A fixture between Featherstone Rovers and Leigh Centurions would be the game of the round on any given weekend of Betfred Championship rugby and with both clubs hopeful and optimistic of ending the season by being promoted to Super League for 2023 there was little wonder that Premier Sports selected it for their second edition of Monday night football.
Both sides secured a win in the competitions opening round last weekend, and knew that they needed a win to keep level with the three unbeaten sides at the top of the table; Widnes, Batley and Barrow. It was two coaches with masses of Super League experience and pedigree as Brian McDermott came up against Adrian Lam in an early season crunch game.
Featherstone received the kick-off and would spend the first half playing up the Post Office Road slope but early on they home side made light of the disadvantage.
Leigh lost Chris Green early with a suspected broke arm, an early blow for the visitors.
When Leigh spilled the ball on their own twenty Rovers took full advantage with a fast move ending with Luke Briscoe ducking under the last tackler to ground the ball off a Joey Leilua pass. Craig Hall added the conversion.
A great effort from Nene Macdonald saw him close to the line on eighteen but the Fev´ defence was resolute.
Junior Moors and Hall combined to put Morgan Smith free in plenty of space to motor over from twenty metres for the second Rovers try of the night. Hall added the conversion for 12-0 after twenty-two minutes.
A clumsy spear tackle on Connor Jones saw James McDonnell sin-binned on twenty-five. A minute later Ben Reynolds joined him after a late cannonball tackle, Leigh down to eleven men for the next nine minutes.
Within seconds a Dane Chisolm kick to the corner was collected by Hall to score on a big overlap. This time Hall was unable to add the touchline conversion, but Featherstone were in full control of the game.
A great period of Leigh pressure, camped inside the Featherstone twenty, failed to bear fruit as the Rovers defence held strong. In worsening conditions, the home side took their sixteen-point lead into the interval and would have the advantage of playing down the slope in the second half.
Both sides made errors at the start of the second half but neither side could capitalise as the conditions took their toll making handling and free running very difficult.
On sixty-two Featherstone added their fourth try when John Davies picked up a ball which had been dislodged from his grasp and dotted it down over the line. Hall added the conversion and extended the lead to twenty-two points.
On sixty-eight the Centurions finally broke their duck with Macdonald crashing over despite the attention of three tacklers. Reynolds added the conversion for 6-22.
In the dying seconds a well worked try saw Brandon Pickersgill step out of two tackles to dive over the line for a four pointer. Hall added his fourth goal of the night for a final score of 28-6.
Played out on a mud bath, this was never going to be a classic. It was the home side who adapted the best and the visitors who struggled with the ball in hand and were unable to take their chances. It´s very early in the season to draw conclusions about Leigh but there is no denying that Featherstone are looking like the real deal under the coaching of Brian McDermott.
Featherstone Rovers: Pickersgill (T), Briscoe (T), Leilua, Hellewell, Hall (T, 4G), Smith (T), Chisolm, Cooper, Wildie, Lockwood, Moors, Hardcastle, Bussey. Subs: Jones, Davies (T), Field, Cuthbertson.
Leigh Centurions: Aekins, Dixon, Brand, Macdonald (T), Nisbet, Reynolds (G, SB on 26), Mellor, Green, Smooth, Amone, Wardle, Stone, Asiata. Subs: Hingano, McDonnell (SB on 25), Idane, Jones.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, (SB), (SB), 16-0 : HT : 20-0, 22-0, 22-4, 22-6, 26-6, 28-6 : FT .
Referee: Rob Hicks.