Back-to-back defeats for Saints as Leigh go marching on


There was T’Pau, Michael ‘Bully Boy’ Smith and a special birthday all in attendance at Leigh Sports Village on Friday night, but it was the Leopards who provided the spark and took the headlines as they beat the World Champions in a second-half spectacle.

Tries from Josh Charnley, Zak Hardaker and on-loan Wigan man Joe Shorrocks were the difference as Leigh made their extra man count following Matty Lees seeing yellow late in the day.

The win was a famous one for Leigh which was celebrated greatly by the players and coaching staff along with owner and birthday boy Derek Beaumont who joined the joyous players on the pitch following the final hooter.

It was a relentless start from the World Champions who kicked off with a penalty goal in the opening stages before tries from Jonny Lomax and Jon Bennison put Saints 12-0 to the good.

The latter was Bennison’s first try of the season as he helped extend the lead just before Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook joined the action from the interchange bench for his 450th career appearance.

But it was from that moment when Adrian Lam’s men kicked into gear and started to test the suspension-hampered Saints defence.

Zak Hardaker had a couple of memorable bursts forward before Edwin Ipape was looking dangerous if it wasn’t for a loose pass. But Leigh were growing into the contest and as the half-time hooter sounded, there was looking like only one team who would go over next.

The second period started in similar fashion to how the first ended – Leigh dominating the proceedings as they pressed for some points on the board.

And just before the hour mark, the home faithful erupted as Charnley powered over in the left corner to get the Leopards right back into the game. Hardaker missed the resulting conversion, but confidence was growing.

Saints then had a chance of their own when Makinson flew down the right and had the option to go inside to starlet Jack Welsby but instead opted to go alone and to Welsby’s frustration, the winger went into touch.

But from then on, things went from bad to worse for the fourth straight Super League title holders. Matty Lees was sent to the sin bin with 15 minutes left on the clock following a late challenge, leaving his teammates to defend for their lives in the final stages.

And as Ipape drove forward and Charnley was narrowly denied down the left, play switched to the right and winger Tom Briscoe caught the loose ball before zipping into the corner to drag Leigh right back into the game just a minute after the yellow card for Lees.

From that point, despite another missed conversion from Hardaker who bar his kicking, had been excellent all night, it was almost inevitable that Leigh would take something from this match despite being huge underdogs.

Just five minutes later, Hardaker showed his class and put those missed conversions to the back of his head as he spun away from two or three challenges, before taking his time to put the ball down and enjoy the moment in front of the travelling St Helens faithful who all had something to say as he stood there in celebration.

The former Wigan and Leeds man then hit his first conversion of the night to put Leigh 14-12 to the good, but the Leopards weren’t done there.

Like many things they’ve done particularly off the pitch this season, Leigh always look like they have an extra spark in this side, and when Joe Shorrocks burst over with two minutes to go, the on-loan Wigan man was the next to enjoy some savoury scenes in-front of the rival support.

Again, Hardaker was successful right in-front of the sticks and finalised the scoring of Leigh Leopards 20, St Helens 12.

Following the final hooter, Paul Wellens had some honest words for the press who attended his post-match press conference.

He said: “We’ve still got a lot to learn moving forward. We looked disjointed at times tonight and not on the same page and we as a coaching staff need to look at that.

“We looked flustered at times and we need to handle that better. What happened tonight was players playing for themselves and that is a situation that needs changing and we need to get back to the standards we’ve become accustomed too.”

However, in the opposite camp, you’d have done well to wipe the smile off of Adrian Lam’s face who bounced into the room following a huge first home win of the season.

Lam said: “Huge credit goes to the group. I was frustrated at half-time but I knew there would be chances in the second half to score points.

“The entertainment off the pitch was one thing but I think we nailed the rugby on it. When I walk in here, I feel like I’m going to an event and one that people are talking about, so Derek (Beaumont) deserves a lot of praise.

“It’s probably a good time to play Saints given the Australia hangover and a few injuries and suspension but it’s an amazing night for the club, for the town, and hopefully one that brings this group even closer together.”

So a perfect night for Adrian Lam and the town of Leigh who welcomed the World Champions into the Leopards Den and left them crawling out with plenty of questions to be asked.

It’s the first time since August last year that the Saints have lost twice in a row and Paul Wellens will now be tasked with proving just why he was chosen to be Kristian Woof’s successor as he attempts to turn this early form around.

As for the victors, if that performance doesn’t tell you that Leigh Leopards aren’t in Super League this season to make up the numbers then I don’t know what does. There was fight, skill, passion and entertainment both on the pitch and off it, proving exactly why they’re back in Super League and truly making the most of it.

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