Leigh Centurions 12-22 St Helens
Betfred Super League Round Five
Leigh Centurions produced a determined performance against reigning Betfred Super League Champions St Helens in an absorbing contest at Leigh Sports Village but ultimately came up short, losing 22-12.
Although the Centurions are still looking for their first win of the season, there was much here to encourage John Duffy and his coaching staff as well as the season ticket holders watching at home on OurLeague.
The scores were level at half-time, 6-6, and Leigh showed admirable resolve after the break when Saints crossed twice in quick succession but were not allowed to pull clear.
Leigh had a new look about them with Matty Wildie making a rare start at scrum-half and there was a welcome return for Junior Sa’u after injury.
Leigh’s Matty Russell is tackledIn what we all hope will Leigh’s final game behind closed doors before fans are allowed to return next month, the home side made a promising start as they went set for set with the star-studded Saints.
Second rower Sione Matau’tia, brother of former Leigh favourite Pete, claimed his first try for Saints when he took a short pass in the tackle from Jonny Lomax to score in the 15th minute. Lachlan Coote added the conversion.
Leigh were dominating possession and could count themselves unlucky to have a try disallowed in the 30th minute – James Bell’s pass to Nathaniel Peteru was adjudged to have been forward.
Saints winger Regan Grace broke dangerously in the next play but he was well tackled by Leigh full-back Ryan Brierley and the move came to nothing as the Centurions scrambled back in defence.
The visitors were reduced to 12 men five minutes before half-time as half-back Theo Fages was sin-binned for a professional foul and Leigh were to take advantage of the extra man almost immediately.
With three minutes of the half remaining, some slick approach play ended with Iain Thornley feeding Matty Russell for a spectacular finish in the corner. Ben Reynolds landed the conversion from off the touchline to send the sides in level at the break, 6-6.
Two tries in three minutes after the restart looked to have turned the game decisively in favour of Saints. First, Lomax broke free and had Coote in support to finish off for a try he also converted before Jack Welsby produced a stylish finish to score. Coote again kicked the goal.
Saints’ 12 point lead was quickly halved, however, when Anthony Gelling came up with a timely interception and he sprinted 60 metres to the tryline. Reynolds added the conversion to make it 12-18.
There were promising plays from Leigh as they looked to build pressure and Liam Hood’s short kick forced Saints into an error near their own tryline. But John Duffy’s men were stung by a fourth try in the 59th minute as James Bentley helped on a pass to the waiting Kevin Naiqama who strode over. This time there was no goal from Coote.
Saints finished the game on the front foot but were unable to find a way through some spirited Leigh defence.
Leigh: Brierley, Russell, Thornley, Gelling, Sa’u, Reynolds, Wildie, Flower, Peats, Mason, Hellewell, Thompson, McCarthy. Subs: Hood, Bell, Peteru, Gerrard
St Helens: Coote, Naiqama, Welsby, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, McCarthy Scarsbrook, Mata’utia, Bentley, Wingfield. Subs: Amor, Passi, Batchelor, Dodd
Referee: Marcus Griffiths
Match sponsor: PM Sampling.