Armstrong's delayed strike derails Halifax

Halifax 16 Leigh 20
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The Independent Online

A last-minute try from Tom Armstrong, the winger on a dual-registration contract from St Helens, gave Leigh victory in a Northern Rail Cup final that maintained its reputation for high drama.

Leigh trailed Halifax for virtually the whole the game, but they were the ones with the composure to break the deadlock at the end. It means that they have ticked one of the boxes for a Super League application in 2014.

The Northern Rail Cup has grown in status and credibility as a trophy worth winning in its own right, as well as for the distant view of Super League it affords through its window of opportunity. The finals have produced some classic battles and, although points were slow to come in this one, it had the same fierce competitive edge.

On a blustery Blackpool afternoon, both sides had an early try chalked off. Halifax's came when Rob Worrincy touched down after Ben Black's kick caused havoc in the Leigh defence. A minute later, Martin Ridyard dummied his way over but with the aid of an obstruction.

The first points that counted came after Tommy Goulden lost the ball in a tackle and Black's delayed pass sent former Leigh player Miles Greenwood over the line. Danny Jones missed the conversion but added a penalty when Steve Nash was punished for interference in the tackle. Then, on the half-hour, 'Fax extended their lead with a try that underlined their superiority. Sam Barlow stood in the tackle to get the ball to Sean Penkywicz, who ran across field to pick up the run of Stephen Bannister.

That man of many cup finals, Robbie Hunter-Paul, was on the field by this point and Leigh looked to him to lift them. However, a stunning run from behind his own tryline by Worrincy stressed that it was Halifax who had the danger-men.

It was Worrincy's mistake, though, that let Leigh back into the game, losing possession with a parody of a play-the-ball, leaving Jamie Ellis to be the man who found the angle to the tryline. Almost immediately, Dean McGilvray was close to adding a second, but just shaved the line as he touched down. Undeterred, Leigh drew level a couple of minutes later, Chris Hill, like Ellis destined for a Super League club next season, beating three men for a very memorable try.

Halifax reasserted themselves after Leigh were penalised for holding down, moving the ball via Black and James Haley for Worrincy to score in the corner and Jones to land an important conversion.

Armstrong went close for Leigh before Ridyard's measured kick gave Ellis his second and their second equaliser. Then, with 20 seconds left, Ridyard and Stuart Littler released Armstrong and Leigh were ahead for the only time in the match at the only one that matters.

"In the first half the occasion overawed us a bit," said the Leigh coach Ian Millward. "Martin Ridyard was one who was a bit overawed on the day, he could have played better, but I am glad he relied on his instincts and did not freeze up at the end."

Halifax Greenwood; White, Haley, Goddard, Worrincy; Jones, Black; Gannon, Beswick, Cherryholme, Smith, Bannister, Fairbank. Substitutes used D Nash, Aizue, Penkywicz, Barlow.

Leigh Donlan; Maden, Littler, Nanyn, McGilvray; Ridyard, Ellis; Hill, Duffy, Mills, Thornley, Goulden, Taylor. Substitutes used Hunter-Paul, S Nash, Armstong, Higson.

Referee M Thomason.