Dewsbury Rams produced a brave performance to push Leigh Centurions all the way in last Sunday’s Kingstone Press play-off semi-final.
The Rams bowed out 33-22 but not before giving the Centurions an almighty scare in the second half.
Dewsbury fought back from 21-6 down at half-time with two early second half tries and there was a real sense that Glenn Morrison’s men were on the verge of causing a major upset.
Even when Leigh eased their nerves with two tries, Dewsbury weren’t finished and a cracking Dale Morton score again gave the Rams hope going into the final 15 minutes. Dewsbury were hampered with three players off injured and just one fit substitute to rotate and Leigh managed to close the game out and book a Grand Final place at Headingley this Sunday.
Dewsbury began nervously and Leigh took advantage to score two early tries.
Michael Platt broke on the right and slipped the ball inside to Ryan Brierley, despite suspicions of a forward pass, play continued and the scrum half sent winger Adam Higson over wide out. Martyn Ridyard added a fine conversion.
The Rams defence had to be alert as first Sam Wood brilliantly spun Higson onto his back over the line and when Leigh moved quickly left Liam Kay was tackled into touch.
Leigh attacked again and created a huge overlap on the right for Higson to grab his second try and Ridyard curled over a magnificent touchline goal.
Dewsbury finally began to see possession and Kieran Hyde’s neat kick forced Leigh to drop out only for the Rams to cough up possession.
When the Rams forced Leigh to drop-out for a second time, tempers became frayed behind the Centurions posts and following a bout of fisticuffs, Jobe Murphy and Kay were sin-binned.
It took a piece of individual brilliance from Anthony Thackeray to get the Rams back into the game as he jinked through a gap and over for a try which Tom Hemingway converted.
The powerful Platt barged his way over the line soon after and a third Ridyard conversion put the Centurions 18-6 ahead.
Dewsbury would have probably settled for that scoreline with a chance to regroup but they were dealt two cruel blows before half-time.
Karl Pryce was harshly penalised for obstruction as Morton attempted to run the ball out of his in-goal area and Ridyard kicked the goal.
Leigh were awarded another penalty and as the hooter sounded, Ridyard hammered over a long-range drop-goal to put his side 21-6 ahead.
Dewsbury began the second half superbly and having forced Leigh to drop-out, they launched a sustained attack.
Rob Spicer drove for the line and brilliantly flipped a pass out. As the ball was worked left, Ben Hellewell dived in at the corner to give the Rams hope.
More pressure saw Leigh again forced to drop out and Joel Farrell jinked his way over to spark jubilation among the Rams’ travelling support. Hemingway converted and the visitors trailed by just five points.
Greg McNally replied with a pressure-easing try for Leigh, following a break by Matty Sarsfield, which Ridyard goaled, before Higson dived in for his hat-trick to give the Centurions breathing space at 31-16.
Dewsbury weren’t finished and Thackeray’s beautiful kick over the defence saw Morton win the race to dive on the loose ball for the Rams’ fourth try, which Hemingway improved.
The Rams had one final chance to reduce the arrears further when Shane Grady was tackled inches short.
Ridyard slotted over an injury time penalty but although Leigh celebrated reaching the Grand Final, Dewsbury left the stadium with pride very much intact following a terrific season.
Leigh Centurions: McNally; Higson, Platt, Armstrong, Kay; Ridyard, Brierley; Emmitt, Beswick, Wilkes, Sarsfield, Haggerty, Barlow. Subs: Peknkywicz, Walker, Bate, Acton.
Dewsbury Rams: Pryce; Morton, Hellewell, Grady, Wood; Hyde, Thackeray; Haggarty, Hemingway, Hepworth, Spicer, Hale, Muprhy. Subs: Wright, Aizue, Farrell, Gallagher.
Referee: Matthew Thomason.
Grand-Final: Leigh Centurions v Featherstone Rovers — Sunday 7pm.