In the most eagerly anticipated Betfred Championship opening fixture for many years, last seasons relegated Leigh Centurions played hosts to newly promoted Toronto Wolfpack at the Leigh Sports Village. Two divisions separated these sides last year, but they were now competing for top spot and the strong place to challenge for a position in Super League 2019.


This was the first ever meeting between these two sides but with many players having had Super League experience there were few strangers taking the field. Nothing would be decided today but with both sides tipped to win far more than they lose over the season, the result could go a long way to deciding who would end the first part of the season at the top of the pile.

There were just ninety second on the clock when Leigh made the most of a high octane start with Harrison Hansen taking the final pass, following an accurate kick to the corner, to walk through a broken Toronto defence to ground. Ben Reynolds added the conversion for a six point lead to send the home crowd wild.


It had been a bruising opening nine minutes before the Centurions extended their lead when Hall found Dawson-Jones on the overlap to walk over by the right corner flag. Reynolds slid the conversion inside the right upright to further rattle the Wolfpack.


On nineteen Quentin Laula-Togaga’e was held up over the line and three minutes later Adam Sidlow took full advantage of a penalty when he wrong-footed Liam Hood to go over under the sticks for the visitors opener. Ryan Brierley added a simple conversion to halve the arrears and get Toronto right back in the game.


On twenty-seven Wolfpack Adam Higson was sin-binned for a swinging arm in the tackle But Toronto made a mockery of being a man down when they put the pressure on the home side with a nice passing move on thirty-three minutes ending with Liam Kay coming inside off the wing to take the pass and dive over. Brierley failed to add the extras and his side still trailed by two with four minutes remaining to the interval.


Indiscipline from Toronto with seconds remaining gifted two consecutive penalties which were both tapped rather than kicking the two point penalty and the attacks came to nothing as Leigh lost the ball taking their two point lead into the interval.


A wayward Reynolds kick over the top was brilliantly picked out of the air by Corey Paterson and the big Aussie second rower went eighty metres to beat the chasing pack and ground. Brierley added the conversion and Leigh took the lead for the first time at 16-12.


Within a few minutes the Wolfpack extended the lead when a miss out pass from Laula-Togaga’e found Liam Kay to score a spectacular one-handed try by the corner flag. Brierley added the extras brilliantly from the touchline to put clear daylight between the sides.


On fifty-six Brierley broke the Centurions line to run the angle for a twenty-five metre effort to condemn the shaky start to distant memory. The scrum-half failed to add the conversion but Leigh now needed three scores.


As the sides ran themselves to a stand still, and the clock ticked down, Brierley added a seventy-sixth minute penalty goal for 28-12.


In the dying seconds Liam Kay intercepted and went fifty metres to score under the posts giving Brierley a simple conversion for a 34-12 win, keeping Leigh scoreless for seventy-one minutes.


This was a terrific opening weekend victory for the Wolfpack who, with the exception of the opening ten minutes, controlled the game and looked in very little trouble. Leigh Centurions will be deeply disappointed with their performance and would have expected much more from today’s game. Both sides have had big personnel changes over the close season and it will take some time to settle, but on this showing it will be Toronto who will be the side to beat if anyone else wants to finish top of the Championship pile.


Centurions: Hall, Dawson-Jones (T), Crooks, Mata’utia, Owens, Reynolds (2G), Hutchinson, Vaivai, Hood, Acton, Hansen (T), Thompson B, Thompson J. Subs: Mortimer, Patrick, Mason, Lovett.


Wolfpack: Laula-Togaga’e, Higson (SB on 27) Worthington, Rawsthorne, Kay (3T), McCrone, Brierley (T, 5G), Emmit, Beswick, Hopkins, Dickinson, Paterson (T), Westerman. Subs: Ackers, Sidlow (T), Buchanan, Buckley.


Half Time: 12-10.


Full Time: 34-12.


Referee: Liam Moore.


Attendance: 5,452.  

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