MUCH-changed Leigh East battled to the very end in testing weather at Oldham St Annes only to come up short.

The 16-24 defeat was a blow but with four players on debut, there was much to admire in their performance.

St Annes took an early stranglehold on the game with two tries in the first eighteen minutes while East had Andrew Gregson sin-binned for a high tackle after nine minutes.

A swift attack saw Adam Holland get through and score, and the skipper also converted to leave East 12-6 adrift at the break.

St Annes went further in front just five minutes into the new half with a converted try.

In the rain, both teams came up with some quality rugby with debutants Ben Wharton, Kieron Prescott and particularly half-back Kieron Wilkinson having their moments while Will Ludlow and Andy Ball plugged away.

That spirit was rewarded with the next try as East came down the left with Wilkinson and Louis Else combining.

Although the intended pass from Else was palmed down, quick thinking from Wilkinson saw the ball bounce and another debutant, Danny Richardson scored.

St Annes increased their advantage to 14 points with another converted try.

The final score went East’s way when Holland kicked down the middle from a scrum. Kieron Prescott chased to touch down with Holland adding his second goal, but it wasn’t quite enough.