Batley 16 – 36 Leigh

Ryan Brierley celebrated his return to Leigh Centurions on loan from Toronto with a 16-point haul as John Duffy’s men moved into the play-off places in the Betfred Championship after a hard-fought win in West Yorkshire.

Brierley slotted in superbly, combining well with Josh Woods and Martyn Ridyard in midfield and scoring a second half try as well as kicking six goals from seven attempts.

Brierley’s converted try just after the hour-mark, his 134th in 126 Leigh games was effectively the gamebreaker as it stretched the visitors’ lead to fourteen points.

Jack Higginson, returning after a loan spell at Rochdale, grabbed a brace of tries on his second Leigh appearance with Iain Thornley, Stefan Marsh and Josh Eaves the other try-scorers.

“That was a special win,” said Duffy afterwards. “Batley have been playing really well and we knew what a hard game it would be for us today.

“This was our fifth game in 19 days and to produce an effort like that makes it the best win of the season for me.

“We spoke about effort, attitude and enthusiasm and the boys had those qualities in abundance today.”

 Leigh went in 18-12 ahead at the break having up the notorious Mount Pleasant slope and the cemented their hard-earned advantage with a dominant second half display to finally see off the challenge of a resilient home side.

“Going in at half-time with a lead meant everything,” Duffy said. “We knew how hard it was defending that slope against the big Batley forwards. “Josh, Ridy and Ryan controlled the game and Ryan, on his second debut looked really classy for us.

“Ryan’s been there and done it in his career and now he needs to get his career back on track and enjoy his rugby.

 “Jack’s been away and got some game time in at Rochdale and he came in and produced a fantastic performance, capped by a magnificent try at the end.”

Leigh weathered an early Batley storm as the home side dominated the opening exchanges, Alistair Leak scything over for a converted try to confirm their dominance.

But the visitors found their feet after Ridyard joined the line to good effect to send Iain Thornley over with a smart short pass, Brierley hitting the first of his six goals to level the scores.

 Brierley then linked in smartly on a classy last tackle play to give Higginson the opportunity to open his Leigh account in the corner before Liam Hood’s startling midfield break set up Stefan Marsh for a great finish under the posts.

Leigh looked set to increase their lead until a move broke down and Batley’s outstanding fullback Dave Scott sparked a fantastic counter-attack that led to Johnny Campbell finishing off the try of the game and reduce the arrears to just six points.

Playing down the slope Leigh dominated the second half but it was only when Brierley potted a 58th minute penalty goal, for an offence at the play-the-ball that the large contingent of travelling Centurions fans basking in the sunshine could begin to breathe more easily.

 Three minutes Brierley signalled his return in the way he knows best- a classy finish to a move sparked by Luke Douglas with Woods supplying the assist.

Eaves continued his impressive contributions to the Leigh cause on dual registration from Saints with a smart try from acting halfback as Leigh looked in control.

But Batley were far from done and Joe Taira finished another sparkling move to confirm their fighting spirit.

Higginson’s clinical finish in the corner set the seal on Leigh’s second away league win of the season to confirm their move up to fifth with the visit of third-placed Sheffield Eagles to come next Sunday.

Batley Bulldogs: Dave Scott; Wayne Reittie, Sam Smeaton, Sam Wood, Johnny Campbell; Louis Jouffret, Dom Brambani; Lewis Bienek, Alistair Leak, Toby Everitt, Dane Manning, Jack Downs, Joe Taira.
Interchange: Paul Brearley, James Brown, Reiss Butterworth, Michael Ward.

Tries: Leak (7), Campbell (38), Taira (75);
Goals: Scott 2/ 4.

Leigh Centurions: Martyn Ridyard; Jack Higginson, Andy Thornley, Iain Thornley, Stefan Marsh; Josh Woods, Ryan Brierley; Luke Douglas, Micky Higham, Sam Brooks, Toby Adamson, James Laithwaite, Jake Emmitt.
Interchange: Liam Hood, Joe Cator, Tom Spencer, Josh Eaves.

Tries: I Thornley (23), Higginson (30, 78), Marsh (32), Brierley (61), Eaves (71);
Goals: Brierley 6/ 7.

Referee: John Mcmullen;
Penalty count: 8-4;
Half-time: 12-18.
Attendance: 1,240

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