 Jackson, 13 McAvoy, 2 Calvert, 6 Rudd, 24 McNally, 10 Edmondson, 9 Mattinson, 7 Joe, 12 Miller, 15 Gorski, 25 Theoharous
Subs: 28 C Smith, 8 Jackson, 19 Amor, 30 Miller
T: Ballard (2, 63), Jackson (70)
G: McNally 0/1, Rudd 1/2
Scoring2 Ballard try, McNally miss (0/1) 0-4
11 McConnell try, Nanyn goal (1/1) 6-4
19 McConnell try, Nanyn miss (1/2) 10-4
23 Nanyn goal (2/3) 12-4
26 Nanyn try, Nanyn goal (3/4) 18-4
37 Wingfield try, Nanyn miss (3/5) 22-4
42 Nanyn penalty miss (3/6)
47 Ridyard try, Nanyn miss (4/7) 28-4
58 Alstead try, Nanyn goal (5/8) 34-4
60 Watson DG 35-4
63 Ballard try, Rudd goal (1/1) 35-10
67 Nanyn try Nanyn goal (6/9) 41-10
70 Jackson try, Rudd miss (1/2) 41-14
77 Alstead try, Nanyn goal (7/10) 47-14
Referee: R Lawton
Players of Note:
- Dave McConnell’s direction around the ruck and power close to the line steadied the Leigh ship and turned around an early deficit
- Carl Rudd’s classy stand-off performance was – at times- too good for his team mates to match.
Leigh Centurions coach, Paul Rowley, was disappointed but philosophical about the outcome saying:
“I think Dave Alstead summed it up just in there (changing rooms) when he said it was the most depressing win he’d ever been part of. And people may well be asking where’s that performance come from. But in all honesty our form’s been spot on since July, apart from one slip up at Barrow obviously.
“But I can’t ask no more than that effort today We were outstanding.”
“We can look back now at incidents during the year, like the dropped bonus point at Whitehaven, but we can’s change things now. As long as we learn from this.”The Northern Rail Cup has just become an altogether more significant competition for us. We’ll have the same team as we would have had if we’d still been in the Championship so there’s no saying we can’t win it from there (CC1).
“If we look for something to take heart from, well I was involved in relegation under Tony Smith at Huddersfield and they came straight back up and went to two Challenge Cups.
“It’s a rebuilding process and we have to learn from it and come back stronger. In some ways it’s a freakish thing to finish joint seventh and be relegated. We knew the rules at the start of the year (regarding Toulouse’s exemption) so whilst we may not agree with it we have no say in it and just have to accept it.”
“I’ll be working with Ian (Millward) next year so we’ll have a strong coaching team as well as a strong playing team. So we’ll not panic even though we’re disappointed. We’ll come back stronger.”