NEIL Jukes insists he’s still to nail down his 17 to face Toronto Wolfpack in Leigh’s Betfred Championship opener a week on Sunday, writes Trevor Baxter.

But Centurions’ head coach has a clearer picture after a second encouraging performance in five days against Super League opposition.

In danger of being blitzed by Saints' electrifying start, inspired by mercurial Aussie Ben Barba, the visitors rallied from 8-0 down to lead 20-12 early in the second period.

Two quickfire tries eventually tipped the balance St Helens’ way but there were plenty of reasons to be optimistic again for Jukes after his side’s previous narrow defeat to Wigan.

“I thought it was going to be a long night,” admitted Jukes. “But we found a way to get up the other end.

“The work ethic has been brilliant from day one. To go in at half-time leading showed the character against a good, strong St Helens side.

“I’m really pleased we didn’t pick up any injuries and really pleased everyone has had a good opportunity; young and old, experienced and inexperienced to get battle hardened.

“While we haven’t picked up a win I am really pleased by what we have done pre-season.”

Asked if his first Championship selection was rubber stamped Jukes responded: “Not at all. There will be a couple of tough ones.

“Our starting line-up was something I was looking at but even then there were potential ones that could yet change.”

Saints fans may have marvelled at Barba’s first-half contribution but the scoreboard showed Centurions with a two-points lead.

Such an outcome seemed unlikely after the first 13 minutes.

Barba assisted for Jonny Lomax’s second minute touchdown after Jamie Acton lost possession from kick-off and then waltzed over 11 minutes later for a brilliant finish.

Mark Percival and Matty Smith missed simple conversion attempts on a rare, winter windless night.

Leigh’s response was to register 10 unanswered points after the arrival of Liam Hood from the bench.

The Scottish international dived over from Craig Hall’s offload after 21 minutes before Kevin Larroyer crashed through the home cover from Drew Hutchison’s pass.

Brilliant hand and footwork by Barba saw him regain Saints' lead on the half hour though Percival missed with a touchline conversion.

Leigh’s H-men, Hall and Hutchison, however, were full of running and they linked up with Peter Mata’utia to send over ex-Saint, Jack Owens, after 36 minutes. Reynolds was off target for a second time but Leigh led 14-12.

Anything Barba could do, Hall was his equal.

So, when Hood guided a low, angled kick towards the Saints try line, the full-back slid in to ground before converting his own try.

By now both sides were rotating their substitutes but Leigh were good value for their advantage.

However, two tries in eight minutes and Saints’ discovery of a goal kicker turned the match on its head again.

Firstly, Mark Percival scythed through Leigh’s right edge and timed his pass to perfection to send over super sub Danny Richardson.

The talented half back duly kicked the conversion to reduce Leigh’s lead to two points.

Just before the hour Lomax sent in Zeb Taia for what proved to be the match winning try. Richardson doubled his advantage to complete the scoring.

Saints coach Justin Holbrook said: “It was a good tough hit out.

“Leigh are going to be hard to beat. They are a Super League side in the Championship."

Match stats:

St Helens: Barba; Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace; Lomax, Smith; Amor, Roby, L Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, Wilkin; substitutes: Swift, Fages, Walmsley, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Knowles, Richardson, Lees, Ashworth, Spedding, Bentley, Costello.

Tries: Lomax (2), Barba (16, 34), Richardson (50), Taia (59).

Goals: Percival 0/2; Smith 0/1, Richardson 2/2.

Leigh Centurions: Hall; Dawson, Crooks, Mata’utia, Owens, Reynolds, Hutchison, Hansen, Mortimer, Acton, Larroyer, B Thompson, J Thompson. Substitutes: Hood, Patrick, Lovett, Mason, Richards, Gregson, Cunningham, Blagborough, Bergal, Dezaria.

Tries: Hood (21), Larroyer (30), Owens (40), Hall (42).

Goals: Reynolds 1/3, Hall 1/1.

Referee: Phil Bentham.

Half-time: 12-14.

Attendance: 3298.