Leigh Centurions 26 Batley Bulldogs 4
IT may have lacked the panache of Halifax or Toulouse but Centurions’ victory on Monday night lifted them top of the Championship.
The win also meant that Ian Millward’s side secured full points from their testing Easter programme.
In the final analysis, results like this win league titles and earn play-off spots.
Leigh’s five-try victory was hard fought with Batley steadfast in their efforts and proving organised opposition.
Star of the show was dual contract centre Matty Blythe, who scored a first-half hat-trick that helped build a 14-4 half-time advantage.
Centurions got away to a fine opening, scoring in the very first minute.
That came after Martyn Ridyard's low kick was tapped on by Steve Maden and Blythe touched down.
Mick Nanyn failed with the kick from wide out and Centurions were then forced to take evasive action when good play down the Batey left released Ian Preece only for Stuart Donlan to slow him down just long enough for Blythe to complete the tackle.
Batley then squandered another good attacking position when James Taylor showed great desire to drop on the ball.
It was then Leigh’s turn to step up the attacking heat.
Dave McConnell darted for the line only to be stopped and then Ricky Bibey also went close.
Nanyn was held up over the try line before Centurions passed across to the right where Ridyard sent Blythe over in the 16th minute.
Once more, Nanyn was wide with the kick and the well marshalled Bulldogs gave their all with Byron Smith in particular impressing in the middle of the field and Chris Buttery also proving a handful.
The game went into a holding pattern before winger Mark Barlow spilled an innocuous John Duffy kick to give Leigh possession in the visitors’ 20m after 31 minutes. Once again it was Blythe that provided the cutting edge off the final pass of Donlan.
Nanyn goaled and Bulldogs went into attack mode with former Huddersfield man James Martin brushing through a tackle after a peach of a pass from Paul Handforth, who missed the conversion, and it was 14-4 at the interval.
The first 20 minutes of the second half was a laboured affair although Leigh had to withstand some big pressure before adding two tries in three minutes which all but settled the contest.
Just after the hour, Centurions grabbed their breakthrough when Chris Hill muscled over from close range from a Dave McConnell pass.
With Nanyn injured a couple of minutes before and Ridyard off the pitch, skipper Robbie Paul converted before John Duffy turned back the clock, skipping over for an individual score for Paul to get his second goal.
Centurions could have added further tries from the impressive Tommy Goulden, workaholic David Armitstead and Duffy with only good defence holding the Centurions before the visitors finished with 12 men after David Tootill was sin-binned for a high tackle.
Leigh: Donlan; Alstead, Blythe, Nanyn, Maden; Ridyard, Paul; Hill, McConnell, Bibey, Goulden, Taylor, McCarthy. Subs: Armitstead, Duffy, Morrison, Mitchell.
Batley: Campbell, Barlow, Griffin, Maun, Preece; Handforth, Wood; Hesketh, Lythe, Smith, Buttery, Walton, T Gallagher. Subs: J Gallagher, Lindsay, Martin, Tootill.