For the Leigh Centurions, this afternoons encounter with already relegated Rochdale Hornets was all about registering a big score to improve their points difference in the hope of securing a home play-off game in the Qualifying Final at the end of the season.
As well as confirming their place in the play-offs, a win would lift the Leigh side up to third, above a Yorks City Knights side which took a hammering against the Toronto Wolfpack last night, and level on points with Toulouse Olympique XIII. The best that Rochdale could achieve is eleventh, still a relegation place, and that would take a miracle after they have only recorded one victory in 2019.
Ben Reynolds opened the Leigh account with a simple walk in try on just four minutes after Corey Patterson broke the line. Martyn Ridyard added the conversion for a good early lead.
Three minutes later and the Centurions were in again when Adam Higson found himself with an acre of space on a massive overlap to dive in at the right corner. Ridyard left his conversion short but scoring at more than a point a minute it was the travelling supporters who were delighted with the start.
With nine minutes on the clock a Ridyard break found Joe Cator in support to scamper under the sticks. Ridyard added the extra two this time for 16-0, already it was looking like a long afternoon ahead for the Hornets.
On fifteen Jordan Thompson made a break downfield before drawing the full back and finding Ryan Brierley to go under the sticks for Leigh’s fourth try of the afternoon. Ridyard again added the goal for 22-0.
Mickey Higham and Shaun Ainscough were boith sin-binned on eighteen minutes after a midfield altercation but within a minute Leigh added to their tally keeping the ball alive down the left hand side for Stefan Marsh to cross in the corner. Ridyard converted brilliantly from the touchline, Leigh showing that they were here to amass the points.
On twenty-four Rochdale brought up the thirty when Toby Adamson crashed the line to ground from five metres out. Ridyards goal made it 34-0, Rochdale could simply not get their hands on the ball.
Thompson added a seventh name to the try scorers list on twenty-seven, weavign his way through the Rochdale line from twenty metres out to score by the uprights. Ridyards goal made it 40-0, Leigh running red hot.
Rochdale finally gave their supporters a smile when Abram stepped from first received and dove over the line. The Hornets full back converted his own try for 6-40. It was a brilliant half from Leigh but all credit to Rochdale who stemmed the tide and managed to get on the score sheet themselves to trail by 34 points at the interval.
Rochdale looked like a different side in the second half, thwarting the Leigh attack with a more workmanlike defence and crating a couple of opportunities for themselves. After a twenty-four minute point drought it was the Centurions who opened the second half scoring when Ridyard found Adamson to go in close to the sticks. Ridyard added the conversion for 46-6.
On sixty-seven Cory Patterson took the pass thirty metres out and went over in the corner through a tiring Rochdale defence. The fifty was up but Ridyard failed to add the extra two.
Aidan Gleeson scored Rochdale’s second try on seventy-seven, going over under the sticks after a five metre run from first receiver. Abram added the extras to give the Hornets double figures, trailing by 12-50.
A brilliant try from Ainscough just before the final hooter, picking up a dropped ball just twenty metres from his own line and going eighty metres to score under the sticks. Abram added the goal for 18-50, the Hornets winning the second half by 12-10.
The game ended in a fracas after the final hooter but the referee took no further action.
A surgical opening thirty from Leigh won them the game but after that they seemed to ease off the gas and allow Rochdale to get some credibility in the scoreline. The Centurions were rampant, Rochdale denied the ball for long periods, as they scored seven unanswered tries in the opening twenty-seven minutes and established what looked like it would be a cricket score. Leigh are now up to third and have Toulouse in their sights as they push for a second place finish.
Hornets: Abram (T, 3G), Ainscough (T, SB on 18), Williams, Wood B, Brown, Barran, Farrell, Gleeson (T), Sheridan, Marriott, Syme, Baker, Shelford. Subs: Wood C, Thomas, Mitchell, Bourrel.
Centurions: Brierley (T), Higson (T), Forsyth, Sa’u, Marsh (T), Ridyard (7G), Reynolds (T), Patterson (T), Higham (SB on 18), Thompson (T), Adamson (2T), Brooks, Cator (T). Subs: Eaves, Clark, Emmitt, Cox.
Referee: Bill Pearson.