East lose derby thriller in extra-time
LEIGH EAST 16
LEIGH MINERS RANGERS 20
By Dave Parkinson
It took extra time to separate Leigh's two close neighbours in the street of origin derby - Joe Connor blasting through to become the here for Leigh Miners Rangers. In truth, both sides deserved something from a scrappy but always entertaining contest, the first competitive fixture between the teams for nine years.
Miners Rangers opened the scoring just four minutes in when a sweeping move to the left was finished by Johnny Youds. Fullback Josh Rourke saw his conversion attempt go wide. East battled for field position and with good yards coming from the likes of Connor Grainey and Louis Else, they were on level terms after 12 minutes when Nathan Gaskell was able to ground the ball despite a host of defenders. Jordan Hellam couldn't goal for Leigh Esst. Matty McGeown and Andy Philbin got through plenty of carries for Miners Rangers but it was the hosts that struck next. Pat Rainford worked a clever switch from dummy half and Zac Nicholls punched his way through. Hellam goaled to make it 10-4 and the tricky half was in the middle of the next scoring movement when he decided to run on the last tackle and turn the ball inside for Adam Holland to make his way over by the posts after 34 minutes. Hellam's second goal secured a 16-4 half-time advantage for the hosts.
The second half started well for Miners Rangers when home substitute Cameron Coulton was sin-binned for an attempted trip and then a couple of minutes later impressive substitute Johnny Openshaw wriggled his way through to score under the posts and Rourke converted.
From the restart, Alex Pendlebury pounded the ball back into play, but a forceful challenge saw him come off second best, and following a lengthy spell of onfield treatment and observation, he was taken from the field. Despite this blow, it was Miners Rangers that reasserted themselves and there was a stunning thirty-metre effort from Jonathan Carroll. Rourke goaled brilliantly from the touchline and the game was level 16-16.
Into the final ten minutes, both teams had chances to win it with Hellam missing a field goal attempt after 71 minutes and having another charged down in the 77th minute. Sandwiched between Connor was held up.
That brought about extra-time and there was no denying Connor as he blasted through from close range to seal the closest of derby encounters.