NCL: Oldham St Annes 24 Leigh East 16
OLDHAM ST ANNES 24
LEIGH EAST 16
Another week, another much-changed team for Leigh East who battled to the very end in testing weather at Oldham St Annes only to come up short.
The 16-24 defeat was a blow but with four players on debut, there was much to admire in their performance.
St Annes took an early stranglehold on the game with two tries in the first eighteen minutes while East had Andrew Gregson sin-binned for a high tackle after nine minutes.
Joe Hartley cut through for the first try and was followed over the line by Sam Sykes following a good pass from veteran halfback Keil Lancashire. Fullback and Lancashire representative Matt Whitehead added a conversion and struck a long-distance penalty before half-time.
Before that, East responded when swift attack on the right saw Adam Holland get through and score, and the skipper also converted.
East trailed 12-6 at half-time and Oldham St Annes went further in front just five minutes into the new half when Sykes crashed over from close range for his second and Whitehead goaled.
In the rain, both teams came up with some quality rugby with debutants Ben Wharton, Kieron Prescott and particularly halfback Kieron Wilkinson having their moments while Will Ludlow and Andy Ball plugged away.
That spirit was rewarded with the next try as East came down the left with Wilkinson and Louis Else combining. Although the intended pass from Else was palmed down, quick thinking from Wilkinson saw the ball bounce and another debutant, Danny Richardson scored. Holland was unable to convert but turned creator into the last ten minutes.
That came after St Annes sub Kendall Davies picked up and scooted over from dummy half and Whitehead's kick increased the hosts' advantage to 24-10.
The final try went East's way when they forced a knock-on with some stern defence and Holland kicked down the middle from a scrum. Kieron Prescott ran hard and chased to touch down with Holland adding his second goal, but it wasn't quite enough.