Reserves Report: Leigh Leopards 36-28 Bradford Bulls

Reserves, Saturday 15 June 2024

Leigh Miners Rangers Rugby League Academy, Sutton Park, Manchester Road, Leigh (2pm)

Leigh Leopards 36-28 Bradford Bulls

Leopards Reserves earned their third win of the season in a 12-try thriller against the Bulls at Sutton Park.

Left-winger Alfie Whittle was one of the Leopards’ heroes with a high-class hat-trick and fellow winger Liam Copland made sure of the win with a smart last-minute finish on the opposite flank.

Valu Tane Bentley, Ben Tyrer and Tommy Porter were the other Leopards try-scorers with skipper Lewis Fairhurst kicking four conversions.

A young Bulls side contributed fully to a fast-flowing game, taking an early lead, regaining the lead soon after the re-start and staying in contention until the end.

With six points from their opening seven fixtures, Stu Littler’s team has made a very respectable start to the season following the club’s reformation of the Reserves side.

First team squad members Keanan Brand, Louis Brogan and Lewis Baxter all contributed well to the team effort, alongside Barrow Raiders koan pair Finn McMillan and Delaine Bedward Gittens.

But it was Whittle who stole the show. Son of former Leigh prop Dave Whittle, a real fans’ favourite in the Hilton Park days, he showed good finishing skills to score his first and third tries, and a great turn of pace to scorch over from 40 metres for his second.

Bulls scored first with an early converted try by prop Jamie Gill, but Leopards were soon on level terms when the hard-working Bentley crashed over.

Briefly down to 12 men after Waldimar Matahwa was sin-binned for a late challenge, Bulls paid the price as Whittle got over for his first. But the visitors were level when halfback Finley Balback crossed for a converted try.

Whittle’s second try, that smart individual effort from distance separated the teams at the break.

Bulls dominated the opening to the second half with tries by fullback George Rayner and left winger William Oakes giving them a 22-16 lead.

But Leopards were level when Whittle completed his hat-trick and Fairhurst converted from the touchline.

Leopards now enjoyed a dominant spell on the back of good go-forward by the pack and standoff Ben Tyrer capitalised with a smart 30-metre angled finish just after the hour-mark.

Livewire hooker Tommy Porter finished off a fine handling move to seemingly make the game safe for the Leopards.

But Bulls pulled back to within four points when Rayner scored his second try and Balback kicked his fourth goal.

Copland showed his finishing skills with that clinical finish in the right corner following a scrum to complete a hard-earned but thoroughly deserved Leopards win after a game that was a credit to both teams.

Leopards Reserves are next in action on Saturday 29 June when they play Hull FC Reserves at Hull RU club (noon kick-off).

Leopards

18 Lewis Fairhurst; 5 Liam Copland, 3 TJ Boyd, 4 Keanan Brand, 2 Alfie Whittle; 6 Ben Tyrer, 7 Matthew Horrocks; 8 Louis Brogan, 9 Tommy Porter, 10 Lewis Baxter, 11 Finn McMillan, 12 Ryan Wood, 13 Valu Tane Bentley

Bench:

22 Kieran Cooke, 20 Ryan Lockett, 17 Liam Sutcliffe, 27 Delaine Bedward Gittens. 18th player: 29 Sam Bardsley

Tries: Bentley (8), Whittle (27, 35, 57), Tyrer (63), Porter (71), Copland (80)

Goals: Fairhurst 4/ 7

Bulls

1 George Rayner; 2 Connor Sayner, 4 Waldimar Matahwa, 5 Samuel Spencer, 20 William Oakes; 7 Finley Balback, 6 Ethan Newboult; 10 Jamie Gill, 9 Lewis Owens, 8 Noah High, 11 Dominic Waites, 12 Jacob Bateman, 13 Elliot Peposhi

Bench:

22 Peter Scott, 14 Joseph Kellett, 23 Alfie Leake, 17 Frederick Butler. 18th player: 25 Joe Butler

Tries: Gill (3), Balback (31), Rayner (42, 77), Oakes (47)

Goals: Balback 4/ 5

Sin bin: Matahwa (25) late challenge

Scoring sequence: 0-6, 6-6, 12-6, 12-12, 16-12 (ht) 16-18, 16-22, 22-22, 26-22, 32-22, 32-28, 36-28

Penalty count: 9-10

Referee: Kristoff Young; Touch judges: M Murphy & A Smith

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