With four victories in their last seven matches Salford arrived at the Leigh Sports Village in confident mood. The Red Devils had every right to feel cautious though having lost on this ground on all five occasions in competitive games. Salford did win a pre season match here when the ground first opened but they’ve left empty handed since.
The Centurions had played some of their best rugby on home soil this season pushing Wigan, Catalans, Hull Kingston Rovers and St Helens close.
Salford coach Richard Marshall has now been able to start naming stronger squads week by week. After a thrilling win over Huddersfield last Friday that saw his side execute a perfect second half game plan the expectation was there for more of the same.
Ata Hingano started in the halves with Kevin Brown, Ken Sio replaced Joe Burgess on the wing and Ryan Lannon returned to the squad in the bench.
Leigh gave a debut to second rower Sam Stone who arrived in the UK last weekend having joined the club from NRL side Gold Coast Titans.
Loan pair Jack Ashworth (from Huddersfield) and Rob Butler (from Warrington) we’re both back in the side having served two match bans.
Adam Sidlow returned at prop after sustaining an injury against Hull KR, a game where he scored two tries.
It was a fine dry day for this late afternoon kick off and Salford struck early with a try in the corner from Welsh flyer Rhys Williams.
Leigh slowly eased their way into the game and enjoyed a large amount of possession without really threatening. The scores were level though after a speculative piece of play saw Joe Mellor touch down under the posts. Craig Mullen converted to put the hosts 6-4 up.
Tui Lolohea’s looping pass to Dan Sarginson deep in the Salford half was adjudged forward presenting Leigh another attacking opportunity. The Centurions made it count with their second try. The Red Devils were casing shadows when Keanan Brand cut through to score.
Leigh started to grow more and more in confidence throughout the first half and once again Salford conceded penalties. Mullen had no hesitation with a kickable penalty to extend the lead to 12-4.
The Centurions were pulled back for a forward pass and Salford responded with a try from Danny Addy. Krisnan Inu again failed to convert the goal, 12-8.
Salford made a porridge of the kick off and had to drop out with the Centurions roaring back at them. Some solid defence forced the mistake.
Mullen nailed another penalty goal from about thirty five yards out to restore Leigh’s six point advantage 14-8.
Salford were awarded a penalty right on the half time hooter much to the anger of the home supporters and made the obvious decision to kick for goal. Krisnan Inu slotted it over. A very enjoyable first half ended 14-10.
Salford started the second half in very similar fashion to the first half. This time it was Ken Sio who coasted over in the corner, Inu’s keep was perfect and Salford edged in front 14-16.
Leigh were soon level when Salford’s bad habit of giving away penalties in kickable positions bit them once again. Mullen took advantage to make it all square at 16-16.
Another Leigh penalty this time for a high tackle around forty yards out. Mullen didn’t hesitate and booted another goal as the score changed hands once again. It felt at times like Salford were their own worst enemy. The game began to simmer and came to the boil when Adam Sidlow and Dan Norman clashed. Their were a few words exchanged between two of the tallest men on the pitch.
Salford committed the cardinal sin of not making touch from a penalty and Leigh came hunting fo points. Another penalty conceded by a self destructive Salford side meant two more points for Leigh from Mullen’s boot. 20-16 with eighteen minutes remaining.
Liam Hood snatched a try from close range after Jack Ormondroyd had been penalised for a high tackle. The conversion from Mullen gave Leigh a ten point advantage 26-16.
Moments later Adam Sidlow crashed over to delight the home supporters behind the sticks. It was nothing more than the Centurions deserved. Mullen again faultless with the boot. 32-16.
Ken Sio scored his second try as the final hooter sounded but it was Leigh’s day.
Salford were second best and got what they deserved. Conceding penalties is a huge issue for Richard Marshall to resolve. It’s cost Salford dearly today but full credit to Leigh Centurions who put in a fantastic effort to win the match. Half back Joe Mellor took the man of the match award and deservedly so.
Leigh 32 Salford 22.
Photos from Steve McCormick