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The Qualifiers Round 1 – Leigh Centurions v Hull Kingston Rovers Preview

To say Hull Kingston Rovers have just got to the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final, there’s a lot of mixed opinions about this game and which way it will go. Will the Robins suffer from a Headingley hangover or will their semi-final victory over Warrington Wolves spur them on to a triumph at the Leigh Sports Village? Will the current Championship champions Leigh Centurions put on another winning performance for the Sky Sports cameras after their win against Salford Red Devils in the Challenge Cup earlier on in the year? So many questions, all to be answered this weekend at the Leigh Sports Village.

Last Time Out

With the League League Shield wrapped up after a midweek victory against Dewsbury Rams, the Centurions could go out against basement side Doncaster and have some fun on home turf before the real work starts in the Qualifiers. The Leigh fans were expecting a big win and that’s what they got with a 66-10 triumph to their Centurions. The hosts went into half-time with a 22-4 lead after a Liam Kay double, as well as a try each for Adam Higson and full-back Gregg McNally. Peter Fox got the lone score of the half for Doncaster. Ryan Brierley, Ben Reynolds, Gareth Hock and Martyn Ridyard all picked up four pointers in the second half, McNally doubled his tally with a 50th minute try. The second half plaudits went to wingman Kay, though, who added a hat-trick to his first half brace. It’s fair to say Leigh go into the Qualifiers without being shy of the whitewash!

Hull KR booked a place at Wembley with a 26-18 win against Warrington Wolves at Headingley Carnegie. It was Warrington who hit the lead first through Ryan Atkins after two minutes but two tries in three minutes for Hull KR shifted the game their way and they didn’t look back after that. Josh Mantellato, an absolute revelation for the Robins since his move from Newcastle Knights, got on the scoresheet following a nice move down the left hand side. The Italian international couldn’t convert his own score as the Wolves held on to a slender two point lead until Ken Sio’s hands plucked an Albert Kelly bomb out of the sky. The hard work was done by Sio at that point and he had nobody to beat to the try-line so another four pointer had arrived for the Rovers. Mantellato converted the try, and even added a penalty goal before half-time resulting in Chris Chester’s men having a six point buffer at the break. Kevin Larroyer managed to scramble over the line with four Wolves defenders surrounding him for the first points of the second half. Mantellato converted before adding another penalty goal to his tally. At 20-6, Warrington looked out of it but two consecutive tries got them right back into the contest. Richie Myler and Ben Currie both broke through the Rovers’ defensive barrier and the difference between the two sides was two points after O’Brien converted both. But, with four minutes remaining, former Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants hooker Shaun Lunt touched down after some sloppy defending by the Wolves mixed with sheer determination on Lunt’s part. Mantellato converted for a two score lead and a place in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final.

Key Battle

Both sides have good quality all over the field but you’ll do well to find a better selection of players than the hookers. Micky Higham and Bob Beswick have been very good, and consistent, out of dummy-half this season and they’ll be wanting to carry on their rich vein of form into the Qualifiers. For Hull KR, coach Chris Chester has Shaun Lunt and John Boudebza to pick from in the hooking department and both have been very good since they joined the club. Lunt joined in midseason from Huddersfield Giants while Boudebza has been at the club from the off-season onwards and has never been far away from the match day squad. There’ll be intriguing battles all over the park on Saturday but it’s worth a watch of the good work from all four of these players, and how pivotal they are to their respective side.

Prediction

Leigh Centurions haven’t been beaten on home turf for quite some time, two seasons in fact, but this is arguably their biggest test to date. Hull Kingston Rovers will be wanting to clear any doubt that they belong in Super League. A victory against Leigh will hardly prove their status in the top tier as there’s still six more games to go but confidence will remain sky high at the club if they manage to get the win at the weekend. However, Paul Rowley’s Centurions have their eyes on a place in Europe’s premier rugby league competition for next season. They’ve already picked up two Super League scalps in the Challenge Cup this season, can they add to their collection this Saturday on Sky Sports? – Hull KR by 10.

I study Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland. Write about the Kingstone Press Championship for a few websites, as well as doing match reports and previews for Sheffield Eagles.



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