Rochdale 18 – 50 Leigh

Leigh Centurions moved up to third place in the Betfred Championship with three games of the regular season remaining as they completed a seasonal double over relegated Hornets.

The returning Ben Reynolds set the visitors on the way with a classy fourth-minute try as John Duffy’s men built a 40-0 lead after only 27 minutes.

Adam Higson, Joe Cator, Ryan Brierley, Stefan Marsh, Toby Adamson and Jordan Thompson all crossed in a purple patch as Leigh displayed some superb attacking rugby with Reynolds quickly settling in back at the helm.

 Toby Adamson broke the second half deadlock with his second try against his old club just after the hour-mark and Cory Paterson cut through on the angle to bring up the half century.

Martyn Ridyard kicked seven goals to leave him just six points short of becoming only the third player in history to score 2,000 points for Leigh.

But Hornets showed plenty of fighting spirit to rally and win the second half, scoring late tries through Aidan Gleeson and Shaun Ainscough to add to their man of the match Dan Abram’s first half converted try.

Ainscough’s 70-metre breakaway try was a brilliant solo effort and warmly applauded by spectators of both sides.

From starting last December with only two signed-on players, neither of whom are still at the club, to being third in mid-August represents an amazing achievement for Duffy and his coaching staff.

 “We were outstanding in that first half,” Duffy said. “We dropped our standards towards the end of the game and they scored a couple of breakaway tries. We just went away from our game plan but I was happy with the performance. Maybe we should have scored a couple more and we created a number of chances second half that we didn’t take.

“We need to work on that this week but I was really happy with the boys, just happy being on that field again. I thought we had a cloud over our heads in the last couple of weeks with the pressure and stuff so I’m glad they enjoyed that first 40 minutes at least there.

 “For sticking to the game plan that first half hour ranks as good as we have played all season. We’ve got to keep working hard and staying together as a group and making sure that we carry on with our game plan that’s working and not let teams back into the game with silly errors.

“It doesn’t matter who you play in the Championship you will get done and we got done with a couple of tries at the end there.

“Sometimes it gets in your head that you can push a pass or an offload which you can’t at this level, it doesn’t happen anymore. We will stay positive and we are looking forward to playing Widnes at home next week.

“I thought Ben was outstanding. He only had a couple of sessions with us and he will get better each week. The lads have been great with him and he knows them all as well from the last time he was here. He made a lot of opportunities for us today.

 “We couldn’t get a team together last December and to have this headache of so many players in contention for places now is a brilliant headache for me.”

Andy Thornley pulled out of the game after suffering a recurrence to his calf injury during the warm-up and Liam Forsyth was another casualty after a recurrence to his leg injury.

“We were under the pump a little bit but we still expect to get our game plan boxed off,” Duffy added. “We’ve just got to take to take each game as it comes, not look at the table and keep performing and be the best we can be next week.

“It was great to see that side of the stand full, with our fans and I’d like to thank them again. They’ve been sensational all year.”

Junior Sa’u made his 250th career appearance while Leigh captain Micky Higham played his 150th game for his home town club, just over 20 years on from his debut.

Rochdale Hornets: Dan Abram; Shaun Ainscough, Daley Williams, Brandon Wood, Kevin Brown; James Barran, Izaak Farrell; Aidan Gleeson, Lewis Sheridan, Callum Marriott, Jordan Syme, Zac Baker, Kyle Shelford.
Interchange: Callum Wood, Oscar Thomas, Lee Mitchell, Pierre Bourrel.

Tries: Abram (35), Gleeson (76), Ainscough (79)
Goals: Abram 3/ 3

Sin bin: Ainscough (17)

Leigh Centurions: Ryan Brierley; Adam Higson, Liam Forsyth, Junior Sa’u, Stefan Marsh; Martyn Ridyard, Ben Reynolds; Sam Brooks, Micky Higham (capt), Jordan Thompson, Toby Adamson, Cory Paterson, Joe Cator.
Interchange: Josh Eaves, Mitch Clark, Jake Emmitt, Mitch Cox.

Tries: Reynolds (4), Higson (7), Cator (9), Brierley (15), Marsh (20), T Adamson (25, 62), Thompson (27), Paterson (68)
Goals: Ridyard 7/ 9

Sin bin: Higham (17)

Referee: Billy Pearson
Attendance: 1,019
Penalty count: 6-8
Half-time: 6-40

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