Too easy for Leigh as Fax struggle for form

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Leigh 44

Halifax 14

MOST coaches will say, rightly, they are not obsessed with results in pre-season.

But there are some things they definitely do not want at this time of year; and a 40-point loss against a team expected to be among their rivals for the Co-operative Championship would be somewhere near the top of the list.

Which is why Halifax coach Karl Harrison will have plenty of food for thought after his side were not just beaten but embarrassed at Leigh Sports Village.

First things first: The Centurions, coached by Harrison’s former Fax front row colleague Paul Rowley, were certainly impressive, and in stand off Martyn Ridyard had the game’s outstanding individual.

But the visitors made their life easier than it should have been on an afternoon memorable only for basic errors, mistimed and misplaced passes and a distinct lack of teamwork.

There were positives – new centre signing Steve Tyrer taking his try tally to six in three games, some promising moments from stand off Paul Handforth and more industry from pack trio Iain Morrison, Dane Manning and Craig Ashall – but in truth there was little else that could be classed as a highlight.

Fax had major problems in the middle of the field, where Leigh completely outmuscled them, and on their right side, where the combinations in both attack and defence looked a long way short of what Harrison would like.

Both sides had made half breaks in their opening sets; Ridyard for Leigh, and Ashall for Fax.

But it was the Centurions who took the lead in only the second minute, crisp right to left passing giving Dean McGilvary just enough room to sneak in at the corner.

The conversion was missed, and Fax’s response was immediate, Tyrer finding touch with the kick off and then taking full back Paul White’s pass to cross wide on the left in the next set of possession for his fifth try in a little over two games for his new club.

Tyrer’s conversion drifted wide to leave the scores tied at 4-4, but the home side regained the lead on 11 minutes when the familiar figure of Bob Beswick plunged over by the posts as Sean Penkywicz and Wayne Reittie underwent running repairs for head cuts on the sidelines.

Ridyard converted for 10-4 and although Handforth forced a drop out almost immediately with a neat kick, it was the home side who looked the sharper.

That point was proved on quarter time, Ridyard sliding over on the right after an awful fumble from Worrincy had given Leigh an attacking foothold in the Fax 40.

The stand off kicked the goal for a 16-4 lead, but Fax got out of trouble with a raking kick from Handforth and a great chase from Anthony Thackeray pinning Leigh in their own 20.

The visitors promptly forced an error, White was held up close to the right hand corner and Ashall forced his way over the top of a couple of defenders to score.

Tyrer missed again to leave the scoreboard at 16-8, but it took a combination of fine defence and luck to prevent Leigh full back Gregg McNally scoring after an error from Jim Gannon had gifted the home side possession and position.

Fax were making far too many mistakes for anything approaching comfort and when they won another penalty, John Duffy sprang clear to send the supporting Tommy Goulden over by the posts, Ridyard converting for 22-8.

That was how it stayed until half time, and although Fax started the second period with considerably more energy it still needed desperate defence to stop Rob Parker from grounding the ball seven minutes in.

But they simply had no answer when the ball went to Leigh’s right flank; Stuart Littler stepping inside the cover to touchdown and make it 26-8 with half an hour remaining.

And when Littler scored again, Ridyard converting, the Centurions led 32-8 with a quarter of the game to go.

Fax closed the gap to 32-14 when Tyrer pounced on Handforth’s kick and landed the conversion from the sideline, but Leigh quickly stretched clear again when centre Mat Gardner stretched over for a try created, almost inevitably, by Ridyard.

Ryan Brierley’s score five minutes from time took Leigh past the 40-point barrier, Ridyard converting for 44-14, to round off a frustrating afternoon.

Leigh: Gregg McNally; Steve Maden, Stuart Littler, Matt Gardner, Dean McGilvray; Martyn Ridyard, John Duffy; Ricky Bibey, Bob Beswick, Rob Parker, Tommy Goulden, Craig Briscoe, Sam Hopkins. Subs: Ryan Brierley, Michael Worrincy, Anthony Nicholson, Adam Clay, Tommy Gallagher.

Halifax: Paul White; Wayne Reittie, Steve Tyrer, Ryan Fieldhouse, Rob Worrincy; Paul Handforth, Anthony Thackeray; Iain Morrison, Sean Penkywicz, Adam Robinson, Dane Manning, Joe Chandler, Craig Ashall. Subs: Callum Casey, Jim Gannon, Sean Hesketh, Josh Barlow.

Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington)

Attendance: 1,286