In terms of their finishing positions in the 2015 Kingstone Press Championship, this game is fourth v first. In the Qualifiers it’s eighth v sixth as Halifax host Leigh Centurions at The Shay. Halifax scored a healthy amount of points against Salford Red Devils last weekend, 28 in total, but their downfall was in defence which leaked 50. Leigh got their first triumph in the Qualifiers when they convincingly beat Sheffield Eagles.
Last Time Out
Halifax welcomed Salford Red Devils to The Shay. An entertaining game was in store as 14 tries were scored, five to the hosts and nine to the visitors. Salford full-back Niall Evalds notched a quick-fire double in the opening quarter before Halifax hit back through Dane Manning. The half was rather evenly matched up until two tries for the visitors, one to Greg Johnson and the other to Ben Jones-Bishop, made the scoreline – 22-6 to Salford – look a bit lopsided. After the restart, Halifax and Salford exchanged tries at a quick rate. Firstly, Scott Murrell got Halifax rolling as he took full advantage of Evalds dropping a bomb adjacent to his own goal-line. The young Salford star soon made amends, though. All of four minutes after Murrell got Halifax’s first try of the second period, Evalds scooted to the Halifax whitewash after picking up a loose ball. Halifax then recorded two tries without reply as they got back to within four points of their counterparts. James Saltonstall and Jacob Fairbank both touched down – it was game on to say the least! But, a bit of composure was lacking when the hosts got into good territory and their errors proved costly as the Red Devils capitalised by breaking downfield. Salford wingers Jones-Bishop and Johnson scored two tries apiece in the second half, completing their respective hat-tricks in the process. Adam Tangata, one of Halifax’s impressive forwards, scored a consolation try with not long to go in the match.
Leigh Centurions proved too strong for Sheffield Eagles at the Leigh Sports Village in round four of the Qualifiers. A final score of 52-16 was thoroughly deserved and Centurions coach Paul Rowley will be happy that his side have got on the board in the middle eights. At one time in the first half, Leigh were down to 12 men after Martyn Ridyard was sent to the sin-bin. The first score of the afternoon went to Micky Higham, an ever-present in the Leigh side, on 11 minutes. James Davey replied for the visitors over ten minutes later when Ridyard was off the field. Ridyard came back on to the field just in time to convert Andrew Dixon’s go-ahead try. Ryan Brierley ended the half with two tries to his name as the Centurions went into the sheds with a 24-10 lead, following a last minute four-pointer from Eagles winger Scott Turner. Liam Kay and Fuifui Moimoi both got on to the scoresheet in the second half, the Centurions dominated in nearly every part of the field and they were helped by Sheffield’s poor ball retention. Sam Smeaton scored an interception try on the hour mark for the visitors to give them a shred of comfort but when Brierley completed his hat-trick, Leigh were wanting to rack up 50 points and send a statement of intent out to their fellow Qualifiers sides. Sheffield prop forward Tony Tonks was sin-binned for a high tackle in the 67th minute, which made his side’s task to stop the Centurions a little tougher. In the final ten minutes, converted tries by Tommy Goulden and Gregg McNally brought the hosts to 50 points and more.
Micky Higham was a class above anybody on the Leigh Sports Village pitch last Sunday. The hooker was bought by Leigh in midseason for £50,000 from Warrington Wolves, and his performance last week is exactly why they invested so much. There was no other recognised hooker on the bench and Higham, who did the full 80 minutes, played superb throughout. Whether former Fax dummy-half Bob Beswick returns to the squad for Sunday remains to be seen. For Halifax, they had Ben Kaye starting at hooker and Ryan Maneely on bench. Kaye has been playing in the Championship for a few years now, while this is Maneely’s first season away from Warrington, where he started his career.
Leigh will be eying up a place in the Million Pound Game after their poor start to the Qualifiers. With games against Championship sides coming up in the next two rounds, they’ve got a great chance to add to their first victory. Halifax know if they grab a win on Sunday, and Sheffield lose to Salford, they will be up into seventh place. However, Fax are underdogs even on home turf this weekend but their expansive play will remain – Leigh by 14
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