Leigh Centurions scored 11 tries – including a hat-trick from Adam Higson in the first 17 minutes – as they comprehensively defeated Sheffield Eagles at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday.
In their first home game of the 2020 Betfred Championship season, Leigh raced into 26-0 half-time lead before finishing the job in style with six more tries after the restart.
Leigh full-back Gregg McNally achieved an impressive personal milestone as his last minute conversion took him to 1001 career points. It was also a significant day for prop Mark Ioane who became the 1500th player to represent the club, earning #HN1500.
For Leigh Head Coach John Duffy, it was a job well done. He said: “It was a really professional performance from us. I like the way we go about our business at the minute.
“The half-backs did really well sticking to what we’d been doing in training during the week and Sheffield’s tries both came on the back of kicks. We have to put this to bed as soon as we can because we’ve got a massive game next week against York.”
Higson’s three tries gave Leigh a flying start, the first of which came after only four minutes. Liam Hood and Junior Sa’u combined to get Higson over in the corner but Ben Reynolds was unable to convert.
A kick to the corner was spilled allowing Higson to score his second moments later and this time Reynolds did convert. In the 17th minute, Higson completed his hat-trick after capitalising on some excellent approach play from Danny Addy though Reynolds couldn’t add the extras.
Addy was involved again in the build-up to Leigh’s next try, helping take Leigh upfield and the ball was worked left for Josh Woods to go over for a try which Reynolds converted. Iain Thornley was next to score, making the most of good hands between Addy and McNally. A conversion from Reynolds made it 26-0 to the home side.
Eight minutes before half-time, Leigh were reduced to 12-men when Reynolds was sin-binned for his part in an altercation after a tackle but Sheffield could not make the most of their extra man advantage.
Leigh may have been a man down but they scored the first try of the second half when Nick Glohe powered over though Woods could not add the conversion. Prop Lewis Bienek, making his Leigh debut after joining the club on season-long loan from Hull FC, barged in from a tap penalty for try in the 47th minute and Reynolds added the extras.
Further tries followed from Matty Wildie and Alex Gerrard and with 23 minutes to play, Leigh brought up the half century with a try from Ben Hellewell – who spent time at Sheffield on dual registration last season – as he chased down a Reynolds kick. Another conversion made it 52-0.
Sheffield ensured they wouldn’t be nilled thanks to a try from Josh Guzdek as he touched down a deflected kick to Leigh’s in-goal and they added a second score moments later as Lewis Taylor scored in the corner. This time Izaac Farrell added the goal.
With time almost up, Hood spotted space in the Sheffield defensive line to score from dummy half and Reynolds offered McNally the chance to kick the conversion which he duly did to go past 1000 career points
Leigh: McNally, Scott, I Thornley, Sa’u, Higson, Reynolds, Woods, Mason, Hood, Ioane, Hellewell, Glohe, Addy. Subs: Widlie, Thompson, Gerrard, Bienek
Tries: Higson 3, Woods, I Thornley, Glohe, Bienek, Wildie, Gerrard, Hellewell, Hood
Goals: Reynolds 6, McNally
Sheffield Eagles: Makelim, McComb, Guzdek, Bower, Millar, Farrell, Thackeray, Dixon, Burns, Tagg, Davies, Farrell, Brown. Subs: Ward, Taylor, Burns, Broadbent
Tries: Guzdek, Taylor
Goals: I Farrell
Referee: Michael Manifield
Main Match Sponsor: Horbury Group
Match Ball Sponsor: Zaun Group