Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
Super League newcomers Leigh face a long, hard season in the top flight after suffering a comprehensive opening 30-12 home defeat by Huddersfield.
The Centurions were outplayed from first whistle to last and their misery was compounded by the dismissal of second row forward Oliver Wilkes, who became the first man to be shown the red card in Super League X.
Leigh, who gained promotion at the fifth attempt, only got the floodlights working 10 minutes before the scheduled kick-off.
And life was hardly any better on the field as Huddersfield, with two years? experience of Super League behind them, handed out a few footballing lessons.
Huddersfield?s hero was Chris Thorman, who picked up from where he left off in his previous match for them two and a half years ago.
The Geordie half-back was man of the match in Huddersfield?s Northern Ford Premiership Grand Final win over Leigh in October 2002 and, after two seasons with London Broncos and Parramatta, he was back to torment the luckless Centurions.
He bemused the home defence with a clever array of handling skills and kicked seven goals from eight attempts to clinch another man-of-the-match award.
With nine players making their debuts, it was always going to take time for Leigh to gel and their lack of cohesion was obvious in the way the Giants prized open their defence almost at will.
Papua New Guinean Stanley Gene, playing in the centre, scored the first try after only nine minutes, cutting inside from Thorman?s neat pass that opened up a yawning gap and finishing with a trademark somersault.
Giants scrum-half Sean Penkywicz also found the home defence obliging on 21 minutes when he took Brad Drew?s pass and brushed off the attempted challenge of Craig Stapleton.
Thorman, making full use of the wind at his back, converted both tries and put over a couple of penalties to stretch his side?s lead to 16-2 by half-time.
Leigh?s only first-half response was a penalty goal from Neil Turley and they ended the half a man short following the sin-binning of Jason Kent for persistent lying on in the tackle.
They were still down to 12 men when Huddersfield extended their lead early in the second half through second rower Stuart Jones.
The Giants were struggling to get out of their own half but full-back Turley failed to gather Drew?s hopeful punt in the face of a challenge from Penkywicz and Jones followed up to hack the ball forward and score.
Thorman?s fifth goal made it 22-2 and there was no way back for the home side when Wilkes was sent off on 51 minutes for a high tackle on Huddersfield substitute Eorl Crabtree.
Thorman kicked a third penalty before substitute half-back Paul White demonstrated his potential with a superb solo try, scooting away from dummy half and winning the chase for his own kick.
The vociferous home crowd at last had something to cheer in the last six minutes when former Huddersfield forward Matt Sturm followed up skipper Jason Ferris? grubber kick to touch down for Leigh?s first-ever Super League try.
John Wilshere kicked the conversion and winger Rob Smyth added a second try in injury time to give his side further consolation.
Leigh (2) 12. Tries: Sturm, Govin. Goals: Turley, Wilshere. Huddersfield (16) 30. Tries: Gene, Penkywicz, Jones, White. Goals: Thorman 7. Att: 4,043
Leigh: Turley, Wilshere, Jones, Cooper, Govin, Kent, Duffy, Moore, Rowley, McCurrie, Wilkes, Leafa, Ferris. Replacements: Jackson, Stapleton, King, Sturm.
Huddersfield: Donlan, O'Hare, Evans, Gene, St Hilaire, Thorman, Penkywicz, Jackson, Drew, Gannon, Nero, Jones, Roarty. Replacements: Reilly, White, Crabtree, Smith.