Leigh Centurions produced a superb second half performance in the extreme heat and humidity at the Lamport Stadium but went down to their third Betfred Championship defeat of the season at the hands of Toronto.
Behind 24-0 at the break, the Centurions scored five second half tries and produced a sterling fightback with a depleted team that bodes well for a crucial last month of the regular season.
The outstanding Ben Crooks and Daniel Mortimer each scored two tries with Ben Reynolds also influential in a display full of character despite reported temperatures of 40 degrees at pitch-side.
In the end Toronto’s dominant first half display proved decisive with Blake Wallace their outstanding player with three tries while Matty Russell and Andy Ackers each grabbed braces and Gaz O’Brien kicked seven goals.
Wallace broke through from 20 metres for Toronto’s first try and Russell went in at the corner after a passing move before O’Brien’s penalty on 25 minutes opened up a 14-0 lead.
Leigh had their chances with O’Brien making a crucial interception from Ricky Bailey’s inside pass with the line open and a Bodene Thompson pass to Bailey was deemed forward to deny the winger a walk-in try.
Wallace broke through from 30 metres to extend Toronto’s lead and despite having Cory Paterson sin binned the home side extended their lead with Russell’s second try on the stroke of half-time shortly after Ilias Bergal was tackled into touch near the flag.
Leigh rewarded their travelling fans with a determined second half effort sparked by Crooks crossing on the right two minutes after the re-start with Reynolds kicking the first of four conversions.
Crooks then had a try disallowed for a penalty in back play that was awarded to the visitors with Leigh dominant at that stage.
Toronto responded when Ackers crashed over from dummy half and Wallace completed his hat-trick with a try in the corner to open up a 34-6 lead.
And when Ackers added a second from close range Toronto led 40-6 just after the hour-mark.
Leigh staged a comeback in the final quarter with Mortimer darting over after Drew Hutchison and Jack Owens created the opening before Kyle Lovett, playing centre, crashed over on the left.
Jake Emmitt and Greg Richards were each sin-binned after a skirmish before Crooks scythed over on the right for his second try.
Mortimer grabbed his second try after Owens had a try chalked off for offside to reduce the arrears to just 12 points. With Leigh still playing expansive football to the end a move broke down and Liam Kay was able to complete the game with a try for the home side that O’Brien converted.
Leigh Centurions head coach Kieron Purtill said: “This is a really tough place to come and I was really pleased with our second half performance. We showed a lot of spirit and we didn’t lie down.
“I’d like to thank the magnificent Leigh Centurions supporters who came across and support the team.”
Jack Blagbrough made his Leigh debut in the pack and earned heritage number #1455.
Toronto Wolfpack: O’Brien; Russell, Stanley, Worthington, Kay; Wallace, Brierley; Lussick, Beswick, Emmitt, Paterson, Whiting, Krasniqi.
Interchange: Buchanan, Sidlow, Hopkins, Ackers.
Tries: Wallace (9, 29, 58), Russell (16, 40), Ackers (53, 61), Kay (80)
Goals: O’Brien 7/ 9
Sin bin: Paterson (33), Emmitt (72)
Leigh Centurions: Owens; Ricky Bailey, Crooks, Lovett, Bergal; Reynolds, Hutchison; Hansen, Hood, Baldwinson, Larroyer, B Thompson, J Thompson.
Interchange: Mortimer, Richards, Gregson, Blagbrough.
Tries: Crooks (42, 74), Mortimer (66, 79), Lovett (69)
Goals: Reynolds 4/ 5
Referee: Gareth Hewer;
Penalty count: 7-10;