Wigan Warriors beat neighbours Leigh Centurions 22-14 in Micky Higham’s last ever game.
Paterika Vaivai put Leigh ahead before Sam Tomkins pulled one back for Wigan. Oliver Gildart scored to put the Warriors in the lead but Peter Mata’utia made the score 10-10 at half-time.
In the second half, Gabe Hamlin edged Wigan back in front before Jack Owens went over for Leigh. Wigan narrowly led 16-14 before Jake Shorrocks sealed a 22-14 victory for the Warriors late on.
Centurions head coach Neil Jukes handed 14 players their unofficial debuts. Craig Hall, Mata’utia, Ilias Bergal, Drew Hutchison, Vaivai, Kevin Larroyer, Jordan Thompson, Kyle Lovett, Jonah Cunningham, Owens, Nick Gregson, Jack Blagbrough, Larne Patrick and Jordan Dezaria all played their first game for Leigh.
Dan Sarginson played his first game since being back at the Warriors while new recruit Hamlin also featured. Morgan Escaré and Ben Flower made their return from long-term injury lay-offs for Shaun Wane’s side.
Ahead of his last ever game, Higham received a guard of honour prior to kick-off and a well-deserved one, too.
Leigh started well and were certainly up for the game, scoring inside seven minutes. Vaivai crashed over the line from close range to score in his first game for the club. Ben Reynolds converted to put his side 6-0 up.
Wigan were dealt a blow when Joe Burgess limped off the field in the opening minutes and was replaced by Liam Marshall. Burgess didn’t return to the field.
A minute later, starting prop Tony Clubb left the field with a head injury and was replaced by Frank-Paul Nuuausala. Clubb didn’t return to action.
Sam Tomkins brought Wigan back into the game though after producing neat footwork to dive over the line. The full-back was on kicking duties as well but he couldn’t quite convert.
The visitors took the lead on the half hour mark as Oliver Gildart pounced on a George Williams grubber to score. Tomkins added the extras to put Wigan in a 10-6 advantage.
Leigh quickly made the score level. It went through quick hands to Mata’utia who scored his first try for the club since arriving from Newcastle Knights. The conversion was missed, 10-10.
HALF TIME: Leigh Centurions 10-10 Wigan Warriors.
It was a slow start to the second half but it was the Warriors who scored first following the restart. Hamlin latched onto a Sam Tomkins grubber to score in his first game for the club. The conversion was good and Wigan led 16-10 after 53 minutes.
The Centurions scored just a couple of minutes later. They passed it along the line to winger Jack Owens who finished nicely in the corner. Reynolds’ conversion attempt went wide and Leigh were just 16-14 behind.
Wigan had a great chance to wrap the game up with nine minutes remaining as Oliver Gildart made a 40-metre break but the final pass went just behind young winger Craig Mullen.
Jake Shorrocks sealed the win for Wigan in the 78th minute. The half-back scampered through the Leigh defence to score. Morgan Escaré converted to secure a 22-14 victory over neighbours Leigh.
FULL TIME: Leigh Centurions 14-22 Wigan Warriors.
Leigh Centurions – 14
Tries: Vaivai, Mata’utia, Owens
Goals: Reynolds 1/3
Wigan Warriors – 22
Tries: S Tomkins, Gildart, Hamlin, Shorrocks
Goals: S Tomkins 2/3, Escaré 1/1
Loverugbyleague.com MOM: Oliver Gildart (Wigan Warriors)
Leigh Centurions: 1. Craig Hall, 2. Matty Dawson, 3. Ben Crooks, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 25. Ilias Bergal, 6. Ben Reynolds, 7. Drew Hutchison, 8. Paterika Vaivai, 9. Micky Higham, 10. Jamie Acton, 11. Kevin Larroyer, 13. Harrison Hansen, 15. Jordan Thompson.
Interchange: 9. Daniel Mortimer, 17. Kyle Lovett, 20. Greg Richards, 23. Jonah Cunningham, 14. Liam Hood, 19. Jack Owens, 21. Nick Gregson, 24. Jack Blagbrough, 16. Larne Patrick, 26. Jordan Dezaria
Wigan Warriors: 1. Sam Tomkins, 2. Tom Davies, 3. Dan Sarginson, 4. Oliver Gildart, 5. Joe Burgess, 6. George Williams, 7. Sam Powell, 8. Tony Clubb, 9. Tommy Leuluai, 10. Ben Flower, 11. Joel Tomkins, 12. Liam Farrell, 15. Ryan Sutton.
Interchange: 20. Morgan Escaré, 27. Callum Field, 30. Gabe Hamlin, 19. Willie Isa, 22. Liam Marshall, 38. Craig Mullen, 25. Romain Navarrete, 16. Frank-Paul Nuuausala, 24. Jake Shorrocks, 17. Taulima Tautai, 26. Jack Wells.
Referee – Robert Hicks