Leigh Centurions 30, Hunslet Hawks 10
Leigh Centurions kept the pressure on at the top of the Cooperative Championship with this sixth straight League success against a dogged Hunslet Hawks.
After the euphoria of the Challenge Cup clash against the Super League Champions, Leeds Rhinos the previous week, this was very much a low key affair, and although Leigh were never in any real danger of not coming away with the points, the game was certainly not one that would have the fans queuing to add it to their collection.
As always Hunslet proved a very difficult side to break down, but Leigh always looked to have enough in reserve to step up the pace if needed as they slowly and methodically took a stranglehold on the game to grab the win that moved them within three points of the leaders, but with a game in hand.
With the dual-registered James Laithwaite again impressing, Anthony Nicholson lively around the ruck and Tommy Gallagher running strongly off the bench, the Leigh pack had the better of their counterparts but never really turned that into points.
Steve Maden and Jonathan Pownall were again threatening on the flanks and Bob Beswick and Martyn Ridyard foraged around the midfield, but the spark of last week’s performance had been left in the changing room.
Never-the-less it was a good two points earned, and when the visitors managed to deny both Leigh wings before the lively Tommy Haughey slipped the pass that put Elliott Hodgson in for a 13th minute try that Luke Halliwell goaled for the lead, Leigh knew they had to improve.
That they did though, and as Craig Briscoe and sent Nicholson haring under the posts with a return pass, Ridyard was on hand to add the extras and level on the quarter mark.
Matt Gardner pulled off a try-saving tackle on Hawks’ centre Danny Clayton as loose forward David March did his best to get his side in front again. Clayton had to be helped of the field after that tackle and after a spell of frantic rugby and numerous errors, Leigh nosed in front on 32 minutes when Greg McNally shot through and sent Lewthwaite in for a Ridyard goaled try. Leigh then ensured they ad a grip on the game just on the half time hooter when Ridyard’s pass put Gallagher under the sticks for the converted try and an 18-6 interval lead.
Within two minutes of the restart, Leigh had scored again as Beswick and Gallagher combined and Ryan Brierley continued his remarkable scoring prowess with a try that Ridyard again gaoled.
Leigh concluded their five try tally on 55 minutes when Rob Parker capped a fine show with a well deserved try for Ridyard to add his fifth goal, and although the fans may have hoped for more fluid scores, they were not forthcoming.
Hunslet were let off the leash somewhat and pressed for a second try that finally came on 71 minutes when Helliwell crossed in the corner.
Leigh had the win they wanted and have the leaders in their sights.
Leigh Centurions: McNally; Maden, Littler, Gardner, Pownall; Ridyard, Beswick; Ostick, Nicholson, Parker, Laithwaite, Goulden, Briscoe; subs (all used) - Brierley, Nash, Hopkins, Gallagher
Tries: Nicholson (20), Laithwaite ( 32 ), Gallagher (40), Brierley (42), Parker (55)
Goals: Ridyard 5/5
Tries: Hodgson (13), Birchwood (71),
Goals: Ratcliffe 1/2
Half time: 18-6
Referee: Dave Merrick