Leigh Centurions 20
Batley Bulldogs 0
The players of Leigh Centurions showed their commitment to the club in magnificent fashion when disposing of high flying Batley in an emotional performance at the Leigh Sports village.
The way the side played, few would have thought that the players had been told just hours before that they would not be getting paid not only for this game or their previous four victories, but were unlikely to pick up any more win bonuses for the rest of the season, no matter what happened on the park!
Yet to a man they stood up to be counted to demonstrate why they are worth - if not a full house each week - certainly a crowd way in excess of the 1635 hardy souls that witnessed this cracking performance. Leigh’s crowds have fallen well short of what they predicted in their business plan, but with a set of players who are now playing for the pride of their jersey it is up to the people in the town to show they too have pride in their heritage.
Batley arrived on the back of a narrow Challenge Cup defeat by leading Super League side Huddersfield Giants and in second place in the Championship. In recent years they had shown what a force they are and this game was to be no different. Yet in the face of all the adversity that had beset the players some 24 hours earlier, a win was a magnificent result and to nil their opponents was incredible. Yet Batley came closest to scoring in the opening minutes when Martyn Ridyard’s kick was charged down and only a wayward bounce of the ball denied the visitors an opening try.
But it was Leigh that took the lead on 10 minutes when Ridyard set Matt Gardner for the try line and he fended off the defenders to score a Ridyard goaled try.
Ridyard has been an ever present in Leigh’s last 45 games and was in terrific form with Ryan Brierley, Gregg McNally, Rob Parker and Stuart Littler leading from the front. Within six minutes Leigh had scored again as Sam Hopkins stepped and wrong footed the defence to go in for a second Ridyard goaled try. Batley felt aggrieved that Paul Mennell was denied a try when tackled over the line on his back and then a great Moore kick just evaded Gareth Potts.
A superb Ridyard 40/20 set up Leigh in a scoring position as the half drew to a close but they had to settle for a Ridyard penalty and a 14-0 interval lead. At the start of the second half Batley piled on the pressure, and Leigh’s defence was again superb as every one threw their bodies in front of the charging Bulldogs. But Leigh were in defiant mood.
And when their chance came on the counter, they took it superbly as Ridyard espied the opportunity and put Andy Thornley away. He found Gardner and once again – as so often this season – Brierley was on hand to finish in sensational fashion for Ridyard to goal.
It was a massive effort from Leigh with young debutant James Hill having a superb game, whilst the luckless other debutant Rhodri Lloyd suffered a knock in his first play and left the field shortly after.
But captains Parker and Littler led by example, halves Ridyard and Brierley enjoyed themselves immensely and the pack was awesome in a truly fantastic win.
Leigh Centurions: McNally, O’Donnell, Littler, Gardner, Hill, Ridyard, Brierley, Ostick, Bewswick, Parker, Lloyd, Briscoe, Hopkins. Subs all used: Nicolson, Thornley, Spencer, Duffy.
Tries: Gardner (10), Hopkins (16), Brierley (54).
Goals: Ridyard 4 /4
Half time: 14-0
Referee: Matthew Thomason