Five try Saints sink Leigh

St Helens won a tough encounter with Leigh, scoring five tries en route to a 28-6 success as they returned to winning ways on home soil.

Both sides huffed and puffed their way through the first half, with Saints just edging the Centurions after a industrious start from the visitors.

Leigh won the first penalty of the game three minutes in and then pressured the hosts until Jamie Acton burrowed over a couple of tackles after Centurions fullback Ryan Hampshire lost the ball backwards according to referee Gareth Hewer. Ben Reynolds goaled and the visitors led 6-0.

In the 11th minute Saints had the chance to equalise when Matty Smith ran a great line, but Thompson spilled the ball under pressure and Leigh worked away from their own line.

Leigh then had a chance after winning a penalty but Josh Drinkwater kicked too long, with Curtis Naughton unable to get close.

Saints had to sustain a period of pressure with the ball being passed about freely by the Centurions, but the hosts responded brilliantly with a long clearing run by Mark Percival.

When Adam Higson had the ball dislodged St Helens went on attack again. Initially it all looked a bit scrappy until the ball went left and Zeb Taia offloaded for the classy Percival to respond and then convert his own try after 21 minutes.

The last couple of years have seen Saints fans become accustomed to forward drives but their second score was a brilliant team effort, perhaps hinting at more expansive times to come from their interim coaching staff.

Six pairs of hands were involved before Zeb Taia slipped the pass for Theo Fages to dash over in the left corner. Once again Percival struck the goal and Saints led 12-6.

Leigh attempted to attack from deep and another Drinkwater kick asked questions before McCarthy-Scarsbrook ran strongly to win a penalty and give Saints more decent field position with ten minutes of the half remaining.

Percival cut through the middle and looked set for a score only for a grasping tackle to force an error. It meant Leigh could clear their lines.

St Helens were dominant in this period, but Leigh went closest to scoring at the other end through Hampshire.

As time ticked down Saints presented Leigh with two opportunities. Smith kicked out on the full and Reynolds kicked from the scrum which brought an exciting run from Grace, but when the ball came loose with seconds remaining Ben Crooks collected, ran ten metres and found Eloi Pelissier on his inside but the replacement was collared from behind. It remained 12-6 to the hosts at the break.

In the second half, Saints ran both of their first possessions on the last tackle and plied pressure on themselves. Leigh twice went close with Fages saving Saints and then Curtis Naughton tackled on the last, 15 out having taken Reynolds kick.

Saints had a brilliant chance when McCarthy-Scarsbrook collected Drinkwater’s kick and Adam Swift romped away only for Hampshire to track back and brilliantly turn him.

Eventually the pressure told and the hosts opened their second half account with ten minutes gone when Ryan Morgan pierced the defence wide on the right. Percival goaled and it was 18-6. Again St Helens were doing everything right and made the game look simple.

With 55 minutes gone, Leigh made a forward pass inside their own thirty, but Saints couldn’t take advantage.

Both teams made plenty of effort and Leigh lost the services of Harrison Hansen, Dayne Weston and Acton for the final 20 minutes.

Despite now being short on interchanges, the Centurions did break through. Reynolds, Hampshire and Drinkwater all combining for Leigh to go in the twenty. It came to nothing with a deep kick being fielded by Adam Swift.

Swift tapped quickly, Percival ran away but Leigh back-tracked. It was only a matter of time however, and Theo Fages put Regan Grace in at the corner with 16 minutes remaining. Clinical finishing. This time Percival missed but Saints had their fourth try and a 22-6 stranglehold.

Saints strode downfield through Dominique Peyroux. A penalty followed and Tommy Lee sent Alex Walmsley under the posts. Percival struck his fourth goal to all but secure the points.

A couple of minutes from the end, Pelissier and Adam Walker were sent to the sinbin for fighting. Sam Hopkins was held up over the line as the Centurions desperately tried for points and Matty Dawson knocked on over the line following a Drinkwater kick.

Saints manned the rearguard with Walmsley, Jon Wilkin, Percival and Taia outstanding in victory.

SAINTS: Tommy Makinson, Adam Swift, Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival, Regan Grace; Theo Fages, Matty Smith; Alex Walmsley, Tommy Lee, Luke Douglas, Zeb Taia, Jon Wilkin, Luke Thompson. Subs: Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Adam Walker, Dominique Peyroux, Morgan Knowles.

Tries: Percival (19), Fages (25), Morgan (50), Grace (64), Walmsley (70).

Goals: Percival 4/5.

CENTURIONS: Ryan Hampshire, Adam Higson, Matty Dawson, Ben Crooks, Curtis Naughton; Ben Reynolds, Josh Drinkwater; Jamie Acton, Liam Hood, Dayne Weston, Atelea Vea, Glenn Stewart, Harrison Hansen. Subs: Eloi Pelissier, Danny Tickle, Sam Hopkins, Lachlan Burr.

Tries: Acton (7)

Goals:  Reynolds 1/1.

Referee: G Hewer.

Half-time: 12-6.

Attendance 10,268.

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