While defeat for the Leigh Centurions against the Salford Red Devils wouldn’t signal the relegation of the home side it would make their chances of survival increasingly difficult and the likelihood even more remote than it was before kick-off.
Salford themselves aren’t having the best of seasons by their recent standards but a win would at least come close to guaranteeing their position in Super League 2022 as they moved above the Huddersfield Giants and into ninth spot in the league table.
Most neutrals will have been hoping for a Leigh win to at least give them and their supporters some hope, but you can be sure than the supporters of Huddersfield and Wakefield were hoping that Salford would send them to their seventeenth loss of the season.
With under two minutes on the clock Rhys Williams took a long looping pass from Tui Lolohea to go over in the corner for a far too easy try through a tired looking Leigh defence. Krisnan Inu was unable to add the touchline conversion but it was a great start to the visitors.
Leigh were twice held up over the line as they started to find their feet after a dreadful start and on twenty Joe Mellor collected his own chip kick at pace after kicking it on to score. Craig Mullen added the conversion to give the Centurions the lead.
Salford were at sixes and seven when Keenan Brand added a second Leigh try on twenty-three, but Mullen hit the upright with his conversion attempt, the Red Devils trailing by six points.
A Leigh penalty of the half hour saw Mullen get a second goal of the afternoon for 12-4 but just after the restart Harvey Livett exposed the weak Leigh defence for a second time for a simple walk in try. Inu was again unable to add the conversion with a poor effort at the sticks. Salford still four behind.
Leigh’s lead was back to six points after Salford were called offside by referee Griffiths, Mullen kicking the two for a 14-8 lead. But Salford grabbed a two-point penalty of their own after a late tackle on the final hooter, with Inu kicking the two points.
After getting a set restart close to the Leigh line Ken Sio went over in the corner as the Leigh defence failed to slide across to cover. Inu converted brilliantly from the touchline to regain the lead.
Liam Hood was held up just short of the line, but the tackle count was wiped down and when Salford conceded a penalty a couple of tackles later Mullen kicked the penalty goal to level the scores on fifty-three minutes.
Both sides knew how close the game was and when Leigh were presented with a penalty opportunity from forty metres Mullen accepted the opportunity and slotted the ball between the uprights to take the lead by 18-16 with twenty-two remaining.
Yet another penalty conceded by the Red Devils, this one ten in from the touchline, gave Mullen his sixth goal of the afternoon for a four-point lead, the Leigh players and fans starting the believe that this could be the first win of the season.
A fifty metres break from Kevin Brown put Salford in a great position and two plays later Ryan Lannon looked to have gone over but he was penalised for losing the ball in the act of scoring.
Liam Hood sent the home crowd into raptured when he found his way over to score next to the uprights to extend the lead to eight points. Mullen added a conversion, his seventh kick on-target, for a ten-point lead.
With a couple of minutes remaining Leigh were in again through Adam Sidlow as he went over by the uprights and with Mullen again adding the extras the home side had a 32-16 lead.
Ken Sio scored on the final hooter but it counted for nothing. Inu added the goal to signal a 22-32 loss.
Leigh have finally done it and secured their first win of the season. It’s unlikely to save them in the long term but there was plenty to relish as they brushed aside the challenge of a Salford Red Devils side who at times looked like they thought that they only needed to turn up to get the win. All credit to a great Leigh performance and special mention to Mullen who kicked eight goals to gather half of the Leigh points for himself.
Leigh Centurions: Brand (T), Mullen (8G), Thornley, Stone, Elliot, Bell, Mellor (T), Ashworth, Faves, Sidlow (T), Hellewell, Foster, Gerrard. Subs: Hood (T), Ioane, Gee, Butler.
Salford Red Devils: Lolohea, Sio (2T), Inu (3G), Sarginson, Williams (T), Hingano, Brown, Johnson, Ackers, Ormondroyd, Livett (T), Greenwood, Addy. Subs: Norman, Taylor, Lannon, Burke.
Referee: Marcus Griffiths.
Score Progression: 0-4, 4-4, 6-4, 10-4, 12-4, 12-8, 14-8, 14-10 : HT : 14-14, 14-16, 16-16, 18-16, 20-16, 24-16, 26-16, 30-16, 32-16, 32-20, 32-22 : FT.