DEWSBURY RAMS were comfortably beaten by a cool and composed Leigh Centurions side seemingly ready for life in Super League this year.
Leigh boss Neil Jukes selected a strong side which enjoyed an early opportunity at the Rams line, but the ball was spilled and the visitors were able to bring it away.
Neither side completed at a high percentage during the early stages, although it was the Rams that enjoyed the majority of early opportunities.
Paul Sykes’s grubber just eluded full-back James Glover, before Gareth Hock broke for Leigh and carved out an opportunity for David Thompson.
But the former St Helens player was forced into touch before dotting down.
And as the game wore on Leigh strengthened their grip.
Josh Drinkwater’s grubber kick forced Glover to palm dead and, a penalty later, James Clare touched down wide on the right for Leigh's first try.
Former Rams loanee Ben Reynolds was wide with the conversion. Leigh managed possession and territory in the minutes that followed, although they were unable to add to their lead.
The Rams’ cause wasn’t helped when hooker Dom Speakman limped off, which added to coach Glenn Morrison’s injury woes ahead of the new Championship campaign, though the visitors continued to acquit themselves well defensively.
The Centurions went close to adding to their lead after 23 minutes, but Hamish Barnes was quickest to react to Reynolds’s chip. The visitors’ strong defensive work was undone moments later, when a Rams play for the ball on the last tackle didn't come off, and centre Willie Tonga pounced to dot down. Reynolds was on target with the extras to make it 10-0.
Leigh soon went close to adding to their lead, breaking from the restart, but Gareth Hock lost possession following a barnstorming run, and the Rams survived.
As the game approached half-time, Leigh appeared content to sit on their lead, and executed an effective territorial kicking game.
Dewsbury had chances of their own, but were unable to retain possession, nor find the right option on the last tackle, in crucial areas.
There was concern for the home side when Tonga had to be helped from the field following a knock to the head. Moments later, the Rams made it stick and cut the deficit.
Two quick-fire passes from the play the ball created the opportunity for Lucas Walshaw to power over on the stroke of half-time, though Sykes was wide with the conversion.
The Centurions found another gear following the restart and, on the back of a penalty, Mitch Brown hit an excellent line onto Reynolds’s ball to extend the home side’s lead. Reynolds added the goal to make it 16-4.
The Rams rallied in response and went close to cutting the deficit, but a wild pass from dummy half afforded Leigh a respite.
Dewsbury continued to be wasteful with the ball, though the Centurions were unable to find a way over the line.
But Leigh eventually extended their lead, courtesy of Matty Dawson, who stepped through a disjointed Rams defence to touch down. Minutes later, Mitch Brown’s palm back fell flush into the arms of Atelea Vea, who scored Leigh’s next try, but Reynolds’s attempt at goal fell short.
By now, the Rams were struggling to make it out of their own half and Vea capitalised when he hit a flat ball from short range and had too much power for the Rams’ defence, to add his second try, and Leigh’s fifth. Ryan Hampshire was on target with the conversion.
But Leigh’s win was soured by a knee injury to Ben Reynolds late on.
The delay appeared to affect the home side’s momentum, and worse news followed with the departure through injury of James Clare in the closing stages.
Leigh added a sixth score in the final moments of the game courtesy of Sam Hopkins’s scything run, and Hampshire converted on the hooter to confirm a resounding victory for the hosts.
LEIGH: Ryan Hampshire 8, David Thompson 7, Mitch Brown 8, Willie Tonga 8, James Clare 8, Ben Reynolds 8, Josh Drinkwater 7, Jamie Acton 7, Micky Higham 7, Dayne Weston 7, Atelea Vea 7, Harrison Hansen 7, Gareth Hock 8. Subs: Liam Hood 7, Sam Hopkins 8, Danny Tickle 7, James Green 7, Antoni Maria 7, Lewis Foster 7, Matty Dawson 8.
Tries: Clare (12), Tonga (26), Brown (42), Dawson (55), Vea (59, 65), Hopkins (79). Goals: Reynolds 2/4, Hampshire 1/1.
DEWSBURY: James Glover 7, Gareth Potts 7, Hamish Barnes 7, Lucas Walshaw 8, Donald Kudangirana 8, Paul Sykes 7, Andy Kain 7, Mitch Stringer 7, Dom Speakman 7, Jode Sheriffe 7, Rob Spicer 7, Scott Hale 7, Aaron Brown 7. Subs: Robbie Ward 7, Aaron Ollett 7, Tony Tonks 7, Jack Teanby 7.
Tries: Walshaw (40). Goals: Sykes 0/1.
Ref rating: P. Bentham 70/100 / Half-time: 10-4 / Penalties: 7-7 / Sin Bin: None / Sent Off: None / Weather: Cold and cloudy / Man of the Match: Ben Reynolds (Leigh) / Attendance: 1,632 / Match Rating: 2/5.