Leigh 24 Saints 16

Saints coach Keiron Cunningham
Saints coach Keiron Cunningham

Saints crashed to defeat at newly-promoted Leigh Centurions as they recorded their first victory since winning promotion to Betfred Super League with a hard-fought win.

After defeats against Castleford and Leeds, Neil Jukes’ side showed tremendous character to upset their illustrious rivals and hung on in front of 9,012 fans.

And it was a former St Helens player - Leigh captain Micky Higham - who grabbed the crucial try 13 minutes from the end.

In trademark style he scooted 20 metres from dummy-half to score by the posts and with Ben Reynolds adding the conversion, the Centurions led 22-10.

Leigh still had to hold off a Saints fightback in the closing stages but they could only muster an Alex Walmsley try with nine minutes remaining.

Former Saints forward Atelea Vea scored against his old club in the sixth minute to give Leigh an impressive start, powering over from close range, with Reynolds kicking the conversion.

The home side doubled their lead moments later as Higham turned the ball back inside for Gareth Hock who barged in from 10 metres. Reynolds again added the goal.

Fourteen minutes before half-time, Jamie Acton ran a great angle from close range to expose a huge gap in the Saints defensive line to score by the posts. Reynolds was on target with the goal and at 18-0, Leigh were starting to dream of their first Super League win since 2005.

But Saints finished the half strongly with Adam Swift taking Mark Percival’s pass to the corner and touching down six minutes before the break but the latter was unable to convert from the touchline.

With the first half almost up, Reynolds saw a long-range penalty attempt drift wide and it stayed 18-4.

Kieron Cunningham’s side started the second half looking much sharper and they enjoyed plenty of possession but were continually thwarted by the Leigh defence.

Substitute James Roby scooted over in the 54th minute before Higham crucially did the same for the hosts, with Reynolds kicking his fourth goal, meaning Walmsley’s late effort was nothing more than a consolation.

Leigh ended the game with 12 men following the last-minute sin-binning of James Green for a shoulder charge.