Skirlaugh's 'great escape' from relegation - with a last-minute penalty
JASON Bell held his nerve to kick a last-minute penalty to ensure Skirlaugh's Premier League status and send Leigh East down in a nail biting 24-22 survival decider at Eastside.
Skirlaugh pulled off the great escape with four wins from their last six games, having languished in the bottom three for the majority of the season.
After a dominant first-half display, which gave Skirlaugh a 10-0 lead, the Bulls looked to be heading for a comfortable victory.
But two quick-fire tries after the re-start brought Leigh East level and set up a thrilling last 30 minutes.
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A rejuvenated Leigh side turned in an unparalleled second-half performance to their poor first-half showing and were within a whisker of snatching the win when they went 22-16 up.
But a James Higginbotham try five minutes from time brought Skirlaugh back from the dead, before Bell's penalty claimed the victory for the home side and broke the hearts of the visitors.
An emotional Bulls' coach Colin Brown said afterwards: "My heart is still pumping now, but it was racing when Belly was about to take that kick.
"Kickers live for that moment and he did well to keep his cool.
"I thought we were outstanding in the first half, and then we give them a sniff.
"They got better as the game went on and we were looking for someone to do something, instead of doing it collectively.
"I have to say though, Jonny Young was phenomenal and led by example.
"It has been a big learning curve this season, one we don't want to repeat."
Skirlaugh's intent was evident from the outset as they continually pressured the visitors' line.
The breakthrough came with a quarter of the game gone when Sean Wildbore latched onto a Rob Blakebrough kick. Bell failed to add the extras.
Stuart Smith then put Skirlaugh further in front with a try just before the interval, with Bell on target this time.
Frustration began to set in for the visitors' when they had a man sent to sin-bin, and everything was going Skirlaugh's way at half-time.
But Leigh came out a different side and scored twice in five minutes through Kerrod Selmes and Sam Grainey.
Selmes landed one of the conversions to bring the scores level.
Skirlaugh reclaimed the lead after inroads were made by Scott Mountain and David Fletcher, before Bell sent in Young. Bell converted.
The visitors got the ball back straight from the kick-off though for Adam Holland to even the scores up again.
Grainey then got his second five minutes later to give Easts a 22-16 lead with 10 minutes to play.
Time was quickly running out but Skirlaugh refused to throw in the towel.
Young exploded through a gap and passed to the supporting Higginbotham who raced 40 metres.
With the scores locked at 22-22, a draw would have saved Leigh East from the drop, but when they were penalised for a ball strip on Wildbore in the final minute, it was left to Bell to slot home the decisive score from 20 metres out.
As Skirlaugh celebrated their victory, two Leigh East players and their coach were shown red cards for abuse towards the referee.