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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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Haven blow chance of a home draw

HAVEN blew their chance of a home draw in the Championship play-offs in dramatic style at the Sports Village.

They were not just poor, they were abysmal, and coach Ged Stokes was clearly angry at the performance.

Leigh needed the three points to stand any chance of avoiding relegation, and Haven did not seem to want the win as badly as the hosts.

Stokes pledged they would be better at Widnes tonight, and a massive improvement is needed, or their season will end at the Stobart Stadium.

They showed their potential with six consecutive wins before major slip-ups at Widnes and then Leigh.

But they are likely to have to reproduce the form that saw them win at Featherstone and Halifax to make play-off progress.

Leigh played like their lives depended on it at the weekend, while Haven face the same scenario tonight. But then again, so do Widnes.

It had looked promising for the visitors early on, Carl Rudd dummying through and feeding Paul Ballard for a try on Haven’s first set.

Leigh replied on 11 minutes, with Dave McConnell taking advantage of lax defending to score.

The hooker was in again seven minutes later, in the same place, this time from dummy-half, after Leigh had been gifted field position when Jamie Theoharous was penalised for his rough handling of Mick Nanyn.

The kicker then booted a penalty after Theoharous spilled the ball 25 metres out, and Kyle Amor was pinned for holding down.

Most of Nanyn’s tries come from his bullish strength near the opposition line, but not a finger was laid on him for his first of the day.

Haven were fooled by a neatly-worked move and the centre strode over unopposed.

Scrum-half Ian Watson, whose first-half tactical kicking game had been exemplary, showed what Leigh had been missing during his injury absence when he created the final try of the half.

The Welsh international jinked through the defence before popping a pass up for Lee Wingfield to score, again out wide.

Any chance of a fight-back evaporated within five minutes of the re-start, Martyn Ridyard stepping inside two defenders to touch down under the posts.

Edmondson did well to gather the kick-off, and then earn a penalty for holding down. But Leigh’s defence was ferocious, and they made the most of their chances when they came.

Dave Alstead beat Ballard to Watson’s cross-field kick in midfield and sprinted clear to score.

Watson then dropped a goal before Ballard earned payback five minutes later, superb handling, with Theoharous and Leroy Joe heavily involved, leading to the winger notching his second try.

With the game out of Haven’s reach, some of their handling late in the game was poor, the Centurions swooping twice to score off loose passes.

The first came when Alstead intercepted and fed Nanyn for his second try, from long range, and Alstead then took advantage, again from distance, Nanyn booting his seventh goal.

Sandwiched between them was a typically brave effort from ex-Leigh centre Rob Jackson, who crashed through heavy traffic to score.

Leigh’s later tries raised little cheer around the Sports Village, as scorelines elsewhere started to filter through to the stadium. Despite their win, they were relegated.

Haven must step up several gears tonight to ensure they avoid a sinking feeling of their own.

Match facts

Haven: Benson, Ballard, R Jackson, McAvoy, Calvert, Rudd, McNally, Edmondson, Mattinson, Joe, S Miller, Gorski, Theoharous. Subs: C Smith, M Jackson, Amor, D Miller.

Tries: Ballard 2, R Jackson.

Goals: Rudd 1.

Leigh: Donlan, Alstead, Stewart, Nanyn, Maden, Ridyard, Watson, Hill, McConnell, Meekin, Taylor, Armitstead, Smith. Subs: Higson, Leualai, Durbin, Wingfield.

Tries: McConnell 2, Nanyn 2, Wingfield, Ridyard, Alstead 2.

Goals: Nanyn 7, Ian Watson, one drop-goal.

Attendance: 2,721.

Referee: Ronnie Laughton.

Star Man: Karl Edmondson.

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