LIFE OF BRYAN AS WIDNES SNEAK HOME
Sam Bryan scored a last gasp try for Widnes to get them over the finishing line in a thrilling South Lancs Cheshire 1 fixture at Round Ash Park.
In typical, no frills, local derby fashion, the game swung one way then the other, and then back again, before Lee McDermott’s charges finally claimed victory in the closing moments.
In the end, it was probably just about the right result as the visitors came roaring back into the contest to put the home side under immense pressure in the final 20 minutes – which included two disallowed ‘tries’ – before that dramatic climax.
With conditions better suited for ducks, the game itself wasn’t hugely big on highlights; rather, it was a totally absorbing game of rugby in which both sides gave their all, with the result in doubt until the very end.
Widnes got the game underway through Kevin Leadbetter which offered Leigh the first opportunity to get their hands on some meaningful possession.
The early stages though also produced some fairly average kicking out of hand, mixed in with a number of handling errors as both teams tried to come to terms with the difficult conditions.
The home side held much of the upper hand in that opening first quarter, but they were also being helped along by a mis-firing Widnes line out which kept the red and blacks under some severe pressure for a long period in the game.
Finally, the deadlock was eventually broken after 24 minutes, when Kevin Leadbetter converted a long range penalty to put the visitors into the lead.
Five minutes later, the same player then struck over another successful kick from almost the exact same position to double their advantage to six points.
And that was how things stayed until the very last minute of the half, when the big Leigh pack got to work close to the Widnes line before Andy Newton crashed over for a try converted by stand-off Rob Drake which gave his side a narrow one point advantage at the break.
A spell of ill-discipline by Widnes at the start of the second half immediately offered Leigh more opportunities to add further points, and stand-off Drake did not disappointment either as he stroked over a couple of well struck penalties which suddenly increased the Leigh advantage to seven points.
At this point, it looked like Widnes were in danger of pressing the self-destruct button, but somehow they managed to arrest the decline, and the timely introduction of Tom Spencer, Charles Lang and Sam Whitty in particular, slowly began to turn things around.
As Widnes turned up the heat, Mike Jones almost caught Leigh napping as he cut through the defence before losing possession in the tackle.
Still narrowly in front, and Widnes pressing hard, Leigh then had a men sent to the sin-bin, and that appeared to be the catalyst for change as Paul McLindon cut through to score a fine individual effort close to the posts. Kevin Leadbetter then held his nerve to add the conversion which made it all square again at 13 – 13.
Immediately from the restart, though, a Widnes error quickly led to a Leigh penalty, and that man Drake was on hand again to give his side the lead once more.
Cue, yet another Widnes onslaught as they desperately sought a way back into the game for a second time.
In a frantic last quarter of an hour, the visitors threw all but the kitchen sink at the Leigh line in an effort to get over, but after Matt Blakey had been denied and another try scoring opportunity was ruled out, it was beginning to look like it just wasn’t going to be the Wids day.
Finally, though, and in the very last minute of the game, it was left to the pack to give it one last go from where big Sam Bryan emerged the hero as he crashed over for the try which finally broke the Leigh resistance.
It was left to Captain Kevin Leadbetter to add the final conversion attempt to wrap up proceedings to warm the hearts of the Widnes players and supporters on a freezing cold and very wet Round Ash Park.
Afterwards, a delighted Wids Head coach Lee McDermott said “I want to thank the lads for a massive effort today. They kept going right to the very end and got what they deserved”.
He added “That win is up there with one of the best we’ve had this season and it is great to be involved with such a great bunch of blokes. We know we have a big test next weekend, but it is a challenge we are all looking forward to”.