Full-back Caleb Aekins marked his Challenge Cup debut with a hat-trick to secure Leigh’s impressive victory over Widnes and a fifth round tie against Bradford Bulls.

The former Penrith Panther and Canberra Raider notched a first half double and completed his treble with a stunning solo effort after 54 minutes.

Leigh Journal:

Centurions added another four tries, including a couple of final pass Aekins’ assists, in an expert dismantling of the unbeaten Championship leaders.

They also played without five-try Nene Macdonald, a late withdrawal that handed a debut to local lad, Luis Roberts.

Leigh Journal: Victory also guaranteed a place in the five-team 1895 Cup sponsored by owner Derek Beaumont’s AB Sundecks company.

A play-off will take place between two of the five to find the final club to complete the semi-final line-up.

The winners will go through to a final at Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane ground and as a curtain raiser to the Challenge Cup final on May 28.

Leigh Journal:

A minute’s silence to remember Des Drummond was impeccably observed by both sets of fans.

And the subsequent two minutes applause was still going on when Aekins scored the game’s first try. Ben Reynolds-on his 100th Centurions’ appearance- booted the conversion.

Leigh Journal:

Off the back of a soft penalty conceded by Kenny Baker on Adam Sidlow, Aekins notched a second try after 10 minutes in almost identical fashion.

Leigh switched their point of attack for try number three after 17 minutes. From Aekins’ assist, Ed Chamberlain slipped Ste Tyrer’s grasp and the centre’s momentum took him over for a try on his 100th career appearance. Reynold improved to make it 16-0.

Widnes didn’t catch a decent glimpse of the home line until the second quarter. When they did Reynolds defused Matty Smith’s kick, took a quick 20-metres re-start and sent Joe Mellor on a long distance run to the whitewash.

Leigh Journal:

Brad Holroyd’s crossfield chase wasn’t in vain and ex Viking Mellor spilled the ball. Holroyd then accepted Joe Lyons’ left foot chip to touch down for the visitors’ first try.

A derby wouldn’t be a derby without a flare-up and the half ended with tempers frayed. Mark Ioane was sin binned for a professional foul at a play-the-ball.

Leigh Journal:

But it was Adam Sidlow’s big hit on Baker that prompted close quarter disagreements resulting in two lectures for captains Mellor and Smith.

Despite their one-man deficit, Centurions grabbed the crucial first try of the second half after 44 minutes. Mellor was the pass provider for Keanan Brand after the half-back’s kick rebounded back into his hands off a defender.

Leigh Journal:

Reynolds, whose status as kicker could be under threat from ne recruit Krisnan Inu, goaled from the touchline to make it 22-4.

And it was game over before the hour as Aekins completed his hat-trick. Catching Smith’s up and under, virtually on his own 10 metres line, the Kiwi star broke the defensive line and returned the ball 90 metres.

Leigh Journal:

His one arm salute in front of the Widnes fans as he approached the try line resulted in several missiles being thrown on the pitch.

Sam Stone and Jy Hitchcox added further tries while Reynolds finished with five goals.

Leigh Journal:

Teams: Leigh: Aekins; Hitchcox, Roberts, Chamberlain, Brand: Reynolds, Mellor; Sidlow, Smith, Amone, Stone, Wardle, Asiata; subs all used: Ioane, Hingano, Jones, Ipape.

Tries: Aekins (3), Chamberlain, Brand, Stone, Hitchcox.

Goals: Reynolds 4.

Widnes: Roby; Brookes, Fleming, Tyrer, Holroyd; Smith, Lyons; Dupree, Fozard, Baker, Davies, Wilde, Brown; subs (all used): Doro, Grady, Lawton, Hulme.

Try: Holroyd.

Referee: James Child.

Attendance: 2,567