Smith: Leigh set the pace

Respect for Leigh: Paul Smith

Respect for Leigh: Paul Smith

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HALIFAX back rower Paul Smith has acknowledged unbeaten Leigh’s status as the Co-operative Championship’s outstanding early-season performers.

But the veteran forward also insisted Fax - who currently sit eight points adrift of Ian Millward’s table-toppers at the foot of the league leader - do have the ability to turn the tables and inflict their first defeat of the year when the clubs clash at the Shay on Sunday.

“They are the form team, there is no doubt about that,” said Smith, who played a handful of games for the Centurions last year after leaving Swinton mid-season and turned down a subsequent contract offer from Millward to head back to Fax.

“They have been playing well every week and they deserve to be where they are.

“They started last year very well but suffered badly with injuries.

“But they have a good set up and a plan to improve year-on-year.

“This season, they want to win the competition.

“Ian’s a very professional, very serious, coach who spends a lot of time working on pin-pointing the opposition’s weak points.

“From our point of view, if we play like we have at times this year we know we are going to have serious problems.

“Then again, we know we have the players to beat them, it’s a case of getting our performance right on the day.”

The chances of Fax’s “performance” being of the required standard rose considerably after Saturday night’s Northern Rail Cup quarter final win in Toulouse, with Matt Calland’s side posting a 36-26 win to end a two match losing streak.

And Smith will be hoping for an easier build up to Sunday’s game after joining teammate Bob Beswick on a late dash across Europe to make the kick off in the South of France.

“Obviously the rest of the team left on Thursday but neither me or Bob could get there because of work commitments,” said Smith, who teaches at a Manchester secondary school.

“We drove down to Gatwick after work on Friday, got up at 3am on Saturday morning to catch a 6am flight, spent most of the day asleep in the hotel and then played 60 minutes each off the bench.

“It certainly wasn’t ideal, but it was the only way.

“It was a big game that we really needed to win and I was just pleased we got the right result in the end.”

Former Siddal junior Ben Kavanagh has become the first player to be handed a Super League contract by Widnes.

The Vikings, who were the first club to be handed a three-year Super League licence from 2012, have given the Halifax-born Kavanagh a three-year deal.

Kavanagh, 23, initially joined Widnes on loan from Wigan in 2008 and has made 93 appearances, the last 72 consecutively.

“Ben has successfully delivered potential into performance from academy to Championship level on a consistent, durable basis,” said Vikings director of rugby Paul Cullen.

“We have no doubt that he can be challenged to repeat this at Super League level.”

Kavanagh said: “I’m really enjoying myself at Widnes and that’s why I’ve signed this extended deal.”