Rochdale 32 – 54 Leigh

Leigh Centurions stayed in the hunt for a top four finish in the Betfred Championship after a frenetic 16-try extravaganza in the scorching heat at the Crown Oil Arena.

The visitors established an early 16-0 lead before Hornets stormed back to lead 22-16 with an inspired spell of four tries in the space of 16 first half minutes.

Level 22-22 at the break, the Centurions sealed the spoils with six second half tries but it was only in the dying minutes that they could be sure of a vital win as Daniel Mortimer went in for his second try.

Craig Hall also scored two tries to take his seasonal tally to 19 with Ben Crooks crossing for his 16th of the campaign to highlight his fine all round display. Ben Reynolds reached 100 goals for the season with the third of his seven goals.

Peter Matautia and Matty Dawson-Jones made welcome returns to the Centurions’ ranks after completing their respective five-match bans and both bagged a try apiece.

Leigh Centurions head coach Kieron Purtill said: “The pleasing thing was the two points. That’s what we came for ultimately. The game was scrappy at times and probably almost too easy for us at times. We started off fantastically and took our foot off the gas and allowed Rochdale back into it and made hard work of it.

“Luckily for us we got a grip of the game second half and our for and against has gone a little bit better, but probably not as good as we thought it would have been.

“It was almost like the weekend after Easter where you have played a couple of games. We’ve been over to Toronto and played the majority of last week’s game with 12 men and that takes its toll in hot conditions. It was like everyone wanted to attack and no-one wanted to defend and we need to better defensively over the next couple of weeks but there were still good signs in attack for us as well.

“It was good to get Matautia and Dawson-Jones back. They’ve been out for a while and they were quite rusty and that evident to see. It may have reflected in the way we played at times. But they will get better as they get more game time.

“Rochdale are a tenacious team and they have a few quality players from Warrington who add a lot to the group. For ourselves we probably got in front a little bit too easily and we then dropped our intensity and that allowed Rochdale back into the game.

“It seems like we’ve been away for ages from LSV and we now have a couple of big games against Swinton and Sheffield. We’re looking forward to being back at home and to being in front of our fans again. They’ve been fantastic all year and they were great again today. We have to win both games and hope that results elsewhere go our way. There’s still a lot to play for.

 “A reflection of today’s game is not a bad effort but could do a lot better.”

Hall’s long break set up Kevin Larroyer for the opening try and with quick-fire further tries by Hall and Crooks, Leigh had that early 16-0 advantage.

But Hornets fought back in sensational style as their offloading skills coupled with the fine combination of Morgan Smith, one of the Warrington dual registration contingent and playing with no number on his back, and Danny Yates at halfback carving open the visitors’ defence.

Rob Massam got Hornets off the mark before Richard Lepori snaffled a long range interception and when busy hooker Ben Moores burrowed over Hornets were level. They hit the front when Joe Taira ploughed over by the posts.

Leigh recovered some composure to go in level at the break as Ricky Bailey grabbed his seventh try in nine games with a smart finish and when Matautia forced his way over just after the re-start they looked to be back in control.

Hornets lost Moores to the sin bin for dissent and fell further behind when Mortimer went over for his first try but despite still being short-handed they got back in the contest through Massam’s second try.

With a tenuous six-point lead going into the final quarter in punishing conditions Leigh finally stretched ahead as Hall cut through for his second before skipper Harrison Hansen proved unstoppable as he scored his 12th try of the season.

But Leopri’s second try and Smith’s fourth goal had Hornets trailing by only 12 points with six minutes left.

Mortimer and Dawson-Jones both crossed in the dying stages to complete their side’s unconvincing win.

Rochdale Hornets: Kay; Lepori, Taia, T Adamson, Massam; Smith, Yates; King, Moores, Hatton, Mitchell, L Adamson, Bennion.
Interchange: Gregory, Taira, Moran, Symes.

Tries: Massam (17, 49), Lepori (25, 74), Moores (29), Taira (33).
Goals: Smith 4/ 6.
Sin bin: Moores (43).

Leigh Centurions: Matautia; Ricky Bailey, Crooks, Hall, Dawson-Jones; Reynolds, Hutchison; Hansen, Hood, Walne, Larroyer, B Thompson, J Thompson.
Interchange: Mortimer, Richards, Ryan Bailey, Blagbrough.

Tries: Larroyer (3), Hall (7, 61), Crooks (13), Ricky Bailey (36), Matautia (41), Mortimer (45, 78), Hansen (66), Dawson-Jones (80).
Goals: Reynolds 7/ 10.

Referee: Steve Race.
Attendance: 1,080.
Penalty count: 6-8.
Half-time: 22-22.
Photo credit: OnionBag Photography

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