Leigh 11 Halifax 4: Fax’s hopes suffer on a tough night

Andy Bracek is tackled
Andy Bracek is tackled

Halifax’s hopes of a top-two Championship finish were dealt a potentially decisive blow with an 11-4 loss at Leigh.

On a night when fate seemed to conspire against Karl Harrison’s side, the visitors lost half back Anthony Thackeray after only seven minutes with an ankle injury then had centre Ben Heaton sent off - along with Leigh prop Anthony Bate - after a savage all-in brawl just after the half hour. The loss of Thackeray proved particularly damaging, robbing Fax, who could have moved into the top two with a win, of their only playmaker with real pace as the visitors struggled to create clear cut scoring chances in a relentless contest.

After a brutal, intense first half, Leigh had finally breached the visitors’ defence when the winger Jonathan Pownall dived over in first half stoppage time, albeit after what appeared a clear-cut knock on from Sean Penkywicz in the build up.

Trailing 4-0 at the break, Fax piled on the pressure, pounding the Leigh line for long periods and forcing a series of drop outs.

Forward Adam Robinson was closest to scoring, a Craig Ashall kick just eluding his outstretched arm as Leigh struggled to clear the ball.

When the home side finally escaped their half, stand off Martyn Ridyard kicked a penalty to make it 6-0, before a drop goal inside the last 10 minutes edged Leigh 7-0 ahead.

Fax finally cracked the defence two minutes from time, winger Wayne Reittie scoring in the corner.

The hastily-taken conversion went well wide and a comedy of errors from the kick off, Leigh finding touch in the right corner, paved the way for Leigh full back Gregg McNally to score a last-second try and leave Fax wondering what might have been.

Leigh: McNally; Higson, Littler, I. Thornley, Pownall; Ridyard, Brierley; Ostick, Beswick, Spencer, Finnigan, Goulden, Briscoe. Subs: Penkywicz, A. Thornley, Bate, Bullock

Halifax: Fieldhouse; Paterson, Heaton, Sheriffe, Reittie; Murrell, Thackeray; Tonks, Handforth, Bracek, Manning, Divorty, Adamson. Subs: Ashall, Ambler, Robinson, Casey

Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven)