Catalans’ comeback thwarts Leigh’s quest for first Super League win
Leigh Centurions are finding out the hard way just how tight the margins are between success and failure in Super League. Since opting to remove their coach, John Duffy, 10 days ago, the Centurions have delivered back-to-back performances against Wakefield and Catalans which have been commendable to say the least.
But as we approach the midway point of the regular season, there is little doubt that it is victories, not performances, which Leigh require if they are to extend their time in Super League into a second successive season in 2022. Ten games in, and 10 consecutive defeats. That statistic alone does little to inspire confidence in terms of survival, but all is not yet lost for Leigh on several counts, you feel.
First, the nature of this latest performance, against a Catalans side who are now top of the table, suggested a side that have plenty of ability to turn around their position at the foot of the Super League table. With Salford and Wakefield still within relative touching distance, if Leigh can maintain this level of performance against sides around them in the table, their first victory is almost certainly around the corner.
However, the ruthless nature of Super League, and the difference between the top flight and the Championship, was underlined here in 20 minutes which turned the game on its head. Catalans were trailing 18-12 at half-time but whatever Steve McNamara said at the break had the desired effect. “That first half was a disaster for us,” he said afterwards. “Our performances have been consistent throughout the season up until today, but this was a reality check.”
McNamara and Catalans were thankful for a decisive third quarter, in which the Dragons scored four unanswered tries to take the game away from Leigh. Samisoni Langi, Tom Davies, Benjamin Jullien and a majestic solo try from Arthur Mourgue made it 36-18 in Catalans favour, but even after being outplayed so comprehensively and barely touching the ball for a prolonged period, Leigh staged a fantastic comeback.
“I’d rather talk about Leigh than my own team – they were tremendous,” McNamara said of them. Ben Hellewell and Ryan Brierley both scored in quick succession, and suddenly, with five minutes remaining, only six points separated the sides. However, once again, narrow margins were the Centurions’ undoing, as they spurned two glorious opportunities in the final minutes to enable Catalans to hang on and move above St Helens in the table.
“To claw our way back and set up a finish was a great positive for us,” their interim coach, Kurt Haggerty, said. “There was togetherness there and team spirit. There’s lots of good things to take forward; I’m delighted with the effort they put in for one another.” Earlier, Leigh were much the better of the two sides, with tries from Matty Gee, Ben Reynolds and Brendan Elliot putting them in control.
Catalans responded with tries from Josh Drinkwater and James Maloney to reduce the gap to 18-12 at half-time, and from there, they took control. However, they may have a prolonged wait for their next fixture, after four more positive Covid-19 tests in the Leeds Rhinos squad leaves them highly unlikely to be able to field a team for next Saturday’s trip to Perpignan to face the Dragons.
However, McNamara said: “We’re expecting the game to be on. Clubs have got to find a way to fulfil fixtures however they can, and I’m sure if Leeds can, then they will.” With several cases already confirmed earlier in the week though, the table-topping Dragons may be waiting a while to play again, it seems.