Warriors are forced to scrap

Leigh Centurions 16 Wigan Warriors 30
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Leigh gave their illustrious neighbours a far rougher ride than the scoreline shows in an epic Challenge Cup quarter-final at Hilton Park yesterday.

A furious local feud of a match, punctuated by seven players sent to the sin-bin and a volley of bottles from the crowd, only resolved itself in the Super League club's favour in the last 10 minutes, when Julian O'Neill scored one try and set up another against a defence which had given its all.

Leigh had led for most of the first half and only fell behind at the start of the second thanks to one of rugby league's more arcane rules. Their full-back, Neil Turley, helped Adrian Lam's long kick over his deadball line, expecting to get a 20-metre restart. The referee, Stuart Cummings, initially saw it that way, but changed his mind on the advice of his in-goal judge who said that the ball had stopped moving. That meant a drop out under the sticks, weakly taken by Simon Baldwin. From that prime attacking position, Brett Dallas scored in the corner and made it 14-10 for Wigan.

Two Andy Farrell goals, from the glut of penalties conceded by Leigh, put Wigan further ahead, but Jon Roper's try from Paul Rowley's clever switch of play opened the game up once more.

Wigan's Mick Cassidy was already in the sin-bin, and Baldwin and Paul Johnson joined him for their private scrap while the try was being scored. Turley's fourth goal from four attempts cut the gap to two points, but the penalty count had a wearing effect on Leigh.

Nine minutes from time, Lam got a pass away off the ground for O'Neill to go through and O'Neill's break two minutes from the end gave David Hodgson a try with his first touch of the ball.

It was a relieved, rather than a jubilant, Wigan who trooped off at the end, because in the first half in particular they had been given a real working over by Leigh's part-timers.

The home side had taken the lead when two former Wigan players combined, Turley getting the ball away for Chris Irwin to touch down in the corner. Turley's goalkicking, both from the conversion and two long-range penalties, was immaculate and Leigh were 10 points up until Farrell stretched over the line and Cassidy tied the scores from O'Neill's reverse pass just before half-time.

"We knew what to expect,'' said the Wigan coach, Stuart Raper. "They've been talking all week about tribal warfare and that was the way they went about their business.''

Terzis responded by suggesting that Raper should take a closer look at his own side's discipline and by claiming that Wigan were not good enough to win the Cup – they were drawn against Castleford in the semi-finals last night. If they do, they will have had no more physically demanding test than this, while Leigh could face an inquiry into the crowd trouble that saw a number of plastic bottles thrown on to the pitch when Roper scored his try.

Leigh Centurions: Turley; Bretherton, Anderson, Roper, Irwin; Svabic, Swann; Ball, Rowley, Bradbury, Baldwin, Isherwood, Bristow. Substitutes used: Whittle, Hamilton, McCully, Matautia.

Wigan: Warriors: Radlinkski; Dallas, Ainscough, Johnson, Carney; O'Neill, Lam; O'Connor, Newton, C Smith, Cassidy, Furner, Farrell. Substitutes used: Hodgson, Howard, M Smith, Bibey.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).

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