came so close to winning their first Grand Final in 56 years
when they came up against Leigh at the Halton Stadium, Widnes.
The teams achievement in taking the much-vaunted Leigh
Centurions down to the wire ensured the Super League dream was
not dead. It had merely been put on hold for 12 months.
In the first 80 minutes period
Haven should have been victors in their better composure in defence
and attack. David Seeds and Sam Obst exceptional, Aaron Lester
providing great direction from dummy-half and David Fatialofa
as solid as ever up front.
But they could not shake off
the Leigh outfit that clung to the top of the league this year.
Big problem for Haven was that man Neil Turley, who contributed
a Grand Final record 18 points, from a try, six goals and two
If not for the full-backs
contribution, Haven would today almost certainly have been planning
next years Super League campaign.
As in recent fixtures Haven's
goal kicking lacked the McCormack touch.
The West Cumbrians had enjoyed
a great start, Wesley Wilson crossing after two minutes, Leroy
Joe and Mick Nanyn putting his winger in at the corner. Craig
Walsh then tackled Leigh winger Rob Smyth behind his own line
and Haven tails were up.
Haven were well on top, and
ref Ronnie Laughton called on the video ref after Seeds had appeared
to touch down a kick just before it rolled dead.
But closer inspection showed
the ball had touched the whitewash fractionally before the centre
was able to get his palm to it.
Great work from winger Craig
Calvert then led to Smyth being trapped behind his own line,
forcing Leigh to drop-out. After they were caught offside on
the next set, Nanyn landed a penalty from in front of the sticks.
Haven were 6-0 up with 17 minutes
on the clock, and the Centurions were getting rattled. Their
first points came on 25 minutes, Turley slotting a penalty after
Haven prop Ryan Tandy had impeded Duffy as he chased his own
Three minutes later they landed
their first try, as Cooper crossed to level the scores. Duffy
and Turley combined again as Leigh took the lead for the first
time on 35 minutes thanks to a drop goal.
With just 15 seconds of the
half left, a Nanyn penalty attempt sailed wide and Leigh preserved
their narrow lead at the interval.
But their advantage did not
last long, Calvert scoring a storming 44th minute try, created
by Aaron Lester from dummy-half. Nanyn converting.
Leigh were frustrated and slashing
out with Halliwell lucky to stay on the field after a late tackle
The tide seemed to be turning
Haven's way, but after Rowley broke from his own half, Martyn
crossed the line. Turley added the extras and followed up with
a penalty for a high tackle, as Leigh pulled three points clear.
Haven did not let their spirits
drop and Joe, Nanyn and Wes Wilson teamed up again for the winger
to claim his second touch down.
Nanyn was unable to add the
conversion from out on the right and Haven's lead remained at
Turley had a chance to retake
the lead with a long-range penalty attempt for ball-stealing
with five minutes remaining. He missed, for once, but in the
tense remaining minutes made no mistake with a drop-goal minutes
later to send the match into heart-stopping extra-time.
Leigh seized the second chance
and just piled on the pressure Rowley notched a drop-goal, and
then Cooper beat full-back Gary Broadbent to score.
Turley converted and moments
later scored his solo try that must have removed any doubts that
he was man-of-the-match. Turley converted again, and Haven were
Martyn had the last word, slotting
a drop-goal, as Leigh finished with a winning margin that flattered
Minutes after the final whistle,
Haven chairman Barry Richardson was talking about his teams
determination to return to the final next year.
Many of the loyal Haven followers
had stayed behind after the final whistle to salute their heroes.
They had done themselves proud.
Haven: Broadbent, Calvert, Seeds, Nanyn, Wilson, Joe,
Obst, Jackson, Lester, Fatialofa, Davidson, Hill, Walsh. Subs:
Miller, Sice, McKinney, Tandy.
Tries: Wilson 2, Calvert.
Goals: Nanyn 2.
Leigh: Turley, Smyth, Halliwell,
Cooper, Alstead, Duffy, Martyn, Knox, Rowley, Sturm, Larder,
Wilkes, Knott. Subs: McConnell, Cruckshank, Marshall, Swann.
Tries: Cooper 2, Martyn, Turley.
Goals: Turley 6, plus 2 drop-goals.
Rowley one drop-goal, Martyn one drop-goal.
Referee: Ronnie Laughton (Barnsley).