The Leigh Centurions are still without a win in Super League 2021, and any chance of avoiding relegation looks to have long since passed, as they took on a Hull KR side who still have aspirations of a top five finish and who knew that a win in Sunday evenings game would lift them above the Black & White side of Hull.
KR were without Abdull, Quinlan and Johnson with Sims named at loose forward, Minikin on the wing and Crooks at full back while Leigh had Logan back in the centres but would miss suspended pair Ashworth and Butler.
The bookies and pundits couldn’t see past a KR win and a continuation of the Leigh misery as they gave the home side a twelve-point start.
Just fifty-six seconds were on the clock when Leigh punished a sleeping KR defence with Junior Sa’u finding space down the right wing to go in from ten metres out and send the home crowd into raptures. Craig Mullen pushed his kick just wide of the posts.
Ryan Hall saved a certain try after Joe Mellor chased down a kick into the Robins goal area. The video referee overturned the referees on-field decision to deny the Leigh scrum half.
On fourteen Kane Linnett levelled the scores as he dabbed down a delightful Rowan Mills grubber kick for 4-4. Ben Crooks was wide with a simple looking conversion to leave the sides locked up.
Matt Parcell and Corbyn Sims were both held up over the line on eighteen and on the next play a flick back pass from Brad Takairangi off a Crooks kick found Greg Minikin to weave past the last defender down the touchline to score. Once again, the Crooks conversion went wide.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall got the third Robins try on twenty-three as he took a neat pass and dropped the shoulder to fool the Centurions defence and slide over the line. Crooks hit the target for the first time in the game and after three tries in eight minutes it was 14-4.
The fourth KR try came on thirty-three from Mikey Lewis as he twice dummied before running the angle for a try from eight metres out. Crooks missed a third conversion attempt, but KR were starting to pull clear.
Leigh grabbed a lifeline three minutes before the interval with Craig Mullen on hand to go through a stretched Rovers defence and when he added the extras the home side were eight adrift at 10-18.
It was a great start to the second half for KR with Albert Vete forcing the ball onto the ground in goal on forty-five minutes after taking the ball at first receiver. Crooks added the conversion for 24-10, the home side now needing three converted tries.
A big hit from Albert Vete on Matty Foster saw the big Tongan sin-binned on fifty minutes reducing KR to twelve for ten minutes. Three tackles after getting the penalty Adam Sidlow went route one to score under the sticks, Mullen adding the conversion and again reducing the arrears to eight.
With Hull KR a mon down Leigh laid siege to their line and another high tackle saw George Lawler sin-binned on fifty-eight and down to eleven men. The inevitable try came just a few seconds later with Sa’u getting his second of the game on a big overlap as the KR defence was stretched beyond breaking point. Mullen kicked brilliantly from the touchline and the home side were just two behind.
Ben Crooks spilled a high kick on sixty-two and on the fourth tackle Adam Sidlow went through a gap from first receiver to ground and put the Centurions back into the lead. Mullen added the conversion for 28-24 to the Centurions.
On sixty-six the Leigh defenders fell off Kenny-Dowall after giving him too much space as he threw the dummy and then juggled with the ball before grounding over the line. Crooks was wide with his conversion attempt. The sides level with twelve minutes left to play in a thriller of a match.
On seventy-two Rovers were back in the lead when a high kick was knocked back and then passed wide to the left wing and ultimately into the hands of Ryan Hall for the veteran winger to go over unopposed by the corner flag. There was some scrutiny from the video referee for a knock-on in the build up but the try was awarded. Crooks added the conversion for a 34-28 lead with seven minutes on the clock.
With just over four minutes on the clock Liam Hood dove on a loose ball over the line but the referee adjudged that he did so from an offside position and ruled out the try.
This was a terrific game between two determined sides and up until the final hooter it could have gone either way. Leigh prospered when KR suffered sin-binnings and grabbed the lead but in the closing stages, and back to full strength the visitors just managed to grab the tries they needed to pinch the win and break Centurions hearts. Leigh are up into fifth spot ahead of their rivals, Leigh move on to next week still seeking that elusive first points of the season.
Leigh Centurions: Brand, Sa’u (2T), Logan, Thornley, Russell, Mullen (T, 4G), Mellor, Gerrard, Eaves, Sidlow (2T), Foster, Hellewell, Bell. Subs: Hood, Thompson, Gee, Iaone.
Hull KR: Crooks (3G), Hall (T), Kenny-Dowall (2T), Takairangi, Minikin (T), Lewis (T), Milnes, King, Parcell, Maher, Linnett (T), Hadley, Sims. Subs: Vete (T, SB on 50), Litten, Lawler (SB on 58), Storton.
Referee: Chris Kendall.
Score Progression: 4-0, 4-4, 4-8, 4-12, 4-14, 4-18, 8-18, 10-18 : HT : 10-22, 10-24, 14-24, 16-24, 20-24 22-24, 26-24, 28-24, 28-28, 28-32, 28-34: FT.