Leigh Centurions 10 Catalans Dragons 26.

IF this was the last ever Million Pound game, then it’s no consolation to Leigh Centurions.

Mounting criticism of the annual promotion and relegation scrap could lead to RL bosses scrapping the controversial concept.

For now, though Leigh join Bradford Bulls and Hull KR as the beaten teams in this grim future decider.

Neil Jukes’ side conceded 22 unanswered points after winger James Clare’s sixth try in five games put them 10-6 ahead after 44 minutes.

It was a sad capitulation brought about by a one-sided penalty count and Dragons’ growing belief they could keep the Super League flame alive in Perpignan.

Leigh felt themselves hard done by with some of referee Ben Thaler’s decisions. Ultimately though they had 30 other games this year to avoid their future coming down to the last 40 minutes.

"We got ourselves in this position regardless of the concept,” confirmed 37-year-old skipper Micky Higham who could have played his last competitive match.

"Whether you agree with it (MPG) or not, you make sure you are not in this game.

"Over the year we have been close but sometimes close is not good enough in Super League. It has got to be 80 minutes.

"Those games when you lose by a try or a point come back to bite you.”

Indeed, this game proved a microcosm of Leigh’s season; good in parts but ultimately found wanting.

Even though his job is safe to have another unwanted tilt at the Championship, head coach Neil Jukes, cut a dejected figure after the game.

“The scenario and uncertainty around the game is ridiculous,” he said. “We talk a lot about player welfare and mental health but that comes around job security and finance.

“This is just completely hypocritical for what we stand for. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get relegated but ultimately people will lose jobs and that’s sickening.

“There were some warriors in that changing room, strong men, who were crying. That’s what it means.

“I have been a coach of a dominant Championship team and a Super League coach of a team that has struggled to get in the 8’s. And on recruitment and building your club, you are no better off in either.

“Having maybe had one up, one down, instead what we have done is stop four clubs from growing.”

Matty Dawson’s seventh minute try and Ben Reynolds’ conversion put Leigh 6-0 in front with Iain Thornley replying for Steve McNamara’s side six minutes before the break.

When Clare restored the six points cushion early in the second half, Leigh looked in good shape.

But as the penalties mounted in their favour Catalans hit back. On loan Wigan full-back Lewis Tierney grabbed the first of his try brace after 50 minutes before the first of Luke Walsh’s four penalties tied the scores.

The Australian’s second after 57 minutes gave Dragons a lead for the first time.

Tierney struck again just before the hour with Walsh converting and then adding a third penalty with 13 minutes remaining to make it 20-10.

Home thoughts had already turned to last season’s great escape by neighbours Salford at Hull KR.

But there was no Greg Johnson or Gareth O’Brien lurking in the shadows only the boot of Walsh edging the visitors to safety and a 78th minute Fouad Yaha try to condemn Leigh into the game’s second tier once more.

“We gave away more penalties in one half then we did in two games together,” sighed Jukes.

“On the back of it they were punching holes in us and trying to get a high completion rate.

“The harder we tried with the ball, the worse we got.”

Match stats: Leigh: Hampshire; Dawson, Crooks, Fleming, Clare; Reynolds, Drinkwater; Maria, Higham, Tickle, Paterson, Stewart, Burr; substitutes: Hood, Hopkins, Hansen, Richards.

Tries Dawson (7), Clare (44).

Goals: Reynolds (1).

Catalans: Tierney; Duport, Thornley, Wiliame, Yaha; Walsh, Myler; Moa, Aiton, Bousquet, Anderson, Horo, Bird; substitutes: Garcia, Baitieri, Albert, Margalet.

Tries: Thornley (34), Tierney (50, 59), Yaha (78).

Goals: Walsh (5).

Referee: Ben Thaler.

Half-time: 6-4.

Attendance: 6,888.