Another gutsy pre-season performance from Leigh gave Harlequins plenty to think about before the Super League side finally secured the win.
The Centurions battled bravely throughout and but for a disappointing spell midway through the first period they may well have come away with a second win over opposition from the top echelon in their three testing openers.
Now Leigh are headed for Northern Rail Cup holders Batley on Sunday, but the experience of games against Harlequins, Warrington and Salford will stand them in good stead.
Nevertheless Ian Millward will be determined that his side sort out the defensive leaks that allowed the Quins to take a 24-6 lead, before the home side strengthened their defence and battled back to set up a thrilling finish.
Leigh’s pack worked hard with Chris Hill and Ricky Bibey running strong and John Duffy and James Taylor always to the fore. Mick Govin settled in well on his first appearance while Jamie Ellis again gave encouragement. Harlequins had Luke Dorn and Luke Gale to steer them around the field and former Leigh forward Oliver Wilkes was always a threat along with ex-Sydney Roosters signing, Nick Kouparitsas.
But once Leigh had overcome their period of defensive lapses, they did give the London side plenty to think about.
Centurions made a bright start with Govin going through a gap only to be hauled down, but then Higson had to make an ankle tap on Howells to stop the fleet footed Quins centre from racing away. However on two minutes it was Higson spilling an up and under, and when the ball was whipped wide Govin went for the intercept only to find Luke Dorn quicker on the uptake to go in for a try that Gale goaled.
Leigh soon hit back, forcing Quins down field and then whipping the ball right for Govin to find Littler who put Higson in at the corner to make amends for his earlier error. Nanyn then goaled superbly from the touchline to level.
Leigh were struggling with some of the Londoners big men and when Tony Clubb was fed a ball close to the line from hooker Ellis, the England international had enough strength to shrug of three tacklers and score. Gale goaled from wide out.
The home defence was looking shaky and after Nanyn dropped off a couple of tackles a superb pass from Kouparitsas put Gale through the gap. Somehow Leigh scrambled to deny the score, but the damage was done and a Gale kick was pounced upon by Ellis for a try under the posts that Gale easily goaled.
Quins showed their class again as the ball was worked from the base of the scrum and Howells put in Dorn for his second.
Leigh were struggling to make their tackles count, but they did put a good attack together on 35 minutes when Ellis and Govin combined to bring Stuart Donlan into the line and the full back went in for a Nanyn goaled try.
This was Leigh’s best spell and Jamie Ellis dummied his way over from close range for a third Centurions try, that he was unable to goal and they had to settle for a 24-16 half time deficit.
Leigh opened in fiery fashion at the start of the second period and after Ridyard was held close, Mills forced his way under the posts for an Ellis goaled try to close the gap to two points.
That really set the game going and as Ridyard and Duffy started to create problems for the Quins, Dorn and Gale before the ball was whipped wide for Gale to send Clubb in for his second try just short of the hour mark.
But Leigh had started to play well and after Ridyard set Paul clear with a wonderful pass, the former Kiwi International sent Nanyn sliding in at the corner in style. Unfortunately he could not add the extras.
Leigh made a great fist of keeping the game competitive but with seconds remaining, Dorn slipped an inside ball to Howells and he raced in from thirty metres to finally put paid to Leigh’s hopes of what would have been a terrific pre-season scalp.
LEIGH CENTURIONS: Donlan, Higson,Armstrong, Nanyn, McGilvray, Ridyard - Govin, Ellis, Bibey, Paul-Hunter, Hill, Gorski, Littler, Taylor. Subs all used. Subs all used: Maden, Ridyard, Meekin, Thornley, Duffy - Mills, Briscoe, Hopkins, Nicholson. Tries: Higson (9), Donlan (35), J Ellis (40) , Mills (45), Nanyn (63). Goals : Nanyn 2/3, J Ellis 1/2
HARLEQUINS: Dorn, O’Callaghan, Howell, Clubb, Lutas, Gale, Randall, Wilkes, Ellis,Ambler, Bryan, Kouparitsas, Burnett. Subs all used: Thomas, Golden, Williams, Price, Krasniqi, Calderwood, Mellor. Tries: Dorn (2, 26), Clubb (14,58), A Ellis (20), Howells (79). Goals: Gale 4/5 Clubb 1/1.
Half-time: 16-24. Referee: Thierry Alibert. Attendance: 1,107.