GARETH WALKER of League Express looks ahead to tomorrow’s Championship thriller at Odsal between Bradford Bulls and Leigh Centurions
LEIGH Centurions can seal top spot in the Kingstone Press Championship tomorrow when they travel to second placed Bradford.
The two leading sides in the competition this year, they played out one of the matches of 2015 so far when they met at Leigh Sports Village back in February.
Then, the Centurions laid down a marker for the forthcoming campaign with a stirring 36-24 win in front of a bumper 7,449 crowd.
It was a game that had everything – outstanding tries from both teams, passion on the terraces and a fair dose of controversy both on and off the pitch, including six yellow cards and post-match fines.
Almost six months on and the two sides will meet again, and Bradford’s shock defeat at Sheffield on Sunday means the Centurions can move four points clear with a win, with the Bulls having just one game left.
Top spot carries more weight than simply a League Leaders’ title – it also assures that team of home advantage when these two clubs meet again in the middle eight.
There are fascinating match-ups between the sides across the field.
Most of the attention will focus on halfback, where Leigh’s pairing of the assured Martyn Ridyard and the prolific Ryan Brierley provide the Centurions with a settled partnership who know each others’ game inside out.
The Bulls have been less fortunate in terms having a regular combination, due principally to Lee Gaskell’s recent absence, which has coincided with their mid-season dip in form. Gaskell appears vital to his side’s prospects, whether partnered by Danny Addy, Jake Mullaney or Harry Siejka, the latter of whom was sin-binned twice in the earlier meeting between the clubs.
Up front, there are two big sets of forwards who will relish the battle of the packs.
The likes of Paul Clough, Adam Sidlow, Jay Pitts, Gareth Hock, Fuifui Moimoi and Oliver Wilkes have all seen plenty of top-flight rugby, and will relish Sunday’s big stage.
The hookers on display could also have a big say in the outcome – especially with rival coaches James Lowes and Paul Rowley being such distinguished number nines themselves. In Bob Beswick and Micky Higham, Leigh have two vastly experienced campaigners who can guide them around the field and provide a threat with the ball themselves.
For the Bulls, Adam O’Brien plays longer minutes as a general rule and has been one of the stars of the Championship season. He scored twice when the teams met at the LSV and will again be pinpointed as a danger man by the Centurions.
Elsewhere in the teams, two of the most consistent figures have been Bulls utility Addy and Leigh fullback Gregg McNally – both who could be potential match winners. It should be an absolute cracker.