Rugby League: Whitehaven spread cheer to Cumbria

Leigh 26 Whitehaven 45
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The Independent Online
APART from the exploits of its amateur clubs in the Challenge Cup, form at Whitehaven has been one of the few things that Cumbria has had to cheer of late. Although they only played to their capacity in patches at Hilton Park yesterday there was enough to show why many inside and outside the county will rate them as favourites to win the First Division title this season.

Leigh, one of the clubs competing in that division with only the cash allocation for a Second Division club, kept in the game for longer than might have been expected and even gave Whitehaven a brief scare by taking the lead early in the second half. But the impression was always that the Cumbrians had a stronger outfit, capable of stepping up a gear or two when required.

They got off to a start that was both good and bad, with one of their New Zealand contingent, Leroy Joe, injuring himself in scoring the game's first try after only a minute and then taking no further part.

That might have disrupted Whitehaven's flow for a while, but both the substitute Liam Breverton and Lee Kiddie, who moved to scrum-half, proved able deputies. After Andy Fairclough had scored the first of two of his excellent tries for Leigh, it was Breverton who gave the visitors a handy lead by scoring twice before half-time.

Leigh did not cave in as anticipated, though, with Andy Pucill's superb short pass sending in John Costello before Whitehaven responded through Graeme Lewthwaite.

That signalled Leigh's most defiant period of the game, Fairclough running in for a try of the highest class and Scott Hilton's kick bouncing off David Fatialofa to give Costello another and, courtesy of Jason O'Loughlin's goal, Leigh the lead.

That was sufficient to awaken Whitehaven and keep them aware. Kiddie scored two tries himself, set one up for Graeme Morton and landed a drop goal before John Allen completed the Cumbrian haul.

David Ingram kept up his try scoring sequence for Leigh just before the end, but his team had been beaten by one which, when it put its mind to it, had just too much power and expertise.

Leigh: Donlan; Burrows, Ingram, Fairclough, Kay; O'Loughlin, Hilton; Street, Jenkins, Pucill, Costello, Nixon, Gunning. Substitutes: Garces, Driscoll, Hudspith, Hartill.

Whitehaven: Wilson; Lewthwaite, Hetherington, Wallace, Quirk; Kiddie, Joe; Armstrong, Lester, Fatialofa, Muliumu, Chambers, Charlton. Substitutes. Allen, Breverton, Morton, Cox.

Referee: R Smith (Castleton).