The Bradford Bulls travelled to the Leigh Sports Village to take in a Centurions side seeking to capitalise on Toulouse's shock defeat at the hands of Swinton yesterday and close the gap on second spot to just two points. The Bulls also had it all to play for and knew that a win would get them level on league points with their opponents, but with a chasm between their points differences it would require a massive victory to take their place on the ladder.
John Kear had Crossley and Garside back in his side with Farrell, Webster and Roche missing out. John Duffy’s Leigh were looking for their third consecutive win and a seventh victory in their last eight as one of the form sides in the division.
The scene was set for a belter of a game.
Somewhat against the run of play it was Bradford who opened their account on six minutes thanks to a Jordan Lilley penalty goal from twenty metres out.
Three minutes later Micky Higham was the provider, throwing a miss-out pass for Ian Thornley to go over for a three metre try. Martin Ridyard added the conversion for a 6-2 lead.
On thirteen Sam Brooks was sin-binned for the Centurions after backchat to the referee after he conceeded a penalty.
Liam Kirk committed the cardinal sin on eighteen when he dropped the ball over the Leigh line without a tackle being made. All he had to do was ground to give his side the lead but the ball slipped from his grasp.
Two minutes later the twelve men punished the error when Gregg McNally engineered space wide to put Matthew Costello over in the corner. Ridyard converted brilliantly from the touchline for 12-2.
A superb try for Matty Wildie on twenty-seven, after a fifty-metre kick return from Ethan Ryan, saw the Bulls go the length of the field for their first try of the afternoon. Lilley added the conversion and the visitors trailed by just four points.
Interference by Bradford, on the last tackle, gifted Ridyard a ten metre penalty kick to increase the cushion to six points. Ridyard missed a simple penalty attempt on thirty-five.
There was a hammer blow for Bradford just before the interval when Lilley spilled the ball ten metres from the Leigh line allowing McNally to pick up the ball and sprint ninety metres for a superb solo effort. Ridyard added the extra two and two minutes later he kicked a penalty for a 22-8 half time scoreline.
It was a good start to the second half for the Bulls with Elliott Mincella held up on the line and then the Bulls forcing a goal-line dropout and quickly after a penalty. But they couldn’t breach the Leigh line, Ross Peltier dropping the ball over the line under some pressure.
On forty-four McNally was sin-binned but rather than go on th e defensive the Centurions again went on the attack.
Oakes put the ball to ground on forty-nine as a good Bulls break got them within the Leigh twenty, Bradford squandering chance after chance. But on fifty-two George Flanagen finally got the Bulls second taking a Peltier offload to go over under the sticks giving Lilley a simple goal for 22-14.
Leigh took the opportunity to kick a penalty goal on fifty-six to take the sting out of the Bulls fightback for a ten point lead.
Bucking the trend Andy Thornley scored a walk-in try on fifty-nine after the Centurions decided to runa penalty twenty from the Bulls line. A delightful reverse pass from Josh Woods put Thornley through the gap to make the scoresheet. Ridyard kicked his seventh goal of the game for 30-14.
Leigh wrapped up the two points thanks to as second Greg McNally try, this time tracking down the right wing and taking the pass from woods with ten metres to run into the corner. Ridyard was unable to add the conversion but at 34-14 ther was no way back in the remaining twelve minutes for the Bulls.
Liam Forsyth collected a Woods grubber kick and dropped over the line for the sixth Leigh try of the game with seventy-minutes on the clock. Ridyard was this time able to add the conversion for 40-14.
A walk in for Forsyth off a Woods pass was all too easy for the Centurions as they punished an exhausted defence. Ridyard slotted over his ninth goal of the game for 46-14.
A late consolation for Matthew Storton, zig-zagging his way through the Leigh defence, and a Lilley goal pushed the Bulls up to twenty but two minutes later a terrible defensive mix-up from the kick-off allowed Leigh a scrum from which Ian Thornley went over to bring up the half century. Ridyard slotted the conversion over from the touchline for 52-20, a superb home win.
This was a measured and professional performance, the two sin-binnings aside, from the Leigh Centurions who never looked in any real danger against a Bradford Bulls side who made some awful mistakes near or over their opponents line. The Centurions are right in the mix for a play off place and a shot at a return to Super League, the Bulls have a mountain to climb if they are to figure in their first season back in the Championship.
Centurions: McNally (2T, SB on 44), Costello (T), Thornley I (2T), Forsyth (2T), Marsh, Ridyard (10G), Woods, Douglas, Higham, Brooks (SB on 13), Batchelor, Thornley A (T), Cator. Subs: Hood, Thompson, Adamson, Hock.
Bulls: Ryan, Grant, Gibson, Oakes, Foggin-Johnson, Wildie (T), Lilley (4G), Kirk, Hallas, Crossley, Garside, Storton (T), Minchella. Subs: Flanagan (T), Magrin, Wood, Peltier.
Referee: Ben Thaler.