London Broncos v Leigh Centurions

I’ve taken to writing more in my 365 Sporting Days blog than writing big match reports, but a win that may be season defining for London Broncos needs a longer piece and a different format.

Leigh Centurions are a team I hold a lot of respect for, I’ve watched them quite a lot over the last 15 years and as a rule have enjoyed the experience.  I can’t say I enjoyed their game at the Summer Bash, for whatever reason that was more akin to licensed thuggery.  But in general I have a soft spot for this club, they were my Championship team before Broncos joined them.

I was looking forward to their visit to the Hive, clearly hoping for a good, fair game but a Broncos win.  The teams had met at the Leigh Sports Village early in March the score being Leigh 25 Broncos 12 then again later in the month – this time the scoreline didn’t make good reading for London fans at all – Leigh 64 Broncos 12.

As well as those 2 wins Leigh brought with them an unbeaten run of 27 in all competitions, including 2 Superleague scalps in Salford and Wakefield.  They play a tough, fast paced brand of rugby, if I’d have been asked to predict a winner before the game I have to be honest and say I would have gone for the visitors.

 

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Leigh fans travelled in numbers which was great to see, not so great being outnumbered at home, but wonderful to see the effort made by these hard core fans.

Andrew Henderson was again in the kit rather than on the sidelines, he really is showing the way for his team and again his presence would prove to be invaluable.

Leigh were without FuiFui MoiMoi and Gareth Hock – the latter serving a ban, it’d be interesting to compare his disciplinary record with Dylan Hartley of Northampton Saints.  I believe Hock was a star in Leighs’ gig win against Whitehaven but his Summer Bash shenanigans had caught up with him.  Another of sports flawed geniuses when it comes to having a ball in hand, I can’t say I was disappointed he wasn’t on the pitch.

 

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Broncos kicked off and Leigh knocked the ball on in the 1st set giving Broncos good field position, that advantage came to nothing and the teams exchanged a couple of sets.  Jamie Thackray – a great signing for Broncos went close, but lost the ball.  He was then instrumental in the 1st try when he made a break, offloading to Oscar Thomas who threw a dummy to run in and score.  Thomas seems to be growing in stature every time I see him play, self belief is a very powerful thing in sport!  Wes Naiqama converted the try.

The ball was lost in contact by Leigh as they attempted to leave their own half, it looked to me as if Thackray shoulder barged the man carrying the ball, if he did the officials clearly didn’t see the same thing.

The ball was knocked on again in a later set, this time close to the Leigh line.  That advantage was capitalised on with a great team effort, the ball was passed to Illiess Macani by Tom Gilmore, the pass was a cracker as was the swerve by Macani, he touched down to score!  Naiqama added the extras with a great kick from the side line.

A silly penalty on the 5th tackle gave Leigh a good opportunity, but they weren’t able to find the score line.  However when a similar penalty was given the way of the home team they scored again!  Macani, another Bronco who is showing real improvement this season made a great run, then used his strength, with Leigh players on him, to take the ball over the line and score!  To say the Broncos crowd were happy would be a major understatement! I confess to having to apologise to my neighbour for all the yelling I was doing!

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A yell of ‘it’s not rugby union!’ may or may not have put Naiqama off when he kicked – this time he missed the posts.  But the Broncos were ahead by 16 points!

As is so often the way field position leads to 4 points – a penalty awarded to Leigh for a late hit on their kicker resulted in a pass out to Johnny Pownall, who powered down his line to score.  The kick was a hard one and missed by Martin Rudyard.

It looked like Leigh might add to their total when they were aware another penalty close to the Broncos line, but the ball was lost and Broncos broke, Naiqama showed he’s so much more than a kicker as he stormed down the pitch!  Oscar Thomas was tracking him and was pulled back, clearly a penalty and probably a yellow card, I don’t agree on the yells for red by some Broncos fans.

Either way no whistle went, but as play continued Naqaima wriggled and turned in the tackle to touch the ball down, a whistle for a double movement would have been no shock, but instead a try was awarded!  More yelling for my neighbour to endure!  Naiqama converted the try.

So, Broncos were ahead with 22 to Leigh’s 4!  Wow, that was unexpected and a great surprise!  They looked in very good form.  However they had a go at throwing the lead away.  Successive penalties for silliness (technical term) at the play the ball and Leigh passed the ball out to Pownall who scored his 2nd try.  Ridyard made no mistake with the kick.

 

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Momentum is all in rugby league and Leigh had a good spell with the ball, they put together a field length move, there was a hint of a forward pass, but only that, Tom Armstrong scored what was an exciting try.  A moan to my fellow fans, shouting ‘Cheat, Cheat, Cheat’ at the referee makes it feel like we’re sitting in a football crowd.  Referees may at time be a tad poor at times, and when they are it’s seldom the errors are one way, but I won’t accept that any of them cheat!

The teams went in at half time with the score on London Broncos 22 Leigh Centurions 16.

I’m not going to linger too much on the 2nd half as I appear as usual to be writing a novel! I tweeted the score at half time, saying I thought Broncos might be in for a tough half. Leigh had remained unbeaten for 27 games for a reason, I was expecting a lot of pressure.

Reading through my notes I’d say the 1st 15 minutes of the half were a bit of a Comedy of Errors or both teams, penalties, dropped balls, low passes were the story.  One such error after the 15 minutes saw a charge down by Jamie Thackray in midfield, he backed himself and ran half the pitch to score between the posts.  An easy conversion for Naiqama extended the lead.

Leigh made an amazing break on the wing and (sorry I have no name) a try looked certain, Macani was in pursuit but not making ground, however Elliott Kear (I thought) caught him tackled the man.  It was brilliant to see!  An exciting wingers run and a superb fight back to stop him.

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Leigh weren’t finished with their scoring however, after what I think may have been the 1st goal line drop out by Broncos, Greg McNally scored a great try in the corner, he looked to be surrounded by Broncos but he’s held the ball away in his right hand and simply dotted it down as he was on the line.  Ridyard missed the conversion.  The score was Broncos 28 Leigh 20!

A silly piece of play by Leigh saw Naqaima tripped close to their line, the matter was put on report and a penalty awarded.  The field position gave Elliot Minchella the position he needed to drop a goal – Broncos 29 Leigh 20!

And that, was how the game ended!  The 27 match winning run was stopped and Broncos, who were deserved winners may well have played a season defining game.  As for Leigh, in a way the loss may have been a good thing, in speaking to Jamie Acton after the match he explained it was like getting a monkey off your back.  I believe they’ll finish in the Top 2 and likely at the very top.

It was great to see both sets of fans mingling with the player after the game, both sets of players are clearly held in high regard.  The game reconfirmed my soft spot for Leigh after the debacle that was the Summer Bash for them.  And, naturally with sore throat and all I was one very happy Broncos fan!

Oh. and the photo?  I honestly do try not to, but – Micky Higham!!!! Had to be done, one of the best signings Leigh have made, a rugby league star!

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About Debbie Knight

An Essex girl with a passion for both codes. A Saracens, London Broncos & London Skolars season ticket holder, likely adding Hemel Stags too! My articles are my view of the game (both) I've never played either, what you read is what I see. I try to be unbiased, shout if I'm not!

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