12 August 2023

Lachlan Lam lands golden point drop goal to give Leigh dramatic win over Hull KR

12 August 2023

Lachlan Lam kicked the first golden point in Betfred Challenge Cup final history as Leigh Leopards ended over half a century of hurt by clinching a dramatic 17-16 win over Hull KR at Wembley.

Lam, the son of Leopards head coach Adrian, made no mistake in a dramatic extra period after team-mate Gareth O’Brien spurned an earlier chance and Brad Schneider also fell short for Rovers.

Tom Briscoe’s late try left Leigh within two minutes of victory in normal time before Matt Parcell pounced to slap down a high kick and Schneider’s nerveless conversion forced the extra period.

It was a remarkable ending to an absorbing but error-strewn affair in which the magnitude of the occasion clearly got to both sides as they sought to end their long waits for silverware.

And all the more amazing was the sight of the leopardskin-clad Leigh staff storming onto the pitch to celebrate one of the most remarkable Cup wins in the sport’s history in the first season back among the game’s elite.

In truth Leigh had always looked the better team with Rovers fortunate to emerge from a mistake-filled first period with just a two-point deficit after losing Elliot Minchella for the last 10 minutes of the half for a high tackle.

And Parcell’s late intervention – awarded after a nailbiting series of replays to determine if Kane Linnett had knocked on – might have favoured Rovers, fresh from a similar golden point escape act in their semi-final win over Wigan.

The errors continued in the early heart-stopping moments of the extra period with O’Brien, whose drop goal for Salford had relegated Rovers in 2016, inches from repeating the misery before his team-mate Lam came to the rescue.

Errors had poured in from the opening set, Rhys Kennedy’s fumble handing Leigh the early advantage, before Ben Reynolds kicked Leigh into a two-point lead after Minchella was penalised for charging in to protest a tackle by John Asiata.

Asiata’s tackling technique has been the subject of strong criticism in recent weeks but the apparent plot back-fired on Rovers who fell behind then spectacularly failed to capitalise when O’Brien grounded a routine kick.

Handed the initiative 15 metres from the Leigh line, Schneider served up a loose pass which almost sent Leigh winger Josh Charnley scampering clear, with Rovers plainly struggling to adapt to the occasion.

Seemingly at the centre of everything, Minchella wrested the initiative on the quarter-hour with a rugged run that split the Leigh line before he handed over to Jez Litten to shunt Rovers in front.

Schneider atoned for his earlier error with the conversion and as Rovers pressed again, Tom Opacic was denied a penalty try after protesting he was pulled back as he tried to force his way through.

Leigh responded with a sweeping move that ended with Lam scampering clear under the posts, and when Minchella saw yellow for going high on Reynolds shortly after the Leigh stand-off’s conversion, it looked set to be a testing last 10 for Rovers.

Schneider came to Rovers’ rescue by stopping O’Brien in his tracks, then desperate defending kept Zak Hardaker and Josh Charnley at Bay, and Rovers even narrowed the deficit from Schneider’s long-range kick on the hooter after Ed Chamberlain coughed up the final error of a wild and woolly first half.

Schneider kicked Rovers level as the second half started in much the same fashion as the first, but Leigh were slowly ratcheting up the pressure with only some valiant defence preventing Adrian Lam’s men going back in front.

Rovers continued to be their own worst enemy, an awful spill by Ethan Ryan stretching his side through a torrid set, before a Mikey Lewis spill in his own 30 on 65 proved an error too far.

Leigh finally converted their opportunity when O’Brien arrowed his pass to send Briscoe diving over in the corner, and Reynolds’ conversion from the touchline sent Leigh within 10 minutes of history.

Parcell served up one last twist in the dying seconds, with Schneider sending the game into the extra period, but there was to be no great escape act again as Lam ensured that Wembley would turn an improbable shade of leopardskin.

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