Pride was all that Leigh Centurions had to play for in their penultimate game in Super League as they took on a Wakefield Trinity side who could guarantee themselves a ninth placed finish after a late season run of form saw them climb the league from being relegation prospects.
Leigh were looking for their first home win against Trinity since 2005 and made four changes to the side comprehensively beaten by Hull KR last weekend while the visitors arrived without the services of Joe Westerman, Tom Johnstone and Jay Pitts who both missed out through injury.
Wakefield were the nailed-on favourites with the bookies, the home side with a twelve-point start in the coupon.
Leigh had plenty of good early pressure on the Trinity line and on eleven minutes Adam Sidlow went over under the crossbar with Ryan Brierley adding a simple conversion to sound out a wake-up call to Wakefield.
Leigh were in for their second, thanks to a little good fortune, when a kick through bounced off a couple of Wakefield players and into the hands of Brierley to scamper in. The Centurions full back couldn’t add the conversion, but Leigh were 10-0 up against a Wakefield side who’d barely had a touch of the ball.
Reece Lyne finally grabbed the first Wakefield try on twenty-two minutes when he hacked on a bouncing ball before re-gathering and touching down. Mason Lino converted brilliantly from the touchline to reduce the arrears to four points.
Back to back tries from Wakefield levelled the score with Kelepi Tanginoa bursting through a gap to punish weak defending from the Centurions. Lino was again accurate with the boot to edge his side into the lead at 10-12.
Wakefield extended their lead on thirty-five with a barnstorming David Fifita run from eight metres out with Lino adding the conversion to put the visitors 18-10 ahead with five minutes of the half remaining.
Leigh started the second half brilliantly with an early try for Ryan Brierley after a sensational break from Iain Thornley, and when Brierley added the conversion, he took his side to within two points of the visitors.
Wakefield had a try disallowed on fifty-five after a double movement from James Batchelor, moments after Leigh bombed a great chance by throwing the ball into touch.
Leigh hit the front again on fifty-eight as Brierley completed his hat-trick going in down the right-hand side after taking a Sam Stone offload. The full back took his own tally to eighteen as he hit the target with his conversion for 22-18.
A brilliant take by Sam Stone of a towering Joe Mellor kick to the corner saw the second rower get the ball on the ground for an important lead stretching try as he put the Centurions 26-18 ahead, Brierley unable to add the conversion but Trinity eight adrift with just over ten minutes remaining.
Leigh lost Rob Butler on seventy-three for leading with the elbow, down to twelve for the remainder of the game.
A superb Brierley tackle on Innes Senior kept the home side eight ahead when the Trinity winger looked certain to score.
Brierley was sin-binned on seventy-eight for a professional foul, Leigh having to defend the remaining ninety second with eleven men.
Leigh dug deep to secure only their win of a long and tortuous season and were good value for their win. Wakefield will be kicking themselves that they let the game slip after taking a first half lead and facing reduced numbers in the closing stages. It was one bright light in a dark season for the Centurions but one that they will treasure long into the close season.
Leigh Centurions: Brierley (3T, 3G, SB on 78), Elliot, Thornley, Hellewell, Logan, Bell, Mellor, Butler (SB on 73), Hood, Sidlow (T), Stone (T), Thompson, Whitbread. Subs: Gerrard, Ellis, Mason, Ashworth.
Wakefield Trinity: Hampshire, Senior, Lyne (T), Arundel, Kershaw, Lino (2G), Miller, Battye, Kay, Green, Batchelor, Tanginoa (2T), Crowther. Subs: Wood K, Fifita, Walker, Arona.
Referee: Robert Hicks.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 10-4, 10-6, 10-10, 10-12, 10-16, 10-18 : HT : 14-18, 16-18, 20-18, 22-18, 26-18, (SB), (SB) : FT.