Of the two 1895 Cup semi-finals, the match at the Leigh Sports Village between the Centurions and Widnes Vikings was the one to get the juices flowing. Two sides with a Super League pedigree, both desperate to get to Wembley, would need to overcome wet conditions to progress.
It’s honours shared in 2019 with both sides winning their home fixtures. The Vikings won the game in April by 30-12 while Leigh picked up the points by 36-22 in May. If it hadn’t been for Widnes points penalty before the season started then they would have only been separated by two league positions.
The stage was set for a classic semi-final, it was down to the two teams to deliver.
It took less than two minutes for the first mass brawl to break out as both sides made it clear that they weren’t going to take a backward step. Mitch Clark was sent to the sin-bin, quickly joined by Jordan Johnstone
Widnes lingered too long in the tackle on six minutes, allowing Ryan Brierley to kick a twenty metre penalty goal from in front of the sticks. Widnes returned the complement on thirteen, Jack Owens slotting his kick between the uprights after Leigh had stripped the ball in the tackle.
A piece of magic from Walker on twenty-five came to nothing when hsi second grubber through went dead in goal. Two minutes later there was another boiling over of tempers as MacGraff Leuluai was late into the tackle and sparked another brawl. This time the referee warned the captains and allowed the players to remain on the field.
There was nothing to choose between the two sides in a first half which ended 2-2. There was plenty of passion from both sides, on occasion a little too much passion.
Interference at the play-the-ball on the Widnes line after forty-eight gave Brierley the two points to re-establish the lead for the Centurions.
On fifty-four the Vikings took the lead with the first try of the game when Anthony Gelling was on hand to take a Johnstone kick and walk over on a two man overlap. Owens added the conversion for an 8-4 lead to the visitors.
Jack Owens sent his fans wild on sixty-seven when he took a superb inside pass tp run the angle and go over by the left cornerflag. Owens was unable to add the extras but there was a mountain for Leigh to climb to get back into the game with just ober ten minutes remaining.
On seventy two Iain Thornley dropped the ball with the line begging after taking a Ridyard pass.
Into the last five minutes and Leigh finally got their first four pointer as Higson took a pass off the shoulder of Patrick Ah Van to go over in the corner and complete a passing move. Brierley was unable to add the conversion, Leigh still four points adrift at 8-12.
When Widnes knocked-on on their own line in the dying seconds it set up a nailbiting finale. Leigh threw everything that they had at the Widnes defence but knocked-on themselves through Junior Sa’u on the second tackle. Widnes rode their luck and ran down the clock to secure their passage to Wembley.
It was a terrific game, played in awful conditions, by two dedicated sides who both wanted the prize of a Wembley final. Two superb Widnes tries sealed their victory and when the chips were down they managed to repel the Leigh attacks.
Centurions: McNally, Higson (T), Thornley, Sa’u, Marsh, Ridyard, Brierley (2G), Douglas, Higham, Clark (SB on 2), Adamson, Batchelor, Cator. Subs: Hood, Thompson, Emmitt, Adamson .
Vikings: Owens (T, 2G), Ince, Gelling (T), Brand, Ah Van, Craven, Lyons, Chapelhow J, Johnstone (SB on 2), Norman, Wilde, Dean, Walker. Subs: Chapelhow T, Leuluai, Hansen, Ashall-Bott.
Referee: Ben Thaler.