Laund Hill clinch the victory to progress into the semi-final
On a bright and clear afternoon, Laund Hill entered the quarter-final with an unchanged team from the side that beat Southport comprehensively last week – the first time this season that coaches Tindal and Ford have been able to do so. The opening minutes of the game couldn’t have been much different from last week with Leigh having the better part of possession as well as being dominant in the scrum. However, when Hill entered the Leigh half for the first time, the visitors succumbed to the pressure and were forced to give away a penalty within kicking distance. Captain Ed Black elected to go for goal, but the normally ever-reliable Tom Egan pushed the ball just wide. From this, Leigh continued to build and Laund Hill found themselves on the wrong end of the referee’s whistle. The visitors capitalised on this and from a quick tap penalty looked to be in at the corner before being bundled into touch. However, the referee adjudged that Corby Nasaqa was less than legal in the tackle and awarded a penalty try, showing Nasaqa a yellow card in the process.
The home team were now under the cosh, but were steadily able to put a few phases together. The pressure once again was too much for Leigh and they gave away another kickable penalty. This time Captain Black elected to go for touch to turn the screw, but the plan did not succeed as Leigh defiantly won possession back at the resulting line-out. It wasn’t long though before Laund Hill really started to gain the upper hand. Tom Bulloch made a strong break downfield before being tackled just short. However, Leigh once again were forced to give a penalty away on their own line. The Hill forwards took control with drive after drive towards the line, sucking the defence in. Scrum-half Egan cleverly saw an opening on the blind-side and fed the ball to Will Burns-Smith who scored in the corner. Egan added the extras. Only a couple of minutes later, the referee had had enough of the constant Leigh infringements and showed their prop a yellow card. With the extra man, Laund Hill took control and played some positive rugby. The home team scrum forced an error and a turn-over. Ed Black made a half- break before finding Tom Dalton with a nice offload for him to run in unopposed under the sticks for another converted try. As the half came to a close, there was time for just one more attack. Prop Sam Burt offloaded to the supporting Black who in turn found Ashley Lockwood. Lockwood stood up in the tackle and passed to Egan who rounded off a fine move in the corner. Unfortunately, he was unable to convert his own try.
The second half started just as it finished with Leigh giving away more penalties. And once again the referee got his card out of his pocket to give Laund Hill a man advantage for another ten minutes. And when they gave away another two quick penalties, Laund Hill found themselves with a line-out close to their opponents try-line. A catch-and-drive was unsuccessfully pulled down and the mauled moved the home team close. The forwards took control with phase after phase before man of the match Egan once again found a gap to sprint through for his second try of the day. This time he was able to add the extras. At this point, Hill looked to put the game beyond reach of Leigh. From the back of a scrum on half-way, Nasaqa sprinted 20 metres down the blind side before finding Burns-Smith to take the ball forward. He passed infield to Gareth Evans who thought he had broke through. However, the covering tackle was good, but not as good as Evans’ offload to centre Tom Bulloch who beat the defence to the line for another converted try to take the score to 33-7. However, from the kick-off, Leigh showed that they were not prepared to give up and charged down a box-kick in the Laund Hill 22 to score a try which gave a faint glimmer of hope. This was pretty much extinguished straight away though as with the next play of the game, strong running centre Liam Haines burst through two tacklers in a trademark run. Unfortunately he was tackled just short but the ball was passed back to the blind side for Will Perfitt to score a fine try. As the game moved into the final minutes, play became very scrappy for both teams. Leigh were shown their third yellow card of the afternoon and the Laund Hill defence started to drop off tackles. And disappointingly for the home team, it was Leigh that got the final laugh of the match as the poor defence allowed them to score out wide with the last play of the game. However, it was a mere consolation as by this stage Laund Hill had booked their place in the semi-final.
The draw has already taken place and planning has begun to face a familiar opponent, Roundhegians, at home next Saturday. The coaching team will take some time to reflect on the performance and assess injuries picked up in the quarter-final but it is expected that a full- strength squad will be available for selection.
Reporter: Dale Earnshaw