It was difficult to over-exaggerate the importance of this afternoons clash between the struggling Catalans Giants and a Leigh Centurions who suffered a setback at the hands of Hull KR last week. Both sides knew that a loss today could signal an end to automatic promotion and condemn the losing side to the dreaded Million Pound Game.
Leigh Centurions came into the game sitting third, despite last week’s loss, but the Catalans Dragons are already in all sorts of trouble in fifth spot, the away position for the end of season sudden death play off.
It was an ominous sign when Paul Aiton limped off the field with just two minutes on the clock.
While the Dragons tried to adjust, and within a minute of the hookers exit, a high kick from Josh Drinkwater was knocked back by Samisoni Langi on the dead ball line and grounded by and unmarked Adam Higson. Ben Reynolds kicked the conversion and Leigh had raced into a six point lead.
Leigh shunned the opportunity of a two point penalty on nineteen minutes and it paid dividends when Higson was at the end of a right to left passing move to take a Greg McNally pass and go over in the corner. This time Reynolds was unsuccessful with his conversion attempt.
On twenty-eight the Centurions again turned down an easy two points and in the following set of six the visitors had two tries turned down by the video referee.
Krisnan Inu knocked on with the line begging on thirty-three as the Dragons spurned their best chance so far to get back into a game which seemed to be drifting away from them and the Centurions went into the interval guarding their 10-0 lead.
On forty-seven Leigh scored a sensational try when Langi chased a high kick and knocked the ball back blindly, straight into the hands of Cory Paterson who ran twenty metres unopposed to score. Reynolds kicked the conversion to extend the lead to 16-0.
Leigh were playing with confidence and desire, two qualities that could not be associated in any way with a lackluster Dragons.
A fifty-sixth minute Reynolds penalty extended the lead to three converted tries.
On the hour mark Daniel Mortimer kicked a delightful short grubber which rebounded off the post pad and was grounded by the chasing Josh Drinkwater. The Reynolds goal made it 24-0 and secured the points for the Centurions.
The Dragons saved some pride in avoiding the nilling on seventy when Julian Bousquet offload was picked up low by Brayden Wiliame to dive over for the Dragons first try of the afternoon. Luke Walsh converted for 6-24.
On seventy-seven Cory Paterson took an Inu kick on the full from close range on his own twenty and the second rower went eighty metres outpacing the Dragons defence to score in the left corner. Reynolds kicked his fifth goal of the night for a 30-6 victory.
This was a disastrous afternoon for the Catalans Dragons and an excellent one for the Centurions. Leigh are up to second spot in the Qualifiers but today’s opposition could find themselves as low as seventh should tomorrows results go against them. Leigh never allowed the Dragons to get into their stride with strong defence and plenty of imagination and commitment in attack.
Both sides get a week off, but it will be Leigh who take their two points back to Lancashire wearing a big grin while the Dragons lick their wounds.