The Choice of Champions
News in Photos
Favorites Leigh won a dramatic Northern Rail Cup final with a last gasp 20-16 win over Championship rivals Halifax.
Young centre Tom Armstrong scored the decisive try, which remarkably put Leigh ahead for the first time, just seconds before the final hooter.
It was a cruel blow for Halifax who was agonizingly close to their second trophy in as many years after tries from Miles Greenwood, Steve Bannister and Rob Worrincy at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road.
However, a brace from man-of-the-match Jamie Ellis, sandwiched in between Chris Hill’s touchdown, left a breathless encounter delicately poised at 16-16 until Armstrong grabbed a late winner to spark jubilant Leigh scenes.
The final swung end to end from the off with both sides seeing early tries wiped out in the space of 60 seconds by video referee Phil Bentham.
Leigh, currently flying high in second place in the league, started to turn the screw but they quickly lost momentum and then invited more pressure on themselves when Tommy Goulden lost possession in the tackle.
Ben Black quickly got the ball moving and his short offload created the perfect angle for Greenwood to burst through the Leigh backline and slide into the corner for the first try of the afternoon on 18 minutes.
Stand-off Danny Jones pushed the conversion attempt wide but made amends by booting a penalty shortly after for a 6-0 lead.
Halifax, last year’s Championship grand final winners, were playing on the front foot and extended their advantage on 29 minutes when Bannister spun over the line for an unconverted try.
Coach Matt Calland would have been delighted with their first-half display but his troops surrendered field position too easily after the restart as Leigh came out looking a different proposition.
Ellis dived over on 46 minutes and although Mick Nanyn missed the conversion, he did set up his team’s second try by launching a mammoth goal-line drop out just short of the Halifax posts.
It enabled Leigh’s pack to keep their opponents pinned back and when they regained possession prop Hill powered over from ten metres out, with Nanyn this time adding the extras.
Halifax suddenly found themselves on the rack but they managed to weather the storm before edging ahead through Worrincy’s effort.
However, they could not see out the last 13 minutes with Ellis diving on Martyn Ridyard’s grubber kick under the posts to let Nanyn level at 16-16 with the extras.
Ian Millward’s side won the trophy for a third time in their history when a powerful burst from Stuart Littler set up Armstrong’s game-winning score at the death.