Grady and Johnston spark Fax to win over full-time Leigh

Halifax lit the blue touchpaper on a slow-burning 2018 season with a 38-18 home thumping of Championship promotion favourites Leigh.

The Centurions, relegated from Super League last autumn, now have a one-from-six record, despite a star studded full time squad, bolstered further in midweek by Leeds starlet Jordan Lilley.

For Fax, it was their third win, but by far the most impressive as Richard Marshall’s side, who were 28-0 up at half time after a first half blitz, finally showed signs of honing their attacking threat.

The catalyst was the reintroduction of half back Ben Johnston, with James Woodburn-Hall switched from half back to full back to offer a third passing option, and back rower Shane Grady, missing for the last two games with concussion.

Grady scored three tries and a had hand in two more in an all-action performance while Johnston showcased a lively running game on his return to the team.

Leigh actually looked marginally stronger during the opening minutes, with the speed of their defensive line making metres hard to come by for the home side.

But Halifax hit the front on 13 minutes, Grady hitting Johnston’s pass and breaking Craig Hall’s tackle to score by the posts.

Steve Tyrer converted for a 6-0 lead and the nip and tuck pattern of the early minutes resumed, with Fax indebted to a great chase from Woodburn-Hall to deny a flying Rhys Evans.

But when Johnston split the defence on the half hour and sent Brandon Moore scooting to the posts, Tyrer converted to double the lead and Leigh’s fragile morale seemed to ebb away.

Grady scored his second off a peach of a pass from Simon Grix, Tyrer again on target, before Ben Heaton exploded over the line from close range to score his side’s fourth.

Tyrer’s kick left Fax leading 24-0 and when Hall made a hash of a speculative kick, Grady was on hand to dribble the ball over the line and score, Tyrer inexplicably missing the easiest of all his kicks for a 28-0 half time margin.

Leigh needed some kind of miracle to threaten to outcome of the contest and they made a start when Hall picked off a loose offload and ran away to score, Jordan Lilley converting for 28-6.

Hall was in again on 57 minutes, again direct from a loose ball, this time a lot further upfield, Lilley briefly raising the prospect of the unthinkable at 28-12.

But a try for Tyrer, created brilliantly by Johnston and Grady, pushed the score out to 32-12 and although Evans touched down with 15 minutes remaining, the result was put beyond doubt when Grady set up a great finish from Tyrer, the centre converting his own try.

Halifax: Woodburn-Hall; Saltonstall, Heaton, Tyrer, Sharp; Murrell, Johnston; Springer, Kaye, Murray, Grix, Grady, Fairbank. Subs: Moore, Barber, Jones, Maher

Leigh: Hall; Dawson, Crooks, Mata’utia-Leifi, Evans; Hutchison, Lilley; Richards, Higham, Hansen, Larroyer, B. Thompson, J. Thompson. Subs: Hood, Acton, Patrick, Lovett

Referee: Gareth Hewer