Leigh 22 – 36 Salford

Leigh Centurions’ debut at the Dacia Magic Weekend ended in disappointment as they went down to their ninth defeat in a row.

Salford Red Devils, who came so close to their top flight status last year, are now in second place in the Betfred Super League after their eighth win in their last nine games.

Former Leigh halfback Ian Watson, now Salford head coach, masterminded his side’s second victory of the season over his old club which was again by small margins.

After their 12-6 win over Leigh at the AJ Bell Stadium on Good Friday, Salford again edged a tight encounter with the red card to Leigh winger Adam Higson proving crucial.

Higson was given his marching orders by referee James Child for a high tackle on Gareth O’Brien with an entertaining game at a pivotal stage, Salford leading 24-18.

Leigh had made a bright start with a debut try to Matty Fleming, who earned Heritage Number 1429 after beginning a month’s loan from St Helens and a second try by Mitch Brown, both converted by Josh Drinkwater.

For Salford, Ben Murdoch-Masila continued his rich vein of form with two tries, taking his tally for the year to ten in just nine appearances. He forced his way over for his first try in the ninth minute and took stand-off Robert Lui’s short pass to go through a gap for his second midway through the first half that levelled the scores.

Centre Kris Welham and winger Greg Johnson each scored tries to give Salford a 24-12 advantage at half-time.

But after Danny Tickle had a try disallowed just before the break, Ben Crooks got his side right back into the game early in the second half with a clinical finish.

Drinkwater’s third goal cut the deficit to just six points and fellow halfback Ryan Hampshire came desperately close to another score but lost his grip on the ball as he attempted to put it down over the line.

That proved to be Leigh’s last chance as Higson’s red card followed and a minute later Salford capitalised on their numerical advantage when Niall Evalds scythed over.

Though Matty Dawson finished off a flowing move with a try just after the hour-mark Johnson clinched Salford’s victory with his second try.

Leigh Centurions Head Coach Neil Jukes began his post match press conference by commenting on Higson’s dismissal said: “It was a straight red,” he said. “It didn’t help, that’s for sure. It made the task a lot more difficult.

“What also didn’t help was our completion rate. At fifty-odd per cent completion rate, when they were at nearly ninety, we don’t help ourselves.

“Every time we scored a try, we backed it up on the next set with an error,

“I don’t think we had the rub of the green. When the margins are really close, you need a bit of luck and we didn’t get much today.”

Salford coach Ian Watson: “Every week is a big one but it’s pleasing to come here to the Magic Weekend and pick the two points up because it’s a big occasion.

“It’s a derby and we expected Leigh to turn up. We fell off some of the things we pride ourselves in which probably made the score in the second half slightly closer than it needed to be.

“But the boys are an honest group and they will know that and they will fix it up because every game is becoming bigger and bigger the higher we sit in the table.”

Leigh Centurions: Brown; Dawson, Crooks, Fleming, Higson; Hampshire, Drinkwater; Burr, Hood, Hansen, Paterson, Vea, Stewart. Replacements: Pelissier, Hock, Tickle, Hopkins.

Tries: Fleming (7), Brown (19), Crooks (48), Dawson (63).
Goals: Drinkwater 3/ 4.

Salford Red Devils: O’Brien; Johnson, Welham, Sa’u, Evalds; Lui, Dobson; Kopczak, Tomkins, Tasi, Murdoch-Masila, Jones, Krasniqi. Replacements: Hauraki, Flanagan, Lannon, Brinning.

Tries: Murdoch-Masila (9, 22), Welham (25), Johnson (33, 66), Evalds (56).
Goals: O’Brien 3/ 4, Dobson 3/3.

Referee: James Child.
Half-time: 12-24.

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