Earlier today, Championship team Leigh announced that hooker Kurt Baptiste had been released from his contract at the club and may well have thought that would be the worst news of the day. However, that was not the case.
Featherstone Rovers turned up at Leigh Sports Village today in a defiant mood and the part timers promptly left last season’s Million Pound Game losers with two points in their back pockets following a 38-30 victory, leaving the hosts in a lowly position in the league after four losses from their first five. Indeed, in Kieron Purtill’s first game in temporary charge, they were leading until late on and ended the first half with a 20-14 lead. That lead came after both teams exchanged superiority throughout the half with a try from Rovers cancelled out by Rhys Evans to make the scores 4-4 early on. Both teams crossed for further scores leaving the score at 8-14 before two quickfire home tries from Bodene Thompson and Ben Crooks saw them enter the sheds with the aforementioned lead.
The hosts held that lead and were 30-26 up going into the final ten minutes but tries from Mitch Clark (73) and Luke Briscoe (78), both converted by Martin Ridyard, saw them fall late once more after last weekend’s home humbling against Toulouse. It meant interim coach Kieron Purtill’s first game in charge resulted in the club staying in 9th position, albeit having played a game more than the vast majority of other Betfred Championship teams due to postponements as a result of inclement weather.
The poor result came hours after the club announced that off season recruit Baptiste had departed the club with immediate effect, citing personal and family reasons as causes for his departure. After featuring heavily for Papua New Guinea in the RLWC last winter, the former Canberra Raider was something of a coup for the recently relegated club and Super League team Warrington were also interested before withdrawing from the race for his signature. However, after picking up an injury in his first appearance for the club against Batley Bulldogs, he has now been released and is set to sign a contract with NRL club Sydney Roosters. Indeed, the announcement that the club had re-signed Mickey Higham will cushion the blow caused by the loss of the 26 year old and he will hope to be the inspiration the club desperately need as they bid to change their current form.