Archive - Monday, 9 March 1998
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No regrets: Defiant Leigh back decision to move up
Leigh Centurions 20, Wakefield Trinity 32 KEITH Latham steadfastly defends the Centurions' decision to take up the invitation to join Division One despite a fourth straight defeat leaving them anchored at the foot of the table.
Encouraged by a rousing performance that saw an elusive first win only slip away in the final 10 minutes, the Hilton Park coach says. "I'm more sure than ever that we made the right choice when given the chance to move up to Division One.
"We could have stayed down in Division Two but another season in the lower levels would have done nothing for the players.
"We've got several teenagers in the side, but they're now showing signs of adapting to the greater intensity of Division One. This is the only place for them to learn."
On this evidence Leigh are better than bottom of the table.
Even Trinity coach Andy Kelly, who has guided his side to second place on the back of three successive wins, was taken by surprise.
"To their credit, Leigh came out fighting and surprised us with the quality of their enthusiastic, attacking football," he acknowledged.
No-one was more enthusiastic than loose-forward Anthony Murray, the Leigh lad on a three-month loan spell from Widnes.
Murray gave a pretty good imitation of crowd favourite Sfraz Patel, covering every blade of grass and showing tremendous vision and penetration. What a combination if Leigh could ever get Patel and Murray on the field together!
Murray's enthusiasm was infectious, prompting Leigh to the best display in four league starts so far.
And had they managed to maintain their earlier intensity, a first win was there for the taking.
Twice they hit back after Trinity had threatened to run away with the game. A deficit of 12-4 became 12-12 at the break and with 11 minutes left they were only two points adrift at 20-22.
"At that point we were looking like winners. But we switched off in defence and gave away a soft try - and that was the gamebreaker," Latham added.
Leigh had the scent of winning pay until winger Craig Rika blasted straight through for a 60 metre try nine minutes from time.
Garen Casey knocked over his fourth goal and in stoppage time Jon Wray collected his second touchdown in the corner.
It was heartbreaking for Leigh to go so close - and it would have been closer still had they managed to find an accurate goalkicker.
Jason O'Loughlin, pressed into emergency service, only managed two from five. His first miss came from just left of the posts after Ingram had given Leigh the lead with his ninth try in eight successive games.
Leigh should have had more to show for their bright start but instead trailed 12-4 to tries from Sonny Whakarau and Wray.
But two tries in two minutes levelled things at 12-12 at the break.
Murray sent Ian Hudspith over after Trinity had fumbled Ingram's miscued bomb and the loose-forward's slashing break set up the position for Andy Fairclough to send Radney Bowker in for a regulation try at the corner.
Having lost Mark Burrows with concussion and Matt Nixon with a knee injury, Leigh had to regroup again after an Ian Hughes try and a second Whakarau touchdown restored Trinity's lead.
O'Loughlin pulled two points back with a penalty and when Fairclough shot under the posts from Scott Hilton's grubber kick, Leigh were on a roll.
But another defensive lapse in concentration was to prove fatal, Rika's breakaway try finally killing off Leigh's chances.
LEIGH: Donlan; Burgess, Hadcroft, Fairclough, Burrows; Ingram, O'Loughlin; Street, Hudspith, Pucill, Costello, Nixon, Murray. Subs (all played): Jenkins, Bowker, Hilton, Geritas. Attendance: 1530.
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