Warrington overcame a strong challenge from the Leigh Centurions to claim a slender 32-30 victory at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. Leigh led for large stages of the mach, but a late Harvey Livett penalty goal saw the Wolves seal the 2 points in a thrilling contest.
The Centurions opened the scoring after only 4 minutes, with James Clare finishing off a well worked overlap out wide. A Liam Hood 80m break up field gave Leigh good territory in the Wolves half, with the ball being pushed through the hands for Clare to capitalise.
Warrington hit back minutes later, with Matty Russell crossing in the corner after some clever play by Kevin Brown. The half back caught the Leigh defence napping down the short side, with the ball finding Russell to stride over. The difficult conversion was missed, with Leigh retaining a narrow 6-4 lead.
This lead was wiped out minutes later however, with the veteran Ben Westwood celebrating his new contract with a try, crashing over from close range next to the uprights.
Despite being behind in the game, Leigh started positively and restored their 2 point lead following a trademark Liam Hood try, with the hooker burrowing over from dummy half. Danny Tickle made great yardage downfield after slicing through a gaping hole in the Wire defence, but was tackled short. Hood then took advantage of an unset line to dart over, with the conversion bringing the scores to 12-10.
Leigh then made it back to back scores midway through the half with Antony Maria being in the right place to catch the ball and stroll over underneath the posts after a Drinkwater kick caused havoc. The ball hung in the air, only to be flicked back by Samisoni Langi to Maria who claimed his first Leigh try.
The Wolves did reduce the deficit 5 minutes before the break, with Gidley producing a carbon copy of Hood’s earlier try by throwing the dummy and touching down under the sticks, whilst Kevin Brown made it two tries in a matter of minutes after finishing off a Peta Hiku break resulting from an Atelea Vea knock on. Patton couldn’t land the conversion from out wide, bringing the scores to 20-18 for the Wolves as both teams returned to the sheds.
The second half began in the same mould as the first, with Leigh drawing first blood. After a series of errors, the Centurions had 3 repeat sets on the Warrington line. This pressure eventually told, with the Wolves resolve breaking after a strong Atelea Vea run seeing him crash over. Drinkwater landed the extras, giving Leigh a 24-20 advantage.
Warrington hit back as the game approached the final quarter, with a huge Kevin Brown high bomb causing chaos amongst the Leigh defenders. The ball was allowed to bounce over the head of Dawson, with Hiku alert and able to beat Mitch Brown to the ball and touch down. Patton again put the conversion wide, levelling the scores as 24-a-piece.
The you-score-we-score nature of the game continued to add suspense to a tense affair, with Leigh continuing the trend by hitting back minutes later. An inside ball caught the Wire defenders off guard, allowing Lachlan Burr to power through and push the Leythers back in front, carrying a slender 6 point lead.
Yet again, the Wolves refused to give up, with the Chris Hill forcing his way over from 2 metres out. The captain’s large frame was just too much of a handful for Eloi Pelissier, with Hill steamrollering his way over the hooker to score and restore the stalemate at 30-all.
With just over 10 minutes remaining, Warrington were awarded a penalty straight in front of the Leigh posts. Livett opted to slot the two over, pushing the Wolves 32-30 in front.
Leigh had chances to go on and win the game but Dawson dropped the ball with line begging and a poor option on the last saw Glenn Stewart tackled in possession, handing Warrington a 32-30 win and sealing their place in Super League for next season.