Batley Bulldogs again showed real heart and deservedly led Leigh Centurions after an excellent opening quarter before the fitness of another full-time team took its toll in the sweltering heat at Fox’s Biscuits Stadium last Sunday.
the side for Johnny Campbell, who had not played since the Boxing Day friendly victory over Dewsbury, and had been given time away from the club for personal reasons.
He marked his return with a 21st minute try which helped Batley into an early 10-0 lead and he could be a useful acquisition for the end of the regular season and Championship Shield games to come.
Leigh were forced to play for 73 minutes with only 12 men following the sending off of Jamie Acton but they still had too much for part timers Batley as the Centurions kept alive their hopes of a top four finish.
The game was played in contrasting conditions to the Challenge Cup tie between the sides four months earlier.
Several inches of snow had to be cleared from the Mount Pleasant pitch on that March afternoon to ensure the game went ahead but last Sunday’s league encounter was played out in glorious sunshine and temperatures in the high 20s.
Batley made the perfect start playing down the slope as Leigh knocked on at the kick off and from the resulting attack, quick hands saw the ball moved out wide for Keenan Tomlinson to score out wide and Patch Walker landed an excellent conversion.
Tom Hemingway was left poleaxed by a late challenge from Acton which resulted in the Bulldogs hooker been stretchered from the field and taken to hospital following lengthy treatment.
Acton was subsequently sent off, leaving Leigh down to 12 men after just seven minutes.
Batley produced another superb attack as they kept the ball alive with a brilliant move left which saw Campbell finish off in the corner and Leigh were left stunned trailing 10-0.
Ilias Bergal was a late call-up into the Leigh side after Rhys Evans pulled up in the pre-match warm-up and he pulled a try back in the 23rd minute when he gathered Craig Hall’s flick pass to cross wide out.
Walker extended Batley’s lead to 12-4 with a penalty goal and the Bulldogs went into half-time with real hope of pulling off a shock win.
However, Leigh clicked into gear after the break as they ran in five unanswered tries.
Ryan Bailey pulled a try back after Ben Reynolds and Ben Crooks had linked but Reynolds was unable to convert.
Leigh captain Harrison Hansen then gathered a Reynolds pass to storm over and Reynolds converted to edge the visitors ahead.
Reynolds gathered his own kick through on the last tackle to score the fourth try and he added the goal to extend his side’s lead to 20-12.
Harrison repeated his first score with a second in the 62nd minute before Bergal completed his brace with a spectacular finish in the final minute.