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It was fifth v second when Batley Bulldogs welcomed Leigh Centurions to slope at The Foxes Biscuits Stadium as round 11 of the Betfred Championship concluded in front of the Premier Sports cameras.

The Bulldogs entered the match unbeaten in their last five games, having drawn one game when they became the only team in the league to take a point off Featherstone back in March. Leigh's only loss in the  past six weeks was to Super League club Hull KR in the sixth round of the Challenge Cup.

Leigh kicked off down the hill while the hosts had first use of the ball - faced with the challenge of carring it 100m up the field and up nine feet in altitude in the first half. The Bulldogs were the first to make a mistake though, when Johnny Campbell knocked on trying to collect a high kick in the corner.

To spare his blushes, Leigh's Krisnan Inu lost the ball as he dived over the line at the end of that set. 

On a wet and windy night, losing posession of a greasy ball was a feature of the opening exchanges for both sides.

On nine minutes though, Inu ran onto a kick over the top of the Batley defence - but from an offside position which meant his second attempt to open the scoring was chalked off.

But five minutes later, the Centurions broke the deadlock with a sweeping movement across the line. Smooth hands from Caleb Aekins and Ed Chamberlain saw a pass out to the wing where Keanan Brand collected the ball just behind him and darted into the corner. Inu kicked the conversion and the visitors had a 6-0 lead

Leigh scored again when a repeat of the move saw Brand score in the same corner, again goaled by Inu for two tries in two minutes and a 12-0 lead.

With 20 minutes of the half left, the Bulldogs were struggling to get up the hill, regularluy kicking from within their own 40m.

Hooker Aaron Smith was the next to score for Leigh, charging over from dummy half and beating a retreating Batley defence to score despite the attention of three defenders.

He suffered a cut in scoring, though and was promptly taken to the dressing room for stitches to his forhead.

Inu made no mistake with his easiest kick of the night and the Centurions had racked up 18 points, while the Bulldogs had yet to trouble the scoreboard.

But Batley showed that they were a threat on a pitch they know well, forcing a goal-line drop out. They just couldn't secure a score.

Then when Batley knocked in in their own 20m, Leigh moved the ball rapidly out to the right straight from the scrum and Brand's hat-trick try was a formality on 33 minutes. This time, though, Inu's conversion attempt went across the face of the goal and the score stayed at 0-22.

The Centurions were making the most of the advantage that playing downhill with the wind at their backs offered them. Rolling forward on every set with their big men - especially Ben Nakubuwai and Edwin Ipape – charging up the middle and making yards on almost every carry.

And it paid off when Ipape ran from dummy-half to power over between the sticks. Inu slotted over an easy conversion and the score stood at 0-28 with the half-time hooter looming. And it stayed there as the players went into the  changing rooms.

Players who have experienced it say that playing downhill at the Mount Pleasant ground is worth 16 points - Leigh had almost doubled that and it was the hosts who would have a metaphorical mountain to climb in the second half, despite playing downhill.

The change in slope, though made little impression on the opening exchanges, with Batley starting sets on or around their 10m line as Leigh continued to press and kick well.

A penalty helped the Bulldogs down the hill and to a repeat set – only for fullback Luke Hooley to knock-on when fielding the drop-out. But it was Leigh who continued to out muscle their opponents and the challenges of the pitch.

And after 20 minutes of stout defence, it was the Centurions who broke the second-half deadlock.

Loose foward John Asiata beat the Bulldogs defence and passed inside to half back Joe Mellor, who sprinted 20m to score the half's opening try. Inu converted and the score moved on to 0-34 in favour of the visitors.

Two minutes later, Ben Reynolds reached the Batley line and was tackled as he crossed it. But as he went to ground he offloaded to Joe Wardle to his left who had the simplest tryscoring job of the night – falling forward to ground the ball for four points.

Inu's conversion was almost a formality and Leigh led 0-40.

As the game entered it's last 10 minutes, Batley conceded a scrum in their own 10m. Leigh went to the short side to Inu, who ran through to score the try he had been denied twice in the opening minutes.

He goaled his own conversion and the score approached the half-century at 0-46.

Ipape duly brought up the 50 when he broke from dummy half again, ran through the marker defence and rounded the full back to run 40 metres and score under the post. Inu's conversion made it 0-52 with just three minutes to go.

The Bulldogs defence still had tiime to hold up Nene McDonald in the corner though, not that Leigh stopped knocking on the Batley door. But time ran out and the final hooter sounded without another score.

Leigh had planted their flag on the Batley hill in style, and set mouths watering for their 1895 Cup Final showdown with league leaders Featherstone  in just under two weeks.

Full Time: 0-52

Half Time: 0-28

Score progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 0-12, 0-16, 0-18, 0-22, 0-26, 0-28. HT. 0-32, 0-34, 0-38, 0-40, 0-44, 0-46, 0-52. FT.

Batley Bulldogs: Hooley; Johnson, Hodson, Buchanan, Campbell; White, Gilmore; Gledhill, Kaye, Reilly, Manning, Senior, Blake. Substitutes: Brown, Whiteley, Ward, Meadows.

Leigh Centurions: Aekins; Inu (T, 6G), MacDonald, Chamberlain, Brand (3T); Reynolds, Mellor (T); Sidlow, Smith (T), Amone, Wardle (T), Stone, Asiata. Substitutes: O'Donnel, Nakubuwai, Ioane, Ipape (2T).

Referee: Ben Thaler.

Venue: The Fox's Biscuit Stadium, Batley.




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Posted by RLFANS News Hound on Mon 16th May 2022 9:54 PM | Views : 4306 | Replies : 0 | BACK TO STORIES
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