Leigh stun Salford Red Devils in qualifiers
Last Updated: 15/08/16 10:43am
Leigh Centurions moved one step closer to realising their Super League dream with a 32-26 victory over Salford Red Devils in the Qualifiers.
Tries from Reni Maitua, Cory Patterson and Gregg McNally and 12 points from the boot of Martyn Ridyard sent the Championship table-toppers into the break with a 20-10 lead, Salford's response coming through tries from the electric Mason Caton-Brown and Niall Evalds.
In a second half in which Salford were denied on four occasions by the video referee, Robert Lui's try brought his side to within a score but further tries from Adam Higson and Matty Dawson sealed victory for Leigh despite late touchdowns from Ben Murdoch-Masila and Caton-Brown.
Salford flew out the blocks putting their opponents under pressure from the first whistle and they thought they had gone over after just two minutes as Caton-Brown dived in at the corner, only to be denied by an outstanding effort in defence from Higson.
The winger stepped up again moments later with another last-ditch tackle to bring down a motoring Lui metres from the line, rescuing a Centurions defensive line that was all at sea.
However, it was Leigh who scored first when Josh Drinkwater's pass sent Maitua over the line, Ridyard adding the further two to the tally.
And they soon struck with a second try when Patterson sliced through a hole in the Red Devils defence and strolled over, leaving his former employers shell-shocked at 12-0 down.
After 14 minutes, Leigh were exposed to the danger of Caton-Brown once again, the winger using acceleration to weave his way round the Centurions defence from inside his own half to dot down - his fourth try in the qualifiers alone - and Gareth O'Brien's kick narrowed the deficit.
The Centurions hit back with another score of their own as the game entered the second quarter. Drinkwater's kick was partially charged down and ricocheted back into his arms, McNally rounding off the move.
Salford kept themselves within touching distance when Evalds capitalised on Gareth O'Brien's vision in the line and pin-point accurate pass to cross in the corner, before a penalty kick from Ridyard sent Leigh into the break 20-10 ahead.
Frustration mounted for Salford, who found themselves denied by the video referee on two occasions in the opening 10 minutes of the second-half, Murdoch-Masila adjudged to have lost his grasp on the ball before grounding while Caton-Brown's boot strayed into touch just inches away from the line.
The Red Devils' perseverance got its just rewards on 53 minutes when Junior Sa'u's break sent Lui over for the score narrowing the gap down to four points.
It proved to be a busy afternoon for the video referee James Child, as he was called into action to review a further two Salford try attempts, both denied as replays showed knock-ons from Sa'u and Josh Griffin.
Ridyard slotted a further penalty attempt in the 69th minute before Higson's flying finish in the corner extended the gap.
Victory was sealed six minutes from time when Willie Tonga's sublime offload off the floor released Dawson for the try.
Salford ensured they had the final say when Murdoch-Masila and Caton-Brown both scored in the dying minutes but it was too little too late as Neil Jukes' side recorded a vital victory.