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Leigh beat Hull KR in Cup Final
It was a glorious day in Blackpool and a glorious game of rugby league at New Craven Park as Leigh Centurions beat Hull Kingston Rovers 22-18 in the Northern Rail Cup Final.
Ahead of what was a terrific advert for the National League, there was much speculation about the possible size of a Hull KR victory given their 24-match unbeaten run going into this game. Justin Morgan's men from Humberside had not lost since September 2005, but Leigh's status as underdogs may have gone some way to securing a well-earned victory.
Against the run of play, it was the Centurions who took an early lead with a penalty from Michael Govin, but the first try of the game came from the favourites as Hull KR's Jon Goddard collected the ball from Byron Ford to go over after 14 minutes. It was Goddard's 18th try of the season and it was winger Bryon Ford himself who collected the ball for Hull KR's second try a few minutes later.
The Rovers tactic of moving the ball wide paid off again as full-back Ben Cockayne broke through the Leigh defence to extend the lead after 27 minutes and with a hammering in prospect, Leigh hit back with a well-worked try of their own from Centurions skipper Paul Rowley.
Leigh's coach, Tony Benson, was hardly back in his seat before man-of-the-match Scott Grix chipped the ball forward and picked up the lucky bounce to score again for Leigh and make the score 16-12.
The Humberside side were put under enormous pressure as a revitalised Leigh pushed on to level the scores and a remarkable fight-back became complete when Leigh's Cook Island forward Terry Glassie managed to reach the try line under a mass of Rovers defenders. There was some doubt whether the ball was grounded but a try was given by the video referee to send the teams in all-square at the break.
Whilst the half-time talk was all about the role of the video ref, Leigh came out for the second period boosted by their first-half performance, knowing they were just 40 minutes from taking the first piece of silverware of the 2006 league season.
Hull KR soaked up all the early second-half pressure and when they finally attacked, it resulted in Leigh being penalised for offside, with Gareth Morton's boot restoring the slenderest of leads for Hull KR.
Rovers were soon manning the barricades and it was not surprising when Dana Wilson put Leigh into the lead for a second time with a powerful try in which he pushed through the Rovers defensive line to make the score 22-18.
Hull KR's Ian Morrison missed a good chance to score when he knocked the ball forward on Leigh's try line. It was a rare handling error from the National One league leaders, but with the temperature reaching boiling point it was Rovers who were producing the stronger finish.
Damian Couturier managed to get the ball over the line only for the video referee to disallow the score after it was adjudged that Leroy Revett had passed the ball after the tackle was completed.
Both teams were now suffering in the searing heat but in frantic a final few minutes, it was Leigh who held out in what had been a pulsating game.
It was ten months since Hull KR lost and their 24-match unbeaten run was ended by the underdogs of Leigh Centurions, a win which must go some way at least to erasing the memory of losing their Super League status in 2005.
With a new ground on the way, it was the perfect start to a new era for the club.
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Hull KR 18 (16) Tries: J Goddard, Ford, Cockayne Goals: Morton 3
Leigh 22 (16) Tries: Rowley, Grix, Glassie, Wilson Goals: Govin 3
Leigh produced a thrilling comeback to stun favourites Hull Kingston Rovers in the final of the Northern Rail Cup.
Hull KR thought they won it late on but the video referee ruled out centre Damien Couturier's try.
The official adjudged that Scott Murrell, who provided a miraculous pass for Couturier to cross, had been tackled.
Leigh have now claimed the trophy for the second time in three years, following their win over Hull KR in 2004.
The defeat ends Hull KR's superb club record winning run which stood at 24 matches stretching back to last September.
"We made some uncharacteristic errors and our kicking game was poor.
"We got beat fair and square. They played better than us on the day and deserved the victory."
Leigh coach Tony Benson on the video referee: "I love that man - I think he did a great job.
"There was one early on that I wasn't too sure was right so I think it evened itself out.
"It was one of those games we had to grind out. Obviously we came in as severe underdogs. We had faith and I had faith and they came through."
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Northern Rail Cup Final, New Craven Park, Sunday July 16
Hull K R (16) 18. Tries: J. Goddard, Ford, Cockayne. Goals: Morton 3.
Leigh (16) 22. Tries: Rowley, Grix, Glassie, Wilson. Goals: Govin 3.
Hull KR: Cockayne, Rivett, Couturier, J. Goddard, Ford, Gallacher, Murrell, Aizue, Fisher, Tangata-Toa, Morrison, Morton, Barker. Replacements: Stephenson, Ellis, Price., Smith.
Leigh: Grix, Gaskell, Hughes, Halliwell, Greenwood, Govin, Heremaia, R. Bibey, Rowley, Wilson, C. Hill, Glassie, Roberts. Replacements: Forber, Speakman, Taylor, Stevens.
Referee: Jamie Leahy (Dewsbury).