LEIGH Centurions maintained their lead at the top of the Co-operative Championship table with this impressive away success over a previously in-form Sheffield Eagles.
The Eagles had won their last five matches and were determined to get the win that would move them up to third. But Leigh were having none of it with their pack laying the foundation for a tremendous success.
Tommy Goulden, Jimmy Taylor and Chris Hill were particularly outstanding, whilst Ellis with two cracking 40/20s in an excellent kicking game and his half-back partner Martyn Ridyard were real livewires that kept the Eagles’ defence continually stretched. John Duffy and Mick Govin again contributed greatly at hooker whilst Mick Nanyn was not only a point scorer but a points’ provider.
After the previous week’s tough clash against Catalans, the fans wondered how much it would take out of their players, but they need have no worries as the Centurions were in total control throughout, even finishing the stronger.
The Centurions fell behind to a Brown penalty on the eighth minute after a Rhys Evans spilled ball had given the Eagles the position, but within minutes Leigh were ahead. It was Ridyard’s superb pass that released Goulden and he made good ground before putting Nanyn on a foot race to the corner. Wilson managed to haul Nanyn down but the Leigh centre was too powerful and got the ball down and then added a touchline conversion.
Leigh’s defence was good but on attack they wasted a good attacking position set up by an Ellis 40/20 when losing the ball in the tackle and had to wait until the 22nd minute to add to their tally.
Then a loose pass from Ridyard was snapped up by Nanyn and fed through his legs in one movement for McGillivray. The wingman had been in the wars with a couple of heavy knocks, but he reacted swiftly to dive in at the corner and have the touchdown confirmed via the video ref. Nanyn again goaled from the touchline.
Nanyn should have had a second try but failed to take Ridyard’s pass that would have put him clear, but Leigh didn’t have to wait long for their third touchdown that was quickly followed by two more. Firstly Ellis put in a clever kick to the posts and Ridyard snapped it up to grab the try that was confirmed by the video referee, before a drive from Anthony Thornley, saw Mick Govin dart from dummy-half and put Matty Blythe away on a 40 metre scoring run.
The third in six minutes and Leigh’s fifth came when a quick play the ball and a Govin Ellis combination put Stuart Littler stepping past a bewildered Eagles defence with ease. Nanyn failed to goal the last two, and Maden was brought back for a forward pass but Leigh were well satisfied with a 26-2 interval lead.
The Eagles stiffened up their defence in the second period with the introduction of Misi Talupapa giving them some added attacking prowess in his first game since suffering a bad injury in last season’s play-off between the sides. Szostak and Hirst both went close for the Eagles, but Leigh weathered that storm and after Ellis put in his second 40/20 , it was Ridyard slipping in a clever kick for Goulden to gather and plough over for a sixth Leigh try and fourth Nanyn goal.
The Eagles were not for lying down though and on 69 minutes a good move involving Szostak twice ended with Laulu-Tongagae going under the Leigh posts for a Mitch Stringer goaled try. Again Leigh hit back, Duffy being denied a try when having the ball ripped off him in a two on one tackle. The penalty then enabled Ridyard to step his way through and bang the ball down, again confirmed with video assistance for Nanyn to goal.
Leigh were finishing strongly and with two minutes remaining, Nash released Duffy ad his run then set Nanyn away for the big centre to put in the kick that Ellis gathered to score. Nanyn added his sixth goal and Leigh were back clear at the top of the table.