Battling Rovers outplayed by Leigh in opening Qualifier

Darrell Griffin scored a first-half try for Featherstone.
Darrell Griffin scored a first-half try for Featherstone.

FEATHERSTONE Rovers made a losing start to their Qualifiers campaign in their first home game under new coach John Duffy.

Despite giving a spirited display, Championship side Rovers were beaten 38-12 by Leigh Centurions at LD Nutrition Stadium on Saturday after a dreadul start saw them 12-0 down after just seven minutes.

Rovers, with on loan-loan Wigan Warriors forward Connor Farrell making an impressive debut, battled back excellently in the first-half.

They were only 16-6 behind at the break but the Centurions, who have now won their last 11 games against Featherstone, made their Super League know-how tell in the second period to run out comfortable winners, with stand-off Daniel Mortimer in outstanding form.

Leigh went ahead after three minutes when man of the match Mortimer cleverly exchanged passes in midfield with Atelea Vea to cross.

They quickly struck again when Rovers failed to deal with Mortimer’s grubber kick and McNally pounced for an easy touchdown, with Josh Drinkwater adding his second goal.

Micky Higham lost the ball near the try line as the Centurions continued to make all the early running but Rovers clawed their way back.

They cut the gap to six points in their first meaningful attack in the 17th minute when Keal Carlile sent Darrell twisting his way over from close range and Ian Hardman goaled.

Hardcastle was hauled down just short of the try line as Rovers pressed again but Leigh survived and then got their third try when Drinkwater and McNally put in Mitch Brown at the corner to put them 16-6 up after 23.

Rovers boss Duffy brought on all four substitutes at the same time, with Frankie Mariano, Matty Wildie, Sam Brooks and Andy Bostock replacing Griffin, Carlile, James Lockwood and Richard Moore.

Mariano and Bostock were both halted inches short and Leigh then had a big let off when Luke Briscoe looked to have scored but the effort was ruled out by video referee Phil Bentham because the ball slipped out of the winger’s grasp as he attempted to touch down.

Featherstone were now playing some lovely rugby but the Centurions managed to hold out to retain their 10-point advantage.

Rovers started the second-half strongly but wasted a good attacking position near the Leigh posts when Bostock’s pass to Mariano was ruled forward.

The Centurions, who finished second bottom in Super League at the end of the regular season, then took full control with three tries in 12 minutes.

Danny Tickle went close before Liam Hood plunged over from acting half and Matty Dawson then capitalised on Mortimer’s neat kick, with Drinkwater adding both conversions.

The scoring burst continued when Drinkwater darted over to put the visitors 32-6 up on the hour mark but Featherstone rallied strongly.

Taulapapa scored their second try in the 66th minute when he scooped up the ball from Farrell’s off-load and powered over in great style, with Hardman adding his second goal.

Rovers finished the game with 12 men after Moore was sin-binned for a late tackle on McNally.

The Centurions rounded things off five minutes from time when Micky Higham’s slick break saw McNally bag his second try, with Drinkwater converting.

Featherstone Rovers: Ian Hardman; Scott Turner, Misi Taulapapa, Josh Hardcastle, Luke Briscoe; Kyle Briggs, Anthony Thackeray; Richard Moore, Keal Carlile, Darrell Griffin, John Davies, Connor Farrell, James Lockwood. Subs: Matty Wildie, Andy Bostock, Frankie Mariano, Sam Brooks.

Leigh Centurions: Greg McNally; Matthew Dawson, Matthew Fleming, Samisoni Langi, Mitch Brown; Daniel Mortimer, Josh Drinkwater; Harrison Hansen, Micky Higham, Antoni Maria, Cory Paterson, Atelea Vea, Lachlan Burr. Subs: Liam Hood, Greg Richards, Danny Tickle, Glenn Stewart.

Referee: James Child (RFL).

Attendance: 2,679.