The magic of the Challenge Cup has reached round two with the BBC choosing the clash between two sides from the National Conference First division with the relegated Leigh Miners Rangers and Stanningley poised for a classic trans-Pennine battle.
Jus six places separated the two sides at the end of the 2023 season with Leigh finishing third bottom and Stanningley fourth from the top of their respective leagues and despite having home advantage there was a real chance of an upset in favour of the side from Leeds.
Leigh Miners were the bookies favourites for the win in their home game at Twist Lane, with Stanningley having been given a twelve point start on the coupon.
After absorbing an opening six from Stanningley they scored on their opening possession on three minutes when they ran the ball on the last with Zach Gorst going over in the left corner to ground by the flag. Sam Pilkington was well wide with the conversion attempt, the home side 4-0 to the good.
Poor defence from Leigh allowed an Adam Butterill kick to the corner to be collected on the first bounce by Mark Shires to score a scruffy but important try. The conversion was added by Ryan Taylor to snatch the lead.
Leigh were back in front after a patient build up with Pilkington pushing away the attempted tackle to ground in the right corner. Pilkington was again unable to add the conversion from the touchline, his side now with an 8-6 lead.
Ten minutes from the interval the lead was extended as Lewis Grimes took a delightful pass from Noah Lancelot to again register a try in the corner. Pilkington missed the target for a third time, the home side 12-6 ahead.
Bang on the interval Stanningley grabbed themselves a lifeline as Shires went in for his second, bulldozing his way over from close. Taylor added the conversion to tie the sides together at 12-12 as the referee blew the whistle for half time.
The opening nineteen minutes of the second half saw the sides in deadlock as defences took charge but as the hour mark approached the fatigue was showing for both sides.
On fifty-nine the visitors were back in the lead after a Jack Vincent pass under the tackle went into the hands of Harris Davidson who had a clear run to the line to score. Ryan Taylor added the conversion for an 18-12 lead.
It was end-to-end as Leigh scored their fourth try on sixty-eight minutes as Lancelot dove over by the left upright. Pilkington found the target for the first time on the afternoon, the sides back all square at 18-18, a humdinger of a game that now looked like it would go down to the wire.
Stanningley forced a goal line drop out in the dying seconds and two tackles into their set, Butterill kicked a thirty metre drop goal, the ball just clearing the cross bar, to take a single point win.
Stanningley are into the hat for the Monday nights third round draw which will be broadcast live on the BBC Sport website and streaming options. They will be looking forward to a mouthwatering tie against on of the semi-professional sides as they enter the fray on their road to Wembley. It was a close game and Leigh will count themselves as unlucky not to have taken the win themselves after scoring more tries than their opponents.
Leigh Miners Rangers: Lancelot (T), Gorst (T), Kenyon, Grimes (T), Pilkington (T, G), Hoyles, Williamson, Darby, Hudson, Bowers, Disley, Turner, Gotts. Subs: Hamer, McGeown, Philbin, Bardsley. 18th Man: ?.
Stanningley: Butterill (DG), Taylor (3G), Vincent, Parker, Shires (2T), Davidson (T), Townend, Ruan, Phipps, Savage, Moorhouse, Simpson, Salkeld D. Subs: Salkeld E, Welton, Whitaker, Adams. 18th Man: ?.
Score Progression: 4-0, 4-4, 4-6, 8-6, 12-6, 12-10, 12-12 : HT: 12-16, 12-18, 16-18, 18-18, 18-19:FT.
Lead Exchanges: Leigh – Stanningley – Leigh – Square – Stanningley – Square - Stanningley.
Referee: Sam Jenkinson.