Leigh Centurions hadn’t beaten tonight’s Super League ‘State of Mind’ opponents Wigan Warriors for thirty-three years.
A win would lift the hosts above the Widnes Vikings and off the bottom of the league, but the victory was also crucial for Wigan who were in danger of slipping out of touch with the all-important top four and out of the play-off place that their fans demand.
Both sides were struggling with injuries and were without many first choice first teamers. Leigh were notably without Hock and Higham, and Wigan without the suspended Farrell and injured skipper O’Loughlin amongst many others.
It was a brilliant start for Wigan against a nervous looking Leigh and Liam Marshall opened the scoring after just three minutes when he was on the overlap from a right to left passing move to take an Oliver Gildart pass and cross in the corner. George Williams failed to kick the extras for a 4-0 lead.
But Leigh struck back and stunned Wigan with three tries on the bounce.
Ryan Hampshire scored on fourteen when he intercepted a Joe Burgess no look pass to go eighty metres and score under the sticks. Ben Reynolds kicked the goal for 6-4.
Veteran Danny Tickle was next over when he took a Josh Drinkwater short pass to step inside and crash over. Reynolds again added the extras and Leigh were starting to gain control.
On twenty-four Lachlan Burr made it 18-4 when he collected a Mitch Brown knock-back of a Drinkwater cross-field kick to step past the Wigan defence to score. Reynolds was again accurate with the conversion.
Josh Ganson grabbed a debut try for Wigan when he went from first receiver to break the Leigh line but his four-pointer was not converted by Williams for 18-8.
It was Williams himself found space to break the Leigh defence and dive over. Marshall took over the kicking duties and slotted over the conversion for 18-14 before a last minute Reynolds penalty re-established Leighs six point leading margin at the interval. It was an end to end encounter and still anyone’s game.
Wigan opened the second half scoring when Gildart was at the end of a nice cross-field passing move to go in at the corner and ground one-handed. Marshall missed the conversion leaving his side still trailing by two.
The forty-seventh minute saw Leigh get their first score of the second half thanks to strength from Mitch Brown who pushed back three defenders and managed to get the ball down on the line. Reynolds added the extras and once again the Centurions had an eight point lead.
On fifty-two Lewis Tierney was trapped in goal and from the resulting set of six Liam Hood found his way over next to the sticks to further extend the Leigh lead. Reynolds kicked the conversion for 32-18.
On fifty-six Liam Hood grabbed his second within a fruitful four minutes period when he went from he took a short pass to burrow under two Wigan defenders to ground on the line. Referee Hicks pointed at the spot and when Reynolds added the extras it was 38-18 and Leigh were edging away from the Warriors.
On fifty-eight Frank-Paul Nuuausala scored a try, far too easily, when he went over under the sticks. This time Marshall added the extras for 38-24, there was a glimmer of hope for the Warriors.
On sixty-two Corey Paterson made a lunge for the line for Leigh’s seventh try of the night after a nice step inside. Reynolds added the extra two for 44-24 and it was turning into a sensational night for the Centurions.
On seventy-two Matty Dawson scored the easiest try of his career when he grounded a bobbling kick to the corner from Ben Reynolds under no pressure from Wigan. Reynolds added the extras to bring up the fifty at 50-24.
A consolation try from Burgess on seventy-seven, grounding a Williams grubber kick, and Ganson on seventy-nine, didn’t take and sheen off the Leigh performance. Marshall converted the first but missed the second for a final score of 50-34.
Leigh broke a hoodoo tonight at Leigh Sports Village and more than avenged the loss at the DW Stadium earlier in the season as they got one over their illustrious neighbours in the most important home game of the season for Centurions fans. Leigh took a couple of early knocks, conceding the first points of both halves, but they fought back for a brilliant win over a Wigan side who now look in all sorts of trouble in their quest for a top four place.
Leigh are off the bottom of the league, at least until Widnes play their round eighteen game. A superb night for Leigh and their fans.
McNally, Dawson (T), Brown (T), Paterson (T), Hampshire (T), Reynolds (8G), Drinkwater, Acton, Pelissier, Weston, Tickle (T), Hansen, Stewart. Subs: Hood (2T), Maria, Burr (T), Hopkins.
Tierney, Davies, Burgess (T), Gildart (T), Marshall (T, 3G), Williams (T), Leuluai, Nuuausala (T), McIlorum, Sutton, Isa, Wells, Tomkins. Subs: Ganson (2T), Forsyth, Tautai, Navarrete.