Hornets 22 - Leigh 72
In the post match speeches, Hornets' Chair Mark Wynn described Leigh as a 'juggernaut'. And we couldn't better that.
Despite a gutsy, never-say-die performance, Hornets' efforts weren't enough to withstand the onslaught when Leigh's turbo-charged steamroller clicked into gear. But for 20 minutes, Hornets held the upper hand,
After just five minutes Paul Crook hoisted a teasing bomb and, as Leigh fullback McNally made a specacular hash of it, Gaz Langley celebrated his return, swooping to score. Crooky the extras: 6-nil.
Hornets continued to test the Leigh defence and when Joe Greenwood made a huge break after 10 minutes, Adam Swift was on hand to take the pass and embark on a mazy, twisting run that tied the Leigh defence in knots; going 40 metres to score a blistering solo try. Crooky the two and, at 12-nil, the travelling hordes from Leigh were reduced to shouting 'offside' at every play the ball.
On 15 minutes the game erupted. Tony Suffolk drove the ball in; Leigh's Sarsfield had a rush of blood and - whilst pinning Suffolk with a hand round the throat - rained punches into his face. This sparked an all-in brawl. Referee Leatherbarrow's response? A craven yellow card for Sarsfield and a puzzling one for Joe Greenwood. Hornets at least got the penalty.
But the brawl did exactly what Leigh hoped it'd do: it broke Hornets' momentum and disrupted their rhythm. Loose handling and back to back penalties put Leigh on the front-foot for the first time in the game and they responded witgh two quick-fire tries: Barlow crashing in from a yard, then Ridyard's break to slot McNally under the black dot. And, from nowhere - almost imperceptibly - Leigh were level at 12-all.
Hornets' response was direct: a good approach set saw Anthony Walker drive in from close range, only to be deemed held-up over the line.
On 25 minutes, another needless penalty (this time for a high-shot) waltzed Leigh downfield, where they worked an extra man on the left for Kay to score: 12-18
No matter, Hornets again took the game back to Leigh: this time John Cookson arriving at speed onto a short ball, but adjudged by Mr Leatherbarrow to have knocked on over the line.
On the half hour came one of those moments that can make or break a game. Dave Llewellyn spotted an opportunity and came ripping out of the line to make an interception, but despite his best efforts, he nudged the ball back into Leigh's hands and they exploited space out wide for Sarsfield to score Ridyard the two off the touchline for 12-24.
With half-time looming, Leigh had a flaccid set going nowhere - only for it to end with Hopkins barreling over the line to score a try out of nothing. Ridyard converting 12-30.
The half ended with Hornets camped under Leigh's posts, but they couldn't find a way through some determined defence. Half time 12-30 - and the Hornets supporters wondering how the hell that happened.
The second half, Leigh were brutally irresistible; a tsunami of high-tempo, high-intensity football that - at times - even had the Hornets fans nodding in grudging acknowledgement.
46 minutes: Armstrong first to react to a speculative kick. 51 minutes: Pitman scoring off a lightning 70 metre attack. 56 minutes: Brierley first to the ball off a Ridyard kick. 60 minutes; McNally launched from 40 metres for another long-range strike. Ridyard flawless with the boot and Hornets reeling at 54-12.
Respite came on 64 minutes. With Leigh put on a team warning for persistent offending round the ruck, Jordan Case came skating through off a short-ball to score. Crooky the extras 18-54.
Sparked into life, Hornets began to play with more purpose. A great break by Adam Swift and Lewis Sheridan unzipped the Leigh defence, but the last pass went to ground in traffic. Leigh countered instantly. A Ridyard chip to the corner, Gaz Langley conceding 12 inches to Armstrong who outreached him to score. Ridyard the two: 18-60
On 72 minutes, Brierley produced an outrageous cut-out pass for Pitman to score by the flag. Ridyard, inevitably, the conversion off the touchline; 18-66.
Despite being on the ropes for most of this game, Hornets were going down swinging and, on 78 minutes, a quick, tight approach set fed Anthony Walker in off a short ball to score. Crooky the extras: 66-22.
But this game had a kick in the nuts right at the death. As the hooter sounded Pitman rounded an exhausted Hornets defence to bring up the 70. Ridyard the two to complete a whirlwind of a game.
There's no doubting Leigh's ambitions to play at the top level, and they've built a team and a club that can mix it with the best - as Leeds will attest. But, like any juggernaut, it costs a fortune to fuel and Hornets simply aren't at that level. But you can't buy team spirit and Ian Talbot's team has that in abundance. Indeed, If I were Paul Rowley this morning I'd be thinking "If Hornets can put 22 points through us, what would a really good side do?"