Fresh from their stunning AB Sundecks 1895 Trophy win over the Featherstone Rovers, Leigh Centurions travelled up the M6 in a ´jubilant´ mood with the aim of taking two points off an impressive Barrow Raiders side who are still in the top half of the table as the season mid-stage approaches.
The Centurions made several changes from the side which triumphed at the Tottenham Stadium with Brand, Roberts, Hitchcox, Hingano, Amone, Ipape, Nakubuwai, and O´Donnell all named in the starting thirteen. Barrow too were forced into a handful of changes due to injuries.
Leigh needed a win to have the chance of going top, but more likely maintaining the pressure on Featherstone, while a win for Leigh could lift them into fifth spot should Whitehaven beat the Batley Bulldogs. The odds were on a Leigh win.
Aggressive Barrow defence kept Leigh at bay until the ten-minute mark when Edwin Ipape wriggled free of his tacklers and went sixty metres to score by the posts for a terrific opening try. Ben Reynolds added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
It was all too easy on twenty-two when Blake Ferguson pushed away the attempted tackles to go in for the second Leigh try. Reynolds added the conversion for a two try lead.
Ipape made it three unanswered Leigh tries as he again waltzed through a broken Barrow defence, after picking up a spilled Barrow ball, for his second of the afternoon on twenty-seven, Reynolds again accurate with the boot for 18-0.
During the dying seconds of the half the Raiders got in for their first time after a great Shane Toal break down the wing before finding Brett Carter inside in support to take the pass and go in. Jarrod Sammut couldn´t convert the try, Barrow 4-18 down at the interval.
Seconds after the restart a great Connor Saunders break from his own twenty, on debut, found space before he passed to Luke Cresswell to make the remaining yards and go over. The Leigh defence were looking tired, possibly after their exertions last weekend, and when Sammut kicked the extras, the deficit was down to eight points.
But the Barrow second half fightback lasted just moments as on the next set of possession James McDonald went over in the left corner before improving the angle for Reynolds to convert for 24-10.
Barrow were in again on fifty-five Tee Ritson taking a Sammut pass and angling his run to get over the line after Leigh had been penalised for dissent. Sammut added the conversion for 16-24.
Barrow were next over the whitewash, again punishing a clumsy Leigh error, as Sammut picked up a loose ball and went over unopposed for the fourth home try of the afternoon. Sammut added the extras and with twenty minutes remaining the gap between the two sides was just two points.
Leigh had a couple of chances to score but great Barrow defence kept them at bay.
Connor Saunders capped a dream debut on sixty-nine as he collected a Sammut kick over the top to go in for the four pointer which grabbed the lead for the home side. Sammut added the conversion for a four-point advantage with ten to go.
The scores were square on seventy-three with a breakaway try from Ferguson after a sloppy Barrow attacking play gifted possession to the visitors. Reynolds added the goal and now it was Leigh who were two points ahead.
Dan Toal was hit high, thirty out from the Leigh line, and the dugout sent on the kicking tee for Sammut but the slid the ball wide of the uprights, Barrow still trailing with two minutes remaining but it was to be their last chance of points.
It was a great fightback from Barrow against a Leigh side who were clearly showing fatigue from their exertions last weekend. The visitors managed to squeeze out the last drops of effort to regain the lead in the closing minutes and scrape a win by the skin of their teeth. Barrow will be crushed that they couldn´t collect the points after putting in a tremendous effort.
Barrow Raiders: Cresswell (T), Ritson (T), Wheeler, Carter (T), Toal S, Johnston, Sammut (T, 4G), Terrill, Mossop, Brooks, Gillam, Emslie, Crellin. Subs: Stack, Toal D, Iaria, Saunders (T).
Leigh Centurions: Brand, Ferguson (2T), Roberts, MacDonald (T), Hitchcox, Reynolds (5G), Hingano, Amone, Ipape (2T), Nakubuwai, Stone, O´Donnell, Asiata. Subs: McDonnell, Nisbet, Ioane, Jones.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 0-12, 0-16, 0-18, 4-18 : HT : 8-18, 10-18, 10-22, 10-24, 14-24, 16-24, 20-24, 22-24, 26-24, 28-24, 28-28, 28-30 : FT.
Lead Exchange: Leigh – Barrow – Square - Leigh.
Referee: Ben Thaler.