By Stephen Ibbetson
Halifax RLFC were cruelly denied late on as a Craig Hall try with four minutes left sealed a dramatic 36-30 win for Leigh Centurions at the Leigh Sports Village.
It was a game full of twists and turns, particularly in the second half, when Fax opened up a 12 point lead, only to see it turn into a deficit of 12.
They managed to claw that back with quick back-to-back tries, but the final piece of drama saw the Centurions come out on top of a game that neither side deserved to lose.
Halifax started the game brilliantly, winning a scrum from the kick-off and then forcing a drop out, but they couldn’t take advantage.
Leigh slowly started to settle into the contest, although both sides were coming up with errors on the ball. It was Fax who were punished first, with a knock on giving the Centurions good position and Liam Hood darting over to open the scoring with the try converted by Ben Reynolds.
Halifax came back into it though and, after back-to-back penalties allowed them to progress up the field, Scott Murrell dived over from close range for his third try in as many games. Shane Grady took the kicking duties in the absence of Steve Tyrer and was able to level the scores.
Fax were very close to taking the lead when Brandon Moore looked to stretch for the line, but he lost the ball in goal. From the restart, Reynolds looked to catch Fax out, reaching the halfway line before Ed Barber brought him down with a high tackle that saw him sent to the bin for the remainder of the half.
Leigh couldn’t take advantage in those ten minutes though, and Murrell put a drop goal attempt wide of the post to take the sides into the break level.
It didn’t remain level for long into the second half though, with Fax scoring twice inside the first six minutes to open up a strong lead.
The first came within just a minute of the restart, as Murrell put a grubber kick in behind the defence which bounced perfectly for full-back Kieren Moss to score on his debut for the club, just days after joining on loan from Hull Kingston Rovers.
Then a Ben Johnston kick into the corner wasn’t dealt with by Leigh, and the scrum-half picked up the pieces to nip in and extend the lead.
It looked like the game was there for Fax to hold onto, but Leigh made a storming comeback with four tries in 14 minutes.
The deficit was halved thanks to smart play by Drew Hutchinson, who took the pass in a neat move left and passed back inside for Jamie Acton running a great line to go over.
The leveller came just before the hour mark, as Ben Crooks claimed a high bomb to the right corner and, despite dropping the ball as he looked to go over himself, Nick Gregson was able to pick things up to score the try.
Leigh then had the lead as Hood claimed his second of the afternoon, thanks to the work of Reynolds to wrestle the ball from Fax close to their own line.
And it got worse from the restart as the ball fell straight for Crooks to charge through the Halifax half, and although he was finally caught he managed to get the offload away to Gregson and he ran in for his second.
As quickly as the game swung away from Halifax, they managed to bring it back in their direction, with two tries in three minutes to level things up.
James Saltonstall made a great run and got the ball away to Johnston, who burst clear to sprint the length of the Leigh half and touch down for his fourth try in three games.
Then Murrell put a chip into the right corner, and Ben Heaton jumped, juggled and eventually claimed to level the scores once again.
The drama wasn’t over yet though, and the final twist was a cruel one for Halifax as Rhys Evans broke down the left wing and found Hall inside him to run in and win the game for Leigh.
Leigh Centurions: Owens; Ricky Bailey, Crooks, Hall, Evans; Reynolds, Hutchinson; Mason, Hood, Acton; Hansen, B Thompson, Gregson.
Interchanges: Mortimer, Ryan Bailey, Richards, J Thompson.
Tries: Hood (17’, 53’), Hutchinson (51’), Gregson (58’, 65’), Hall (76’)
Goals: Reynolds (6/6)
Halifax RLFC: Moss; Saltonstall, Barber, Butler, Heaton; Murrell, Johnston; Fleming, Kaye, Fairbank; Tangata, Grady, Grix.
Interchanges: E Morris, Moore, Maher, Green.
Tries: Murrell (25’), Moss (41’), Johnston (46’, 70’), Heaton (73’)
Goals: Grady (5/5)
Man of the Match: Ben Johnston