Leigh Centurions 48 Oldham 18

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AFTER fluffing their opening night lines at Batley a week ago, Leigh started their home league campaign with a comfortable win against Oldham.

Sam Hopkins scored a hat-trick of tries for the Centurions who rested scrum-half Ryan Brierley while new signing Lee Smith enjoyed a solid debut at full-back.

Good spells either side of half-time paved the way for a big Centurions victory and their coach Neil Jukes was pleased with what he saw.

“For some periods we were good,” admitted Jukes. “Though sometimes we looked a bit robotic. Our key areas were good and we addressed the areas where we needed to be better following on from last week’s defeat at Batley.

“Over the next few weeks we will have to become a bit more hard nosed but that will come.”

Jukes said Brierley was merely rested and would probably come back into the team next week for the visit of London though there were concerns about centre Tom Armstrong who had to come off with a hand injury.

Newly promoted Oldham started the game brightly with the kicks of Lewis Palfrey proving problematic but Leigh took the lead after 12 minutes. Winger Jonny Pownall finished off in the corner after some smart work by Rangi Chase and Martyn Ridyard on the back of a surging run by Dayne Weston. Ridyard couldn’t convert.

Oldham went ahead seven minutes later as they took the short side option on the last tackle, centre Thomas Ashton scoring in the corner. Palfrey converted brilliantly from the touchline to give his side a 6-4 lead.

But their lead was to be short-lived. With 16 minutes of the half remaining, a Ridyard bomb on the last tackle was allowed to bounce by Oldham in their ingoal area and Smith leapt highest to claim the ball and score. Ridyard also added the extras.

More good work from Smith gave Adam Higson the space to score out wide as the influence of substitute hooker Micky Higham turned the game Leigh’s way.

With five minutes of the half remaining, Higson claimed his second try, finishing off a superb 30 metre attack which Chase started and Smith continued. With Ridyard off the pitch, Smith took over the goal kicking duties and made no mistake to make it 20-6.

Leigh and in particular Sam Hopkins started the second half like a train, with the forward scoring a hat-trick of tries in just 11 minutes. All came from close range though his first was a barge-in from dummy half. For his second he had Higham to thank for a defence splitting short ball then his third try came after a storming run and pass in the tackle from Fuifui Moimoi. All three were converted as Leigh raced to a 38-6 lead.

Having set up Hopkins’ last try, Moimoi scored himself in the 58th minute, hitting Higham’s pass from close in and powering over. Ridyard again goaled.

From the restart, Kay set off on a break and after three passes inside, Reni Maitua found himself in space and he had enough pace to race 50 metres for a memorable try.

With injuries taking their toll on Leigh and the game already won, the closing stages belonged to Oldham who added tries through Adam Clay and Palfrey, both of which were also converted by Palfrey.