Halifax 38 – 18 Leigh

Leigh Centurions’ disastrous start to the season got even worse after an appalling first half performance at the MBi Shay Stadium left their hopes of a much needed win in tatters.

Halifax could scarcely believe it as they went in at half-time leading 28-0 with rampant second row Shane Grady scoring a hat-trick. Halfbacks Ben Johnston and Scott Murrell ran the show with the livewire Johnston deservedly walking away with the Man of the Match award.

Leigh had overturned a similar deficit here in 2014, coming back from a 24-6 half-time deficit to win 36-28, but there was no way back this time. Though Craig Hall grabbed two tries and Rhys Evans another in the second half, the defensive frailties remained as Halifax eased to a deserved victory.

With five defeats in their opening six Betfred Championship games the Centurions’ expensively assembled squad again failed to deliver, leaving the 600-strong travelling supporters to contemplate a miserable journey back home across the Pennines.

Caretaker coach Kieron Purtill’s post match assessment was honest and to the point and he apologised to owner Derek Beaumont and the supporters on behalf of the group.

Purtill said: “It was massively disappointing. As a group, collectively as staff and players we are embarrassed by what we are turning up at the moment. It’s not good enough for this club. Apologies to Derek. He has invested a lot and the fans who week in, week out follow us.

“That performance and the performances in the last few weeks are not good enough. There are a lot of people who put a lot into this club and who work hard and care about the club, but we not turning it around on the field at the moment and that’s a big area where ultimately you get judged.

“Our discipline has been an issue since last year and certainly this year it’s costing us. I spoke last week about defensive steel but we are putting our energies into the wrong areas and backing that up with penalties which puts more pressure on our defence and we are a bit fragile there at the moment. We need to keep working hard in training and get some combinations going and solve things together as a group.

“There was some encouragement in the second half. There is some fight left in this team but we can’t toss up a first half performance like that and put so much pressure on ourselves to try and come back. It’s a massive blow to our top four hopes.

“I think the club will have to win virtually every single game they’ve got left to finish in that top four and there’s no getting away from it- we’d have to go on the best run this club has ever been on, but there are some good teams in this league.”

Halifax capitalised on a catalogue of errors from the visitors in a rampant first half show, aided by a 6-1 penalty count as Brandon Moore and Ben Heaton also crossed to supplement Grady’s treble.

Steve Tyrer scored two second half tries to ensure ‘Fax were never in danger of losing their lead and added five goals for a personal haul of 18pts.

Matty Dawson-Jones spent ten minutes in the bin after Tyrer’s first try to compound the visitors’ misery.

It was a tough baptism of fire for Jordan Lilley, beginning a month’s loan spell from Leeds. “It’s always difficult for a halfback to play behind a pack that got dominated in the first half- and Halifax were very good. But Jordan showed some nice touches and I’m sure the more time he spends with us the better he will get as well,” Purtill added.

Halifax: James Woodburn-Hall; James Saltonstall, Ben Heaton, Steve Tyrer, Will Sharp; Scott Murrell, Ben Johnston; Gadwin Springer, Ben Kaye, Dan Murray, Simon Grix, Shane Grady, Jacob Fairbank. Interchange: Brandon Moore, Ed Barber, Sion Jones, Will Maher.

Tries: Grady (12, 30, 39), Moore (26), Heaton (34), Tyrer (60, 73); Goals: Tyrer 5/ 7.

Leigh Centurions: Craig Hall; Matty Dawson-Jones, Ben Crooks, Peter Matautia, Rhys Evans; Drew Hutchison, Jordan Lilley; Greg Richards, Micky Higham, Harrison Hansen, Kevin Larroyer, Bodene Thompson, Jordan Thompson. Interchange: Liam Hood, Jamie Acton, Larne Patrick, Kyle Lovett.

Tries: Hall (47, 56), Evans (64); Goals: Lilley 3/ 3.

Referee: Gareth Hewer; Attendance: 2,119; Penalty count: 10-5; Half-time: 28-0.

Photos courtesy of Missing Pixel Photography

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