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Leigh Centurions 36, Knights 6
York City Knights player boss Chris Thormantries to break through Leigh’s Rob Parker, left, and James Taylor
YORK City Knights still await their first Co-operative Championship win of the season after losing 36-6 at Leigh Centurions.
Player-coach Chris Thorman’s men were second best in every respect, trailing 26-0 at the break following an opening period which saw York barely complete half a dozen sets.
Brett Turner gave them hope immediately on the resumption but it was one of few positives in another otherwise comprehensive defeat.
The Knights lacked creativity, particularly during the first period when they were content to confine themselves to the centre of the pitch and, although they made a better fist of things in the second half, the damage had already been done and Leigh were in cruise control.
The Knights’ preparation was hardly ideal – the squad only reaching the Leigh Sports Village at 7pm after being caught in traffic problems on the M62.
It looked as if they were still mentally on the bus when Leigh went into the lead after just five minutes.
The Knights had only just escaped a moment before when a kick towards the line dipped over Jordan Tansey’s head and Adam Sullivan had to be alert to collect the bounce.
But Leigh quickly returned to the York line and after Steve Maden and Bob Beswick narrowly failed to dummy their way over, the ball came to Ricky Bibey, who fed it left to John Duffy to crash over.
Thorman’s men had precious little possession in the opening stages as the Centurions pressured with repeated line breaks.
Things soon got worse. Martyn Ridyard’s break opened up the Knights’ defence and, even when he opted to go inside with Maden waiting on the left, Leigh showed their composure and good handling gave Greg McNally the ball with an overlap 20 metres out.
He pinned his ears back and was untouched on his way to diving over in the left corner.
And when Johnny Pownall showed a fantastic turn of foot and got an outstretched hand to touch down James Laithwaite’s precision kick into the same corner, York were 14 points down with just the opening quarter gone.
That became 20 when Beswick’s clever reverse kick was taken smartly by Ridyard, who faced no opposition in going under the posts and it began to look more and more like a rout.
Smothered in possession by tight Leigh defence, York were unable to establish any kind of platform with the home side completely in command.
Then Maden profited from another break through the heart of the Knights defence and produced a superb off-load left to McNally, leaving the full-back the simplest of tasks to find Pownall, who sprinted home.
Half-time could not come quickly enough.
It brought a change of fortune straight away. In York’s first set after the break, Thorman sent a regulation kick on the last tackle high into the Leigh half.
It looked straightforward for McNally, but inexplicably he missed it entirely and Turner was able to gather in full stride and give the Knights a glimmer of hope.
They produced their best period of the match but scruffy play, not least a poor kick from Thorman on 52 minutes as his men threatened the Leigh line, extinguished promising opportunities.
Matt Garside was held up on the hour mark after sticking his head down on a low driving run.
But normal service was resumed on 66 minutes when Bibey, seeing the Knights were short of numbers on the left a few metres out, popped a pass to Matt Gardner to score.
There was more spirit from the Knights and Ben Hellewell was judged to have been forced into touch as time ebbed away, but Leigh still were able to underline their dominance, and Pownall to collect his hat-trick in the 78th minute.
Leigh Centurions: McNally, Maden, Littler, Gardner, Pownall, Ridyard, Duffy, Bibey, Beswick, Parker, Briscoe, Laithwaite, Taylor.
Subs (all used): Brierley, Hopkins, Nicholson, Gallagher.
Tries: Duffy 5; McNally 15; Pownall 19, 33, 78; Ridyard 25; Gardner 66.
Conversions: Ridyard 5, 25, 33, 78.
Sent off: None.
Knights: Tansey 6, Bush 5, Garside 5, Elliott 5, Hellewell 5, Ford 5, Thorman 5, Sullivan 5, Lee 5, Benson 5, Houston 5, Haughey 5, Aldous 6.
Subs (all used): Turner 6, Sutton 5, Freer 6, Broughton 5.
Tries: Turner 41.
Conversions: Thorman 41.
Sent off: None.
Man of the match: Jordan Tansey – kept running and one of few creative outlets for York.
Referee: Jamie Leahy (Batley).
Match rating: Back to the drawing board for Thorman after York were second best in all respects.