AFTER SUCCESSIVE drubbings in the Qualifiers, Featherstone Rovers regained their pride by pushing Leigh Centurions all the way in a cracking game at Big Fellas Stadium.
The 30-18 scoreline flattered Leigh, who added eight points in the final four minutes after Rovers threatened to create a huge upset.
Trailing 12-0 after seven minutes and 22-6 at the start of the final quarter, Rovers played with tremendous spirit and their defence was outstanding under massive pressure at times. After their good start Leigh got sloppy and seemed shocked by the scale of the home team’s reaction.
Featherstone had conceded 62 points in both their opening middle-eights fixtures, to Leeds and Huddersfield and coach Jon Sharp said: “I am really pleased with the response, not just in its entirity, but to the adversity early on.
“They got out of the blocks and before we knew it we were 12-0 down. The response from the players was brilliant; the heart and the passion and the willingness to have a dig was the overriding success for me.
“The effort and the performance gives us something to build on and gives us an opportunity to get our confidence back and our belief in one another.”
Rovers took a while to get to grips with Leigh’s Super League-strength pack. Former Feathetrstone forward Reni Maitua crashed over after just four minutes and in the next set Martyn Ridyard’s kick took a wicked bounce and Mitch Brown touched down.
Ridyard converted both, but Kyle Briggs kicked a 40-20 to revive Rovers, Leigh were penalised in the subsequent set and following that, Josh Walters went over from Briggs’ excellent short pass.
Walters, on-loan from Leeds Rhinos, had a magnificent game and his ball steal on Gareth Hock in the first half was a moment of class.
Briggs converted and added a penalty nine minutes before the break. Twice Leigh winger Adam Higson looked a certain scorer only to be kept out by outstanding defence from Rovers’ left-side.
Rovers held out until the 50th minute when Matty Dawson crossed wide out from Ridyard’s pass.
Eleven later Micky Higham burrowed over from close range following an error by James Duckworth and Ridyard landed the conversion to make it 22-8. Leigh thought the game was safe. But Rovers found some extra energy from somewhere. Luke Briscoe crossed at the corner from Jordan Baldwinson’s pass and in the next set Jack Ormondroyd powered in and Briggs’ goal made it a four-point ball game.
Leigh were wobbling, but Ridyard steadied the ship with a penalty four minutes from time.
But the final moments were cruel on Rovers as Josh Drinkwater attempted a drop goal, his kick was spilled by Danny Craven, who had been excellent at full-back, and Hock went over for a converted try from the resulting scrum.
Featherstone Rovers: Craven, Duckworth, Hardman, Taulapapa, Briscoe, Briggs, Thackeray, Griffin, Ellis, Baldwinson, Tagg, Walters, Spears. Subs Day, Snitch, Cooper, Ormondroyd.
Leigh Centurions: McNally, Higson, Brown, Armstrong, Dawson, Ridyard, Drinkwater, MoiMoi, Higham, Weston, Maitua, Paterson, Hock. Subs Hood, Tickle, Hansen, Hopkins.
Referee: Jack Smith Warrington.