LEIGH Centurions proved too strong for Sheffield Eagles as they maintained their chase for the Championship top spot.
After the euphoria of the previous week’s Northern Rail Cup Final win, this game was always going to seem an anti-climax, and to some degree it was, as Leigh held the upper hand but were never as fluent as they have been in previous weeks.
Never-the-less there were some spells of tremendous attacking play and the six tries were well worked for Leigh to maintain a comfortable lead on the back of some powerful running from the impressive Tommy Goulden, Chris Hill and Rhys Evans.
Evans and Tyrone McCarthy were the only changes from the Cup Final-winning side with John Duffy and Dean McGilvray making way.
The early stages were error ridden, but as Sheffield mounted an attack on 11 minutes, Evans swept on to Dane McDonald’s pass to race 55 metres for the first try of the game for Mick Nanyn to goal.
The Eagles refused to lie down and hit back within four minutes when McDonald shot in from close range for a try that Simon Brown was unable to goal. But Leigh soon responded when Paul sent Goulden stepping his way past a wrong footed defence for a second Leigh try that Nanyn again goaled.
Paul was having a lively game at hooker and he was again at the hub of the play that saw Stuart Littler power his way over despite the attention of three defenders.
McDonald had a try ruled out for obstruction, and then Littler broke but was unable to find Steve Maden after the wingman had moved inside.
On 35 minutes Martyn Ridyard and Jamie Ellis combined to send Nanyn powering his way over for a try that the centre then goaled and Leigh seemed set for a comfortable interval lead. But then Leigh threw Sheffield a life line. A penalty awarded on the hooter saw Leigh run the ball on the restart, but a dreadful pass was fumbled and as McDonald snapped up the ball, it was worked through Brown and Joe Hirst to send Menzie Yere under the posts for a Brown goaled try as Leigh’s interval lead was cut to 24-10.
In reality Leigh should have seen off the Eagles resistance long before the break, but that half time score gave them some belief that they could get back into the game and they started the second half searching for the breakthrough with Nanyn pulling off a try saving tackle on Vinny Finningan..
But it was Leigh that scored next as Ellis put Goulden through a gap and the strong running second row grabbed his second try that Nanyn was unable to goal.
On 50 minutes Nanyn showed tremendous awareness to quickly take a tap penalty and power in for his second try before the Eagles defence had formed. He then added the extras and the fans looked for more points.
They got them, but from the Eagles after Nanyn had been forced over the corner flag when looking for his hat trick try. Leigh were on the wrong end of the penalty count and with more possession Yere put in Brown for a try he goaled on the hour mark. Ridyard had a good looking try ruled out for obstruction, before a McDonald try on the final hooter and a Bergin goal gave the Eagles a bonus point. It had been a tough work out for Leigh , but in the week after a major final win, any win is a good one.