Leigh Centurions 23,​ York City Knights 24

YORK City Knights’ stunning stellar season just gets better and better.

Having secured a Championship play-off place last time out when beating old adversaries Featherstone, this time they defeated one of those play-off rivals – former Super League club Leigh Centurions – on their own turf.

And yet again it was a thrilling encounter that went to the wire, James Ford’s men coming from 18-8 down to win 24-23, the difference – as has so often been the case over the past two seasons - being just a single shot at goal.

Moreover, it completed a famous double over the Lancastrians, following the 9-8 nail-biter at Bootham Crescent. Has that ever happened before in York’s long history?

Indeed, do this current lot know when they’re beaten? So often their backs were bending but at no point did they break, and when Brad Hey scampered away out of nowhere to send Liam Harris in for a fine finish which regained the lead with 11 minutes left, that resolve ultimately brought its reward - again.

This latest memorable result lifted the Knights a point above Leigh into third with one game left, a point behind Toulouse. And, given the fixtures that remain – Leigh going to runaway leaders Toronto, and fifth-placed Featherstone hosting second-placed Toulouse, while York finish at Halifax – there is a distinct possibility of the Knights ending the league campaign in a remarkable second spot.

Ford made four changes to the side that beat Featherstone.

Hey and Matt Chilton were back on one flank, with Liam Salter out due to the head injury suffered against Fev, and Perry Whiteley sidelined after a minor operation on a non-rugby related issue.

Jack Blagbrough and Mike Kelly were back in the pack ranks, with Jack Teanby and Ronan Dixon left out with hopefully short-term injury.

Leigh, too, had some marquee names on the sidelines, including central stars Junior Sau and Adam Higson, along with creative veterans Martyn Ridyard and Gregg McNally. They still looked a powerful outfit, with former England internationals Kevin Brown, a summer signing, and captain Micky Higham bringing nous and craft in pivotal roles

York had the first opportunity thanks to an error under a high kick by home full-back Ryan Brierley but Joe Porter could not take in Graeme Horne’s crash ball.

Then an uncharacteristic fumble by hooker Higham gave the visitors another attacking set but York quickly went wide right where Chilton was unable to finish a quarter-chance.

Then a huge hit by Sam Scott on prop Luke Douglas brought yet another platform and this time Matty Marsh arced in down the same right flank - only referee Marcus Griffiths claimed he did not get the touchdown.

Leigh, in retort, forced a dropout, and had a third repeat set after a high tackle by Connor Robinson. They went close but their chance was gone when Douglas lost possession close to the sticks.

The sides continued to trade errors – both teams will need to be tidier when the knockouts come around - until the Knights struck on 22 minutes.

Robinson was the architect with a little pass that put the excellent Scott through a hole, and the second-row completed a super assist with the scoring pass to Will Oakes. Robinson booted a super touchline conversion.

Decisions started to go Leigh’s way and the hosts duly built pressure. They had a chance down the right wing, two on one against Oakes, but the York try-scorer showed his defensive smartness by putting centre Liam Forsyth in two minds and halting the play.

But Leigh did get the equaliser, stand-off Brown showing class close to the line with a dummy and finish for his first try for the club, Brierley converting.

They immediately handed York the lead back, though, with a penalty for dissent while in possession, 30 metres from their own line, Robinson nailing the two-pointer.

Leigh passed up a chance to equalise from 35 metres following a tip-tackle but that decision paid off as, after some desperate goal-line defence, replacement hooker Liam Hood got over from close-range. Brierley goaled.

The Centurions started the second half on top too and almost extended their 12-8 lead from a kick. Their high-intensity defence was superb in the early sets, and reward finally came with a Brierley try – nobody home in the defence as Brown chipped to the sticks for the onrushing full-back to touch down and convert.

At 18-8, York were bending. But break they did not.

Instead, Leigh quickly erred at a play-the-ball, and the visitors made them pay from the scrum, Marsh with a superb finish. It appeared from distance as if the full-back had bounced the ball down but, unlike in the first half, the referee was sure the touchdown was correct. Robinson goaled and it was game on again at 18-14.

Leigh were unable to maintain their early second-half intensity and again errors came in.

And then, as the changeable skies darkened and the rain began to fall, York levelled the scores.

Home ranks were adamant the ball had gone forward but the officials were unmoved as Robinson’s long cutout pass found Oakes hugging the touchline and fighting his way over.

As that shower became torrential, York fumbled, but their defence made amends, forcing Forsyth into touch.

After the downpour, scrum-half Josh Woods eked the hosts ahead again with a drop goal 15 minutes from time.

But then came York’s try from nowhere.

Broken play dragged a defender out of the line and as Marsh handed on to Hey, the centre saw the gap and sprinted off. Harris was on his inside, took the pass, and stepped the cover like a tap dancer. Robinson goaled.

York still had a lot of hanging on to do.

They initially erred when dragging a man out of touch, giving away a dangerous penalty. Leigh got two more repeat sets and eventually they worked an overlap for Forsyth to score wide right – Oakes’ desperate attempt at an intercept not coming off.

Brierley was off the mark with the conversion, though, leaving York one point ahead still – the same difference between the sides as at Bootham Crescent.

The players were out on their feet but twice York lads got to loose balls first, through Scott and Will Jubb. Those plays summed up team’s desire as a whole and ultimately they held on for yet another fabulous famous win.

Leigh: Brierley; Cox, Thornley, Forsyth, S Marsh; Brown, Woods; Douglas, Higham, Emmitt, Adamson, Thompson, Cator. Subs (all used): Hood, Paterson, Clark, Adamsom.

Tries: Brown 31; Hood 40; Brierley 48; Forsyth 75.

Conversions: Brierley 31, 40, 48 (3/4).

Penalties: none.

Drop goal: Woods 65.

Knights: M Marsh 9, Oakes 9, Bass 8, Hey 8, Chilton 7; Harris 8, Robinson 8; Baldwinson 8, Jubb 9, Horne 8, Porter 8, Scott 9, Spears 7. Subs (all used): Brining 8, Stock 8, Blagbrough 7, Kelly 7.

Tries: Oakes 20, 59; M Marsh 50; Harris 69.

Conversions: Robinson 20, 50, 69 (3/4).

Penalties: Robinson 33 (1/1).

Man of the match: Matty Marsh – the full-back is so safe at the back, and he scored a super individual try too at a key moment of the game.

Referee: Marcus Griffiths (Widnes) – not bad.

Penalty count: 7-4.