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Friday, 21 November 2014

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Bonus point as Whitehaven almost pull off shock

Whitehaven 8 Leigh 12: Whitehaven showed they cannot yet be written off after producing their best effort of the season yesterday against a side that last week topped the Championship table.

Paul Johnson photo
Paul Johnson

The hosts picked up a bonus point which may prove valuable in the end-of-term shake-up, but more importantly, they showed a terrific spirit throughout.

They absorbed heavy second-half pressure and cracked only once after the break, veteran Kiwi star Robbie Paul scoring the decisive try under the sticks at the Kells End.

Haven achieved parity in the forwards, helped by the addition of St Helens prop Paul Johnson, who produced a great stint on his home debut, along with Kyle Amor and Graeme Mattinson.

But it was one of those days when it would be unfair to single out any individual. Considering some of the weak efforts Haven have served up lately, this was a terrific turnaround.

It looked to be business as usual when Martyn Ridyard skipped through on six minutes, Mick Nanyn converting.

But instead of folding, Haven grew in stature, hitting back on 19 minutes, Carl Rudd slipping a lovely short, delayed pass for Johnson to cross.

The hosts were severely tested when pulled up for a forward pass 30 metres from their line, and then penalised again, but they survived.

Leigh were rattled and looked to go behind when Rudd collected his own chip to score, only for the referee Craig Halloran to spot an infringement.

At the other end, Nanyn crossed after dispossessing Derry Eilbeck on a kick-return, but the ref ruled that two Leigh attackers had been in the tackle.

The Centurions fell behind thanks to two quickfire Rudd penalties. The first came when the visitors were caught offside and on the next set, they were in trouble for pushing in the tackle.

Rudd again made them pay, the half-time hooter sounding as the ball sailed between the posts, with Haven 8-6 up.

Leigh were sliced open on the first set after the break, Chris Smith putting Amor in to space and the prop racing 50 metres downfield.

He looked to have rounded full-back Stuart Donlan only to lose his balance and take a tumble.

Leigh could have levelled matters when Haven were penalised for obstruction in front of their posts, but the visitors opted to take a tap penalty and were denied again.

Adam Higson and Steve Maden were held up over the Haven line in quick succession before second-row Tommy Goulden found a rare gap in the Cumbrian line.

Full-back Josh Veivers tagged him but was penalised for a high shot, and this time, Leigh’s decision to run the penalty paid off, Robbie Paul darting through to score, Nanyn converting.

There was drama three minutes later when, following the intervention of match commissioner Jackie Beech, Halloran sent off ex-Haven man John Duffy, who had joined the action from the bench without permission, meaning Leigh had 14 men on the field for a short spell.

To the bemusement of Haven fans however, Leigh were allowed to replace Duffy with Dave McConnell, which meant that despite a player seeing red, the visitors still had 13 players on the field.

Duffy was allowed to play no further part, and the red card effectively only cancelled his substitution.

Haven pressed hard in the losing moments, with the experienced Motu Tony, forced to play in the centres due to a lack of options, unlucky not to earn a penalty when breaking through and appearing to be taken out after kicking the ball cross-field.

Some Haven fans left the ref aware of their displeasure on the final whistle. But others were just happy that their team were competitive again.

If Haven had played like this all season, they would not be involved in a relegation battle. If they continue to play like this, they won’t be involved in it for too much longer.

 

Haven: Veivers, Eilbeck, R Jackson, Tony, Calvert, Rudd, Skee, Thornley, Mattinson, Johnson, S Miller, Hill, Joe. Subs: C Smith, Amor, Shackley, Barker

Tries: Johnson; Goals: Rudd 2

Leigh: Donlan, Maden, Higson, Nanyn, Stanton, Ridyard, Paul, Hill, Duffy, Bibey, Taylor, Goulden, Leuluai. Subs: McConnell, Morrison, Armitstead, Nash.

Tries: Ridyard, Paul; Goals: Nanyn 2

Attendance: 1,161

Referee: Craig Halloran

Star Man: Paul Johnson

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