YORK City Knights’ Betfred Championship play-off campaign came to an end as they were hammered 70-10 by top-flight-bound Leigh Centurions.

Leigh ran in 12 tries to continue their seemingly unstoppable return to Betfred Super League and book a place in the Million Game Pound Game, which they will enter as overwhelming favourites, as they did here at the Leigh Sports Village.

Meaning no disrespect to the Knights, the gulf in class between the two sides was seismic. Leigh dominated the physical battle, found offloads almost at will and showed attacking flair throughout.

And, in truth, so they should have done, with a rumoured £1.5million budget compared to York’s £350,000.

With former NRL and Super League players throughout their side, Leigh look ready made for the top flight and heading into the division with arguably their strongest ever squad during the summer era.

While York harbour similar ambitions in the long-term, they remain a long way off at present. But the signs of progress are evident.

A first ever Championship semi-final is the highlight of a successful 2022, which unfortunately ended with a lack of numbers.

An injury-hit York were able to name just 17 players in their preliminary squad, meaning there was no surprises about the starting line-up.

Matty Marsh replaced Jamie Ellis, one of 10 injured players, in the halves, with Myles Harrison taking his spot at full-back. Jacob Ogden, Ronan Dixon and Marcus Stock replaced Ben Barnard, Levi Edwards and Danny Kirmond.

Head coach James Ford pledged that his side would stick to the aggressive attacking tactics seen in the 26-24 quarter-final win at Halifax Panthers.

That again meant edges jamming in, from which York were caught out inside the opening three minutes as Ed Chamberlain rode AJ Towse’s tackle and handed off for ex-Australia international Blake Ferguson to drive past Harrison in the corner.

Krisnan Inu scored the conversion, his first of 11 successful kicks from 12 attempts.

York continued to chance their arm and Marsh was twice close to finding a breakthrough from kick-and-chases.

But Leigh went on to double their advantage as the slippery Joe Mellor scythed through the middle and fed Sam Stone to drive under the posts.

Despite the widening gap, it was hard to overly criticise York’s defending. For the Centurions’ third try, James Glover read Leigh’s play but was just out-muscled by ex-Papua New Guinea international Nene Macdonald, who raced clear to the line.

Four more tries would follow in the half’s final dozen minutes. First, Stone’s dancing feet took him around Chris Clarkson before the supporting Caleb Aekins supplied the finish.

Some silky hands down the short side then saw Stone put Chamberlain in the clear.

The floodgates were well and truly open by now. Ferguson’s inside run and lay-off pass sent interchange Edwin Ipape over the whitewash.

And the division’s player of the year contender had his second when collecting a short restart and sprinting through the York line and to the corner for a wonderful solo try.

The tries continued to follow in the second half, which Leigh entered 40-0 up. A high-quality shift to the right saw Chamberlain put Ferguson over for his second.

Joe Wardle then hit a great line from Lachlan Lam’s pass and found the space to give Macdonald his brace.

Ferguson then claimed his hat-trick a handful of minutes later. A lovely show of hands to the right from their own half saw Stone go into clear space before he allowed his Australian team-mate a personal treble.

Just after the hour mark, back-to-back penalties have Leigh all the field position they needed for an 11th straight try, scored by Kai O’Donnell down the left flank.

Even trailing 64-0 and with the game long since over as a contest, York remained competitive and battled until the final whistle, just had their loyal fans had sung from minute one to 80.

Marsh finished a clever move to the left corner and some charitable applause from the home fans followed.

On the back of a drop out, Aekins scored his second through a Lachlan Lam reverse kick but York would manage to finish with the dignity of the game’s last try.

After Leigh made a mess of the restart, the Knights capitalised on their territory when Tom Inman’s short ball put Marcus Stock over the line.

Liam Harris converted from the latter but not the former of the away side’s tries.

Leigh: Aekins, Inu, Chamberlain, Macdonald, Ferguson, Lam, Mellor, Sidlow, Smith, Amone, Wardle, Stone, Asiata.

Subs (all used): Reynolds, Ipape, O’Donnell, Nakubuwai.

Tries: Ferguson (3’, 45’, 52’), Stone (13’), Macdonald (19’, 49’), Aekins (28’, 71’), Chamberlain (33’), Ipape (36’, 38’), O’Donnell (63’)

Goals: Inu (11/12)

York: Harrison, Brown, Glover, Ogden, Towse, Harris, Marsh, Teanby, Jubb, Dixon, Clarkson, Antrobus, Thompson.

Subs (all used): Stock, Michael, Porter, Inman.

Tries: Marsh (66’), Stock (73’)

Goals: Harris (1/2)

York’s star man: Matty Marsh. Showed attacking invention in the first half and scored York’s first try.

Referee: Marcus Griffiths

Attendance: 3,329

Penalties/Six-agains: 8-3

Goal-line drop-outs forced: 1-0

Errors: 5-4