Leigh Centurions 52 Batley Bulldogs 12
NEW-LOOK Leigh made a dream start to their 2014 Kingstone Press Champiionship campaign as they thrashed last season’s beaten Grand Finalists Batley Bulldogs at the Sports Village.
Ryan Brierley scored a hat-trick of tries and kicked three conversions while former Wigan prop Tom Spencer scored twice in a dominant Centurions performance in front of an encouraging crowd of more than 2,000 fans.
With eight new recruits in their line-up, Leigh could have been forgiven for some rustiness especially as they failed to win any of their preseason friendlies.
Leigh had four players on debut – Alex Brown, Liam Kay, Matt Sarsfield and Sam Barlow while another four –Jake Emmitt, Kurt Haggerty, Oliver Wilkes and Tom Armstrong were making their first league appearance since rejoining the club.
All of the new recruits played their part though it was established backbone of the team which excelled with Tom Spencer and Ryan Duffy formidable in the pack and half-backs Ryan Brierley and Martyn Ridyard looking sharp.
Batley, who dramatically ended Leigh’s 2013 season on this ground with a golden point play off win, led within seven minutes.
Hooker Alistair Leak lofted a kick to the left of the uprights and former Centurion Miles Greenwood took the ball on the full to score. Lee Paterson added the extras. The response from Leigh was encouraging. Stuart Littler almost touched down but was held up over the line after being put clear by Brierley’s pass. Littler was not to be denied in the 16th minute when Ridyard’s looping pass to the right was taken by Littler who scored in the corner. Ridyard couldn’t add the conversion.
Leigh continued to dominate, with Tommy Goulden and Duffy impressing in the pack. Centurions took the lead their enterprise deserved in the 23rd minute, Brierley finishing off after Gregg McNally’s pass had sent Tom Armstrong clear. Ridyard added the extras.
Leigh turned the screw with two more tries before half-time.
Bob Beswick nipped in from dummy half before a slick attack down the near side saw Littler, Goulden and Adam Higson combine to send Brierley sprint clear for his second try. Ridyard converted both to give Centurions a 22-6 half-time lead.
John Kear’s side started the second half looking for a way back into the game but Leigh again produced a fantastic move which ended with Brierley’s ball putting Spencer away for a try which Ridyard converted.
Jake Connor spiked the Leigh scoring with a try from close range on the hour mark and Paterson’s goal meant Batley were in with a chance of at least a bonus point.
But the last quarter was one-way traffic as a Leigh side brimming with confidence scored four tries to smash the half century mark.
The try of the game – and an early contender for try of the season – came 17 minutes from the end. McNally fielded a downfield kick, headed towards the touchline before racing clear. The supporting Brierley made good progress before he slipped an inside pass to Higson who sprinted in from 40 metres for a try which brought the house down. We will be lucky to see a better try at the Sports Village this season.
A clever pass in the tackle from Duffy got Brierley in for his hat-trick and there was still time for Matt Sarsfield to score his first Leigh try and for the fearsome Spencer to get his second.
Brierley converted the final three tries for a personal points haul of 18.
Leigh: McNally, Higson, Littler, Armstrong, Brown, Ridyard, Brierley, Spencer, Beswick, Duffy, Sarsfield, Goulden, Barlow. Subs: Kay, Wilkes, Haggerty, Emmitt
Tries: Brierley 3, Spencer 2, Littler, Beswick, Higson, Sarsfield
Goals: Ridyard 5 (from 6 attempts); Brierley 3 (from 3 attempts)
Batley: Greenwood, Blackmore, Bretherton, Patterson, Connor, Davies, Leatherbarrow, Smith, Leak, Gledhill, Chandler, Scott. Subs: Applegarth, Nicholson, Rowe, Mason, Leary
Tries: Greenwood, Connor
Goals: Paterson 2 (from 2 attempts)
Referee: Matt Thomason; Weather: Dry and sunny; Pitch: Good; Attendance: 2173