LEIGH CENTURIONS turned up the heat when needed to see off a stiff challenge from Dewsbury Rams in the opening game of the new Championship season (10-36).
In an indicator of the disparity between budgets and quality in the division again this year, Leigh required only a positive spell in the second half to blast their way through an otherwise dogged Rams side.
There was no lack of effort from Dewsbury, who were desperately unlucky to go into half-time 12-10 behind, but the visitors’ defence kept them in the game and allowed some of their star players to give a glimpse of what they can do to score some classy second-half tries.
Rams boss Lee Greenwood acknowledged that the final score was harsh on a positive performance from his charges.
He said: “I’m disappointed with the scoreline. Whether it was a 36-10 game, I’m not sure. We were competitive for the majority of it.
“The effort from the lads, I can’t knock at all. For 55 minutes it’s a good old battle.
“I don’t feel we gave them a lot of opportunities to be honest, but they were that crisp and good with speed and good-quality players.”
Dewsbury were on top in the early stages, with Paul Sykes kicking the first points of the season with a simple penalty and Leigh fortunate not to be further behind after a period of ill-discipline put them on the back foot.
When they did get into good position Josh Woods crashed over from close range and Ben Reynolds added the first of six conversions out of six, but the home side kept focus and scored a quality try to go back in front.
Liam Finn found Sykes and he sent a looping pass out to Andy Gabriel, with the winger managing to offload with perfect timing for Adam Ryder to go over.
They continued to dominate territory but only had another Sykes penalty to show for it, allowing Leigh to edge in front at the break as a nice move finished with Reynolds and McNally finding Hull FC loanee Cameron Scott in the corner.
The first 10 minutes of the second half saw Dewsbury attack again without reward, and the turning point of the match came with a Leigh penalty on halfway.
That seemed to inject new urgency into them, and Woods’s flat pass saw debutant Ben Hellewell get over on the last play.
Five minutes later, a quick break down the left saw Gregg McNally link up with Iain Thornley and the centre sliced through the defence to suddenly take Leigh three scores in front.
The hosts continued to battle but those efforts had visibly taken their toll when Liam Hood left two tiring defenders on the floor as he broke through, offloading for Danny Addy who found Reynolds for the try.
With a minute to go the final gloss was added as Adam Higson intercepted a kick and raced the full length of the field.
Winning head coach John Duffy said: “I thought it was a really, really tough game. I thought Dewsbury stuck to their game plan and edged it in the first half.
“Our discipline was poor so we asked for a bit more discipline in the second half and we got that.
“I thought when we did get good ball we were really classy, especially Ben Reynolds and Gregg (McNally) I thought were sensational.
“It was a really tough, gritty performance. The second half was really professional.”