LEIGH Leopards head coach Adrian Lam criticised the decision to send captain John Asiata to the sin bin just 41 seconds into his side's 12-4 Betfred Super League defeat at St Helens.

Asiata was given a yellow card by referee Liam Moore for going low on Sione Mata'utia, reigniting a controversy that was sparked last year when Saints coach Paul Wellens launched a scathing criticism of Asiata's tackle technique.

Lam intimated that referee Moore may have come under pressure to react to the challenge in the context of Wellens' comments, which came in the wake of their Challenge Cup semi-final clash, saying of the tackle: "I think it was just fine.

"I'm a bit frustrated about it but I think the referees were under a bit of pressure after what happened here last year.

"He (Mata'utia) was lying on the ground just waiting for the penalty, and I was like, 'get up', but that's the way the game is going at the moment with these rulings and it is very frustrated to work with."

Zak Hardaker's try hauled Leigh level in a gruelling encounter after Jack Welsby had opened the scoring for Saints, but a second-half try from Tommy Makinson and four points from the boot of Mark Percival saw Saints home.

The night went from bad to worse for Lam who revealed both Asiata - who hobbled off after 15 minutes - and Tom Briscoe had suffered suspected torn calf muscles, while Brad Dwyer was also sin binned late on.

Lam admitted he feared a potential charge for Asiata, adding: "It should never be a charge in 100 years of our sport, but I'm nervous about it.

"I think everyone's nervous about it, I just hope they don't isolate him and pick him out and make an example of him."

Leigh's defeat leaves them without a win in their first two matches of the new season but Lam paid tribute to his side's performance, adding: "I think it was a moral victory for us tonight.

"We had two sin bins in the game. I thought we were on the wrong end of all the decisions. All the 50-50s went against us. I am quite frustrated with the officiating."

Wellens chose his words carefully in relation to the Asiata incident, admitting: "I was a little bit surprised.

"I was told last year that those tackles weren't illegal which I had to accept, and now we know they are illegal, and the decision was made. From my perspective and the team's perspective, we just move on."

Saints' win maintained their unbeaten start to the new season but Wellens was far from satisfied with the overall display, adding: "I thought we were gutsy in periods.

"I never felt like it really got going. We were scrappy at times and the conditions didn't help that.

"I didn't like the way we started the game. I think there was a feeling that it was just going to happen, but teams aren't going to come here to lay down and have their bellies tickled, and we've got to understand that and rise to the challenge.

"I think there were elements of our best tonight, but we have got to do it more consistently."