In a dress-rehearsal for what many have tipped to be the 'Million Pound Game' come the end of the season, the Wakefield Wildcats travelled to Leigh Sports Village to take on a Centurions side still looking for their first win in the Super 8s Qualifiers.
Wakefield were full of confidence after last weekends win over the Bradford Bulls but there was an air of desperation around Leigh as they knew full well that a loss this afternoon could bury their hopes of Super League in 2016.
The sunny and dry conditions were perfect for a classic match.
After dominating the opening five minutes it was the Wildcats who demonstrated their ruthlessness when Lee a Smith benefitted from a fantastic last ditch offload by Bill Tupou to go through a a big gap and touch down. Smith added the extras for 6-0.
It took twelve minutes for Leigh to get a play in the Wakefield half, and when they did they registered their opening try as Fuifui Moimoi left two players flapping in his wake, and took another two over the line with him. Martyn Ridyard slid the ball right of the uprights from the right touchline.
On twenty-six the home side hit the front, again after sustaining intense Wakefield pressure. After Liam Kay returned a deep kick, Ryan Brierley and Ridyard combined to give Jonathan Pownall a pass which he juggled three times before going over in the corner. Ridyard added the conversion for 10-6.
On thirty-four it was another defence into attack try for Leigh when Ridyard put in a long kick downfield which was chased by Liam Kay, dribbled over the line, and dived on for the four pointer. Ridyard slotted the penalty between the sticks for 16-6.
Within two minutes Jacob Miller spun over the line for the Wildcats after stepping past two defenders. Lee Smith made a real hash of the conversion but at 16-10 the game was starting to live up to its pre-match billing as we headed into the interval.
It was a bad-tempered and error-strewn opening eighteen minutes of the second half before the Wildcats managed to get themselves back level. Ali Lauitiiti had gone close with a jinking run before Jacob Miller went twenty metres to zig-zag past the Leigh defence. Lee Smith converted the try to level the scores.
The pressure was back on Wakefield after sixty-one when Michael Sio was sin-binned for a 'crusher tackle' on Leigh full-back Gregg McNally.
On sixty-seven Lee Smith got himself into position and drifted a drop goal between the sticks to give a one-point lead for the twelve men of Wakefield.
With ten minutes left it looked like Chris Riley had won it for the Wildcats but after sending the decision to the video referees as a try, it was overturned and ruled out due to Riley kicking the ball out of the hands of Liam Kay.
The Wildcats finished the game on the attack to complete a fantastic away victory and condemn Leigh to another frustrating afternoon in the Qualifiers.
This was a great game between two sides who made up in passion, what they lacked in skill and finesse. Wakefield are up to third place in the qualifiers table with Leigh static in seventh. The Wildcats are now in a great position to secure their Super League future, but Leigh's hopes seem to be diminishing with every passing round.
Centurions: McNally, Pownall (T), Worthington, Armstrong, Kay (T), Ridyard (2G), Brierley, Moimoi (T), Higham, Emmitt, Haggerty, Dixon, Acton. Subs: Beswick, Barlow, Spencer, Aspinwall.
Wildcats: Smith L (T, 2G, DG), Riley, Tupou, Arundel, Lyne, Miller (2T), Smith T, Scruton, Sio (SB), Anderson, Molloy, Ashurst, Simon. Subs: Lauitiiti, Washbrook, Godinet, Mullally.
Referee: James Child