Sheffield 8 – 44 Leigh

Leigh Centurions returned to the top of the Championship thanks to another solid display from their forward pack and two dominant halfbacks.

Before kick-off Leigh had been temporarily replaced at the Championship summit by Featherstone Rovers. Before a ball was kicked these had been the two form teams in the Championship with Sheffield not having lost since the opening day of the league season and Leigh yet to taste defeat. At the end of the eighty minutes, Eagles proud record lay in tatters as the dominant Centurions posted eight tries.

Things began soundly enough with both teams going through early sets of possession and just as it appeared that Sheffield were starting to win some momentum, they were handed a penalty which Simon Brown struck from twenty metres to give them an early 2-0 lead.

This only succeeded in stirring the Centurions and fine play from halfbacks Jamie Ellis and Martyn Ridyard released Tommy Goulden and the former GB Amateur skipper fired a pass out to Mick Nanyn who just made the corner despite the best defensive efforts of Bradford dual-contract wing Vinnie Finigan.

After missing out on the chance to play Catalan, last week, Nanyn converted from the touchline and was on target again when the Centurions claimed a second try through Dean McGilvray after an audacious pass through the legs from the centre.

Trailing 12-2, Sheffield needed to respond but handling errors crept into their game and Leigh moved quickly to dominate possession, territory and scoreboard in the ten minutes before half-time.

A bustling run from Menzie Yere pointed to better things ahead for the home crowd but when the Eagles tried to force play a mistake ensued. In comparison, Leigh completed their sets and when Alex Rowe passed forward to Quentin Laulu-Togagae, the Centurions turned the screw. Ellis dabbed through for Ridyard to juggle and then ground and Leigh did not look back, scoring two further quick tries. Matty Blythe claimed the first, after Andy Thornley had played the ball quickly which gave Mick Govin the chance to take the line on and hand on to the Warrington dual contract man at pace. Then after 37 minutes David Mills scattered the defence for Govin and Ellis to move play quickly for Stuart Littler to step past Quentin Laulu-Togagae and extend their advantage to 26-2 at half-time.

Sheffield were much improved in the second half and even created the best of the half chances before Leigh weathered the storm and struck again.

After keeping their line intact for five minutes, Sheffield forged a chance when Laulu-Togagae ran across the field but returning Misi Taulapapa was not on the same page and the chance was lost.

Yere offloaded close to the Leigh line but Blythe picked up and Thornley put in the relieving run.

Leigh rode their luck but Sheffield again saw another opportunity pass them by afer 52 minutes when a Kyle Wood kick bounced awkwardly and Alex Szostak saw the ball agonisingly come loose.
As hard as the Eagles tried, they could not break through and Joe Hirst saw an offload dropped. The Eagles eventually won a drop out after 59 minutes when Jason Crookes kicked in-goal and McGilvray carried the ball out under pressure.

A second 40/20 from Ellis threatened to open the floodgates. Chris Hill was held up in-goal and the hard working Eagles defence restricted Leigh until the 66th minute when a delicate grubber from Ridyard found Goulden and he carried Crookes over the line with him for Nanyn to strike his fourth goal of the evening.
Eventually, Sheffield did reward their fans with a fine try as Crookes drifted from right to left before finding Alex Szostak. He in turn found Yere and supported on the inside for Laulu-Togagae to take the final pass and sail over at the side of the posts.

With Simon Brown replaced, Mitch Stringer assumed kicking duties and booted his first goal of the season to close the gap to 8-32 but as in the first half, Leigh finished the game strongly.

Six minutes from the end, Duffy darted over the line only to see the ball ripped out by Taulapapa and from the resulting posession, Ridyard danced his way through for a cracking individual try under the posts, showing good strength to force the ball down despite the presence of three Sheffield players. That was Leigh’s seventh try and Ridyard’s 5th in just two games against Sheffield this term, which Nanyn converted for good measure.

With Leigh running strongly, Duffy broke the line again off a Steve Nash offload and linked with Nanyn. The centre swerved inside, wrongfooting three defenders and then kicked intelligently towards the posts. After setting up so much of Leigh’s play, Ellis was on hand to touch down his 16th try of the season and Nanyn wrapped up victory and top spot with his sixth goal.

6 Quentin Laulu-Togagae
2 Danny Mills
3 Menzie Yere
4 Jason Crookes
16 Vinnie Finigan
24 Kyle Wood
7 Simon Wood
8 Jack Howieson
9 Andrew Henderson
10 Mitch Stringer
11 Alex Szostak
19 Joe Hirst
13 Dane McDonald
SUBS (All Used)
1 Misi Taulapapa
12 Peter Green
17 Alex Rowe
22 Ryan Hepworth

Tries: Laulu-Toagagae (70)
Goals: Brown 1/1, Stringer 1/1.

1 Stuart Donlan
32 Rhys Evans
21 Matty Blythe
4 Mick Nanyn
5 Dean McGilvray
6 Martyn Ridyard
25 Jamie Ellis
8 Chris Hill
9 John Duffy
26 David Mills
3 Stuart Littler
12 Tommy Goulden
11 James Taylor
SUBS (All Used)
2 Steve Maden
13 Steve Nash
15 Andy Thornley
23 Mick Govin

Tries: Nanyn (11), McGilvray (23), Ridyard (32, 76), Blythe (34), Littler (37), Goulden (66), Ellis (78).
Goals: Nanyn 6/8

Referee: Matt Thomason
Penalties 4-5
Half-time: 2-26
Attendance: 1,778

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