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EXTENDED PREVIEW: Featherstone Rovers v Leigh Centurions

Featherstone Rovers welcome Leigh Centurions to the Big Fellas Stadium at the weekend, in what is one of Nothing But League’s ‘highlight matches’ of round five. The Rovers have publicly challenged the Centurions to bring more fans to the game than what Bradford Bulls did in round three. The game is set to be played in front of a packed crowd in West Yorkshire, and it’s certainly one not to miss!

Last Time Out

Featherstone battled their way to a victory in round four, overcoming West Yorkshire rivals Halifax 24-12 at The Shay. Things started well for the visitors, scoring two tries in the opening quarter of the match. Paul Sykes got the ball rolling on the fourth minute, then dual-registered winger Tom Johnstone rose highest to collect a Gareth Moore bomb. In-between the scores, Halifax full-back Miles Greenwood suffered an horrific leg break and we send our best wishes over to Miles for a speedy recovery. Steve Tyrer scored the first points of the game for Richard Marshall’s side on the half an hour mark, pouncing on a blunder from Rovers’ utility back Jy Hitchcox. The half-time score read 12-6 to Featherstone, but they’d have to wait a while for their next try of the game. After an hour of play, Andy Hay’s side extended their lead courtesy of Andy Ellis. A two score lead would not be relinquished by the visitors, despite Mitch Cahalane bursting over the try line for Fax’ with five minutes to play. The two points were signed, sealed and delivered to the Big Fellas Stadium when dual-registered Joe Arundel crossed in the dying embers. It was a test for Rovers but they came through it with the win, and that should stand them in good stead for the challenge of Leigh this weekend.

Leigh travelled to the Keepmoat Stadium last weekend, hoping to avenge their only league defeat of 2014 which came against Doncaster. Avenge it they did, and they did it in style. A 54-18 win against Paul Cooke’s side was thoroughly deserved as the champions’ free-flowing rugby came to the fore once more. Three tries in the first 20 minutes for Paul Rowley’s men set the tone for the match as Ryan Brierley, Sam Barlow and Gregg McNally all went over the whitewash. The try scoring continued on half an hour through Liam Kay, who scored his first of four in the tie. But Donny’ replied four minutes after Kay’s score with Mike Emmett barreling his way over the line. At half-time, the Centurions were 26-6 up and they didn’t have to wait long for that to be improved upon. Soon after the restart, Kay had brought up his hat-trick thanks to good work from his partner down the left side, Tom Armstrong. In-between Kay’s early second half double-salvo, Emmett recorded his brace for the hosts as he made his way over from close range. Kay’s last four pointer for the day came on the 56th minute as he got the better of opposite number Sam Doherty. By the end of the match Martyn Ridyard had converted seven out of Leigh’s ten tries, and he got on the scoresheet himself after Sam Hopkins and McNally laid the foundations. Doherty made amends for missing the tackle that led to Kay’s fourth when the Dons winger went over with 13 minutes left of the match but there was room for another score for the visitors. Former Sheffield centre Tom Armstrong planted the ball over the try line which concluded a very satisfying day at the office for Leigh.

Key Battle

There’ll be a very interesting one-on-one contest this Sunday, should the lineups from round four stay the same. Gregg McNally has proved he’s one of, if not, the best full-back in the Championship over recent seasons and the Cumbrian-born Centurion is just one of the many reasons why Leigh were such a monumental success last season. In the Rovers camp, Will Sharp usually plays his trade at winger but he’s also a very useful full-back too. A strong runner and can leap like a salmon to catch bombs that are put up by the half-backs, Sharp is pretty much a fans favourite at Post Office Road. McNally and Sharp are always high in the end-of-season try-scoring ranks but both are versatile in their ways, and the defence they both put on show also gives the fans on the terraces a lift. If heavy winds hit West Yorkshire this weekend, bombs will be put up to try and force errors so whoever handles themselves the best will give their team a composed feel for the ensuing set. Sharp-McNally is certainly a battle to keep your eyes on, as well as the showdown between the two sets of no-nonsense prop forwards. 

Prediction

The match is a hard one to call. Featherstone are usually fearsome on home turf but have already been beaten by a full-time side in the shape of Bradford Bulls. The Centurions have a perfect record for 2015 and it’s expected that they’ll keep that run going this weekend – Leigh by 14

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