LEIGH boss Paul Rowley hailed the contribution of hooker Micky Higham as his side won their first Super 8 qualifier after three straight defeats.
The former Warrington, Wigan and St Helens hooker won the Man of the Match, scored a try and had a hand in several others as Leigh thrashed Sheffield 52-16 at the Sports Village.
Unusually, Higham played the full 80 minutes after Leigh’s other hooker Bob Beswick was left out in favour of half-back Ben Reynolds.
“I thought Micky was outstanding and deserved his Man of the Match,” said Rowley. “Micky has played as one of two hookers for most of his career but we asked him to do the full 80 today.
“He is very, very fit and a good athlete with plenty left in the tank. Micky has been outstanding and I wanted to see him go longer minutes. Ialso wanted to see Ben Reynolds come in and put pressure on the pivots because their kicking game has not been good enough.
“I was just looking at doing something a bit different. At the end of the day we’d lost three games and everybody is up for review.
“Bob’s form has been indifferent so I decided to go in a different direction. Everybody can be in or out in this team. Bob will play his part in the middle 8s and prove his value to us I’m sure.”
After defeats against Hull KR, Salford and Wakefield, some had questioned Leigh’s Super League credentials but Rowley’s faith in his team remains strong.
“We have held our nerve all along,” said Rowley. “I thought we were very good today. I actually think we have been good in our last three games despite losing.
“There were some areas we needed to improve upon but they are aspects you only really pick up on when you’re playing the better teams.
“We have had the hardest start and we got some harsh calls again today but overall it was a fantastic effort from the boys.
“Our completions were very high especially in the first half and our kicking game was improved.
Ryan Brierley scored a hat-trick of tries including an interception which saw him go virtually the length of the pitch.
“That’s what he does,” said Rowley. “He poaches and has a good nose for opportunities. But he did some other good things for other people and he was one of many who had a good game.
“The league will have a different look today and some teams might feel a bit more comfortable while others will be looking over their shoulders. There was a lot of talk pre-match from Sheffield about how they always beat us in pressure games. I’m not sure where they got that from - maybe they forgot the 2013 Northern Rail Cup Final.”
Leigh had to make a late change to their squad after the withdrawal of Gareth Hock but Rowley says he should be back to face Halifax next Sunday.
“Gaz Hock pulled out of yesterday’s training session so he was not far off. he was just struggling a bit defensively and at a push he could have played but we didn’t need to risk him.”