Leigh finally made it into Super League at the fourth attempt, their gamble of playing the wounded veteran, Tommy Martyn, paying off as they out-lasted brave Whitehaven in extra time in the National League One Grand Final at Widnes.
Martyn, who had already scored a vital try in normal time, produced a piece of magic in the 83rd minute that unlocked Haven's defence for Ben Cooper's second try and a seven-point lead to steer Leigh towards victory after three previous defeats on the big day.
Both Martyn and the club had insisted his latest arm injury had forced him into retirement and his name did not appear on their original team-sheet.
But Martyn was at the heart of matters and revealed afterwards that he was desperate to play after the club were put in the shadows by Whitehaven at the National League awards dinner in Leeds on Tuesday night.
"What turned my mind was Tuesday," Martyn said. "To be shunned like that - it was two fingers up to Leigh Rugby League club and I was determined to play.
"This is one of the proudest moments of my life to get my home-town team into Super League."The former St Helens player was quick to stress there will be no return to the top flight for him next season, adding: "That's it. I'll be throwing my boots in the crowd in a minute and anyone who throws them back will be getting a smack in the beak."
Leigh had other heroes too, notably their full-back Neil Turley, who finished with a record 18 points from a try, six goals and two drop goals.
Turley had tasted defeat in two previous Grand Finals, so he had extra reason to savour this one. "Third time lucky," he said. "I felt really gutted when we lost, but it's going to be fantastic at the club."
The Leigh coach, Darren Abram, believed that the game was on its way to being won when Martyn phoned him in midweek to say that he wanted to play.
"If Tommy says he's OK, he's OK," he said. "He's done more than 80 minutes for us to win the game. You can't leave a player like that on the touchline." Whitehaven, a club reborn over the last couple of years, went so closed to winning the game in normal time. They led by a point, through Wesley Wilson's second try, until Turley put over his second drop goal five minutes from time.
He and Martyn both missed with further drop goal attempts, but Leigh ruled the roost when the final went into extra time.
Paul Rowley put them ahead with a drop goal before Martyn's clever inside pass paved the way for the crucial try.
Turley, the man of the match, then chased his own chip kick to touch down. He added a penalty, before Martyn finished his distinguished career with a flourish by dropping a goal of his own.
It had been anything but straightforward for Leigh in normal time, with Whitehaven taking the lead through Wilson's try and Mick Nanyn's goal.
Turley's penalty and Cooper's first try levelled the scores and Turley's first drop goal edged them ahead.
Craig Calvert's fine try gave Whitehaven the advantage, but Martyn's opportunism from dummy-half saw him reach out over the try-line with his good arm to put Leigh back in front.
"I honestly thought going into extra time that we could still take the game, but they stepped it up and we didn't," said the Whitehaven coach, Steve McCormack.
Leigh: Turley; Smyth, Halliwell, Cooper, Alstead; Duffy, Martyn; Knox, Rowley, Sturm, Larder, Wilkes, Knott. Substitutes used: McConnell, Cruckshank, Marshall, Swann.
Whitehaven: Broadbent; Wilson, Seeds, Nanyn, Calvert; Joe, Obst; Jackson, Lester, Fatialofa, Davidson, Hill, Walsh. Substitutes used: Miller, Sice, McKinney, Tandy.
Referee: R Laughton (Barnsley).Reuse content