LEIGH CENTURIONS 22 CELTIC CRUSADERS 45 By Ian Golden at Hilton Park
Celtic Crusaders entertained the Leigh crowd with a number of excellent tries as they cruised to a fifth successive Welsh win over the Centurions.
The Crusaders did the double over Leigh last year echoing South Wales RLFC's feat 11 years earlier and despite a shaky first half-hour, the Crusaders did well to keep up the winning Welsh record against their Lancashire opponents.
It was the perfect result for the Crusaders as they prepare for their Northern Rail Cup semi-final against Salford City Reds at the Brewery Field next Saturday (kick-off 5.30pm).
From kick-off, Leigh's Welsh international Ian Watson kicked the ball straight into touch giving his fellow countrymen a penalty on the half-way line.
But the chance wasn't taken and it was Watson ironically who got the first points on the board with a successful penalty kick of his own given for holding down in the tackle.
The fourth minute score was almost followed up by a try but Lee Doran, who made a fine run down the wing, was pushed into touch.
The lead should have been doubled on 15 minutes for a similar offence but Watson's attempt went surprisingly wide of the posts.
Crusaders were let off the hook another couple of times in the first half-hour as twice Leigh were close to the line and both times the ball was dropped when they were near to scoring.
Another chance also went begging after Watson kicked a high bomb into the corner but former Centurion Paul Ballard did well to outjump everyone and collect the ball.
Crusaders finally showed their brilliance just before the half-hour as they took the lead following a fine set of six. Damien Quinn kicked a high bomb and like Ballard before him, Luke Dyer outjumped the Leigh players to grab and score.
The Welsh scored another excellent try on 34 minutes. Mark Dalle Cort and Tony Duggan combined with Damien Quinn who sold a beautiful dummy to roll over the line and score.
Crusaders were now running riot. Dyer opened up the Leigh defence, passing to Duggan who went through the back-line like a knife through butter to ground under the sticks. Lennon converted to give the Crusaders a 12-point lead.
But Leigh got back into the game as the half-time hooter sounded when James Taylor found a gap in the Crusaders back-line and waltzed over.
And they made the perfect start to the second when Watson fed Lee Marsh who dived over.
Crusaders struck back almost straight away when Quinn slipped the ball to Duggan for the full-back to score his second.
They followed that up with another fine try as the Welsh side refused to give up possession on the final tackle and after what seemed like an endess amount of passes, Josh Hannay ran through to place the ball under the sticks with Lennon converting.
And on 57 minutes, Mark Dalle Cort fed Paul Ballard who ran through the Leigh defence to score his side's sixth try of the afternoon. Lennon added the extras again.
Leigh regained the ball almost straight and worked their way back upfield and after a well-worked set of six, Lee Doran sprinted over with Ian Mort converting.
Crusaders regained their advanatage straight away. Following an excellent move involving Quinn, Lennon and Dalle Cort, Duggan flicked inside to Ballard for his second. Lennon's goal restored the 22-point gap.
Tony Duggan sealed the win his hat-trick on 74 minutes with Lennon converting.
Lennon then added the first ever drop goal in Celtic Crusaders' three-year history before Leigh, like last year's clash at this ground had the final say with Adam Higson scoring and Mort converting.
Crusaders' coach John Dixon, who named Gareth Dean, Neale Wyatt, Josh Hannay, Paul Ballard and Luke Dyer as his stand out performers, said: "I thought in the first half we struggled with our possession and with the penalty count and it gave Leigh the ascendancy. But we defended pretty well so credit to us there.
"In the second half we flowed, played with style and got the returns. We had some nice touches and scored some high quality tries."
LEIGH: Dennis Moran, Chris Giles, Dale Cunliffe, Mark Roberts, Ian Mort, Lee Marsh, Ian Watson, Mike Morrison, Dave McConnell, Gareth Price, James Taylor, Lee Doran, Mike Wainwright. Subs: Adam Higson, Adam Thomas, Chris Hill, John Cookson.
Tries: Taylor (40), Marsh (45), Doran (60), Higson (78) Goals: Watson 1/4, Mort 2/2
CRUSADERS: Tony Duggan, Paul Ballard, Joah Hannay, Mark Dalle Cort, Luke Dyer, Damien Quinn, Mark Lennon, Jordan James, Neil Budworth, Gareth Dean, Chris Beasley, Darren Mapp, Neale Wyatt. Subs: Ian Webster, Aaron Summers, Jamie I'Anson, David Tangata-Toa.
Tries: Dyer (29), Quinn (34), Duggan (37, 49, 74), Hannay (52), Ballard (57, 64) Goals: Lennon 6/8 Drop goal: Lennon
Referee: Gareth Hewer Half-time: 6-14 Attendance: 2,503Like