Favourites are just too strong

Leigh Centurions 8 Salford City Reds 24 Leigh Centurions may have lost their opening Cooperative National One game, but they are far from despondent.

The City Reds showed just why they are the favourites to win this League Championship with a power packed display on a dreadful night of monsoon type rain.

But the good news was that Leigh matched them for the most part, and were desperately unlucky to have lost by so many points.

If this game had not been televised, then it almost certainly would not have been played.

But it did go ahead and both sets of players gave a competitive, high intensity clash that made light of the atrocious conditions and gave the drenched fans of both sides something to cheer.

The Centurions had Aaron Smith again going well at loose forward, whilst hooker Dave McConnell, scrum half Ian Watson and second row Lee Doran were the pick of a very strong looking Leigh line up.

The Reds had Stephen Myler to kick them to death in the second half whilst former Leigh forward Craig Stapleton was the pick of the victors pack, and full back Karl Fitzpatrick was a often used last line of defence.

Leigh asked the early questions of the City Reds defence with Watson's angled kick forcing the drop out on a couple of occasions, before the scoring was finally opened with a 14th minute penalty goal, after Leigh's Mike Wainwright had been held down.

However Leigh were guilty of a similar offence two minutes later and Andy Ballard slotted over the two points.

Nathan McAvoy was tackled into touch in the corner and then Jordan Turner and John Wilshere combined only to see their final pass to Paul White go to ground with the Leigh defence stretched.

Chris Hall spilled the ball under the Salford posts when attempting to stretch over, before Watson missed a penalty shot at goal, and with the scores locked at 2-2 at half time, Leigh were left to rue missed opportunities.

With the wind at their backs, Salford wasted no time in getting it to work for them as Myler put a clever kick behind the Leigh defensive line and as Steve Maden and Adam Rudd missed it, White pounced for arty that Ballard goaled superbly from the touchline on 42 minutes.

Ballard missed a penalty on 50 minutes, before a White kick was taken by Wilshere on the left for another Ballard goaled try.

Leigh hit back when Lee Marsh dummied his way over and Watson goaled, on 58 minutes, but almost immediately Salford responded as James Taylor kicked on from the restart and from the scrum Steve Ratchford put in Ballard.

Leigh kept plugging away, but Salford were using their kicking game far more effectively than Leigh had done in the first period. Fitzpatrick bravely stopped Marsh in full flight and then dropped on a ball ahead of Maden.

But right at the end, Stapleton powered in for a Ballard goaled touch down and Salford had the win they wanted.

Leigh Centurions: Maden; McAvoy, Rudd, Kohe-Love, Alstead; Marsh, Watson; Hobson, McConnell, Morrison, Wainwright, Doran, Smith; subs (all used): Roberts, Taylor, C Hill, Stewart.

Tries: Marsh (58)

Goals:Watson 2

Salford City Reds

Tries: White (42), Wilshere (53), Ballard (62), Stapleton (80)

Goals: Ballard 4

Half time 2-2. Referee Gareth Hewert. Attendance 3,700.