Leigh Centurions made the short journey down the East Lancs Road to play reigning champions St Helens and although Centurions lost they put in a creditable display and the score flattered the home side.
Centurions arrived at the TW Stadium on the back of their first league win in the BetFred Super League the previous Sunday against Salford Red Devils and welcomed back Ryan Brierley who had missed the previous six matches through injury. Brierley was named at Stand Off alongside Scrum Half Joe Mellor who was in outstanding form. Also back in the side was Junior Sa’u at centre. Both Brierley and Sa’u started the game on the verge of career milestones – Brierley needing one try for 200 in his career and Sa’u needing one for 100 touchdowns. Brierley was also on 151 touchdowns for Leigh Centurions, just one behind legend John Woods.
Leigh kicked off and defended well as Saints struggled to make ground but after a promising set by Centurions, Saints aided by a penalty for offside scored the first try of the game through Grace. Coote converted and the home side led 6-0 with five minutes gone.
Joe Mellor was on the end of a couple of dubious challenges by the Saints defence.
Ben Hellewell went close for Centurions on 10 minutes chasing a grubber kick but the ball went dead.
Matty Russell made a break for Centurions and made valuable yards before the Saints defence stopped him as the line beckoned.
Centurions were more than holding their own but the home side were dangerous going forward and Walmsley made 40 metres with before offloading to Coote who was halted abruptly and the referee adjudged him have been tackled high. Coote recovered quickly and kicked Saints to an 8-0 lead after 19 minutes.
Backed by the travelling faithful, Centurions scored a great try on 25 minutes when Matty Gee crashed over the line, and with a confident conversion from Ryan Brierley, Centurions were right back in the game at 8-6.
Saints hit back and Welsby touched down after a move down the left hand side 12-6. Coote missed the conversion and Centurions went on the attack again looking to level things up, but had to defend for their lives as Saints looked to increase their lead. The players put in a massive defensive shift and left the field at the break to big applause from the travelling fans.
Half Time St Helens 12 Leigh Centurions 6
After a promising start Centurions gave away the ball in front of their own posts when a Saints player pounced at a play the ball. To their credit Centurions weathered the storm and made six great tackles.
Leigh made their way upfield but the referee awarded a dubious knock on and Saints took full advantage with Welsby scoring his second try of the evening. Coote kicked the conversion to give the home side an 18-6 lead. Worryingly for Centurions was that Matty Gee was injured in the build up to the try and had to be helped from the field by the medical team.
Centurions dusted themselves down and forced Grace into touch near his own line. From the play the ball Adam Sidlow crashed over in front of the travelling fans and Ryan Brierley’s conversion narrowed the Saints lead to six, 18-12.
Mellor kicked on the sixth and when Naiqama collected the ball he appeared to slip but the referee saw it differently and awarded a penalty. Saints moved up field and scored their fourth try through Mata’utia. Coote converted and the home side had their twelve point cushion again, 24-12
On 67 minutes, Coote scored Saints fifth try from an off load near the Centurions line and converted his own try to increase the home sides lead to 30-12.
Saints went in search of more points and Batchelor crashed over in the corner on 72 minutes after Centurions had defended their line solidly for five tackles. Coote added the extras and the home side were 36-12 in front.
Saints scrum half Dodd finished off a move created by Grace to score Saints seventh try and Coote landed the conversion 42-12
Credit to the Centurions players they battled to the final hooter.
Final Score St Helens 42 Leigh Centurions 12
St Helens Coote, Naiqama, Simm, Welsby, Grace, Lomax, Dodd, Walmsley, Smith, Lees, Mata’utia, Batchelor, Knowles
Subs: Roby, Amor, Paasi, Wingfield
Leigh Centurions Brand, Elliot, Stone, Sa’u, Russell, Brierley, Mellor, Sidlow, Hood, Gerrard, Hellewell, Gee, Bell
Subs: Thompson, Mullen, Butler, Ashworth
Referee Mr T Grant