Leigh Centurions produced a professional performance on Sunday afternoon as they beat Halifax 58-18 at the Leigh Sports Village.
The Centurions ran in six tries in the first-half alone compared to Halifax’s one to lead 34-6 at the interval. Fax pulled back a little in scoring twice in the second-half but were unable to stop the home side scoring four as Leigh ran out 58-18 winners to clinch to a third League Leaders Shield in as many years.
Ben Reynolds was pushed to fullback from his usual half-back role while Sam Hopkins, Liam Hood and Tom Spencer started in the front row. Neil Jukes went for firepower on the interchange bench in Micky Higham, Gareth Hock, Fuifui Moimoi and Dayne Weston.
Gareth Moore and Scott Murrell started in the halves for the visitors with the in-form Steve Tyrer at centre.
Leigh got off to a flying start as they piled pressure on the Halifax line from minute one. A remarkable cut-out pass from Martyn Ridyard saw utility-forward Cory Paterson bulldoze over the line. Ridyard converted to put his side 6-0 after a couple of minutes.
The away side quickly got themselves back into the game with some strong carries from forwards Adam Tangata and former Leyther Matt Sarsfield. On the back of some positive sets, Ben Johnston scored a sublime 40 metre solo effort under the posts. Tyrer added the conversion to level the score at 6-6 after 15 minutes.
Neil Jukes’ side bounced back within three minutes. A big drive from Greg Worthington motored Leigh up to the Fax try-line then a quick play-the-ball saw hooker Liam Hood throw a fine pass to Lee Smith who finished easily. Ridyard’s boot put Leigh 12-6 ahead.
The Centurions got a roll on midway through the first-half which Halifax struggled to deal with. Winger Adam Higson dived over in the corner following a trademark Lee Smith break down the right edge. Ridyard’s conversion attempt went just wide of the mark, but Leigh were 16-6 in front.
Halifax couldn’t find a way to deal with Leigh’s attacking flare and this paid dividends when they went over for another try on the half hour mark. Liam Kay looked like he was going to get forced into touch by four Fax defenders but the winger somehow managed to get a sublime offload away to Worthington who stepped Johnston to dart over. The conversion was good, Leigh were 22-6 to the good.
Halifax were getting frustrated and conceded a number on penalties in their own half which gave Leigh that extra advantage. The Red and Whites capitalised on the penalty gains as half-back Josh Drinkwater threw an outstanding step to go past the Halifax defends straight from the scrum to score. Ridyard added the two points; Leigh led 28-6 after 32 minutes.
Leigh were dominating every area of the field in the first-half and were in again on the verge of half-time. Back-rower Andrew Dixon latched onto a clever grubber from Josh Drinkwater to score. The conversion was on target, and Leigh went into the break 34-6 up.
HALF TIME: Leigh Centurions 34–6 Halifax
It took just seven minutes for the Centurions to hit the ground running in the second-half as Paterson stormed over the line from close range with Tyrer having no chance in the one-on-one tackle. Ridyard was successful in his conversion attempt, Leigh were 40-6 ahead.
Halifax fought back well and drove themselves up the field in the next set. Johnston grabbed his second of the afternoon when he burst through a gap in the Leigh defence to race over. Tyrer’s conversion sailed through the uprights but the score was still Leigh 40-12 Halifax.
Fax didn’t give up once and reaped their reward with another try as they passed the ball through several pairs of hands to winger Will Sharp who finished neatly in the corner. Tyer’s boot reduced the deficit to 40-18 in favour of Leigh after 56 minutes.
The home side soon got back into their grave with superb lines being run by Sam Hopkins, Harrison Hansen and Gareth Hock which eventually led to a try. Adam Dixon burst onto a pass from Drinkwater to run 20 metres and touch down after rounding Johnston. Ridyard arrowed his conversion through the uprights to put his side 46-18 up.
Ben Reynolds, Liam Hood, Ridyard and Drinkwater were controlling the game in the second-half and Leigh’s structure was organised well by the spine of the team. Halifax looked depleted and simply could not stop Fuifui Moimoi from crashing over the line from close range. Ridyard’s conversion took the score to 52-18 in favour of Leigh.
Leigh rubbed more salt into Halifax’s wounds when they scored with just minutes left. A fantastic line break from Drinkwater saw him assist Kay who ran 30 metres to superman dive over the line. Ridyard converted his eighth of the game to put his side 58-18 ahead.
The Centurions wanted more and forced two drop-outs late on but scrambling Halifax defence kept them out. Leigh saw the game out easily to seal a 58-18 win and secure the Championship League Leaders Shield for a third year running.
FULL TIME: Leigh Centurions 58–18 Halifax
Leigh Centurions – 58
Tries: Paterson 2, Smith, Higson, Worthington, Drinkwater, Dixon 2, Moimoi, Kay
Goals: Ridyard 9/10
Halifax – 18
Tries: Johnston 2, Sharp
Goals: Tyrer 3/3
Attendance – 4,052
Leigh Centurions: 31. Ben Reynolds; 2. Adam Higson, 3. Greg Worthington, 26. Lee Smith, 5. Liam Kay; 6. Martyn Ridyard, 36. Josh Drinkwater; 20. Sam Hopkins, 32. Liam Hood, 18. Tom Spencer; 21. Andrew Dixon, 13. Cory Paterson; 11. Harrison Hansen
Interchange: 14. Micky Higham, 12.Gareth Hock, 8. Fuifui Moimoi, 10. Dayne Weston
Halifax: 1. Ben Johnston; 5. James Saltonstall, 4. Ben Heaton, 3. Steve Tyrer, 2. Will Sharp; 7. Gareth Moore, 6. Scott Murrell; 8. Mitch Calahane, 22. Connor Robinson, 14.Adam Tangata; 12. Simon Grix, 33. Matt Sarsfield; 13. Jacob Fairbank
Interchange:10. Luke Ambler, 17. Gavin Bennion, 26. Ed Barber, 30. Brandon Moore
Referee – Robert Hicks