Rating each side’s Super League experience: Leigh Centurions

Over the years, Leigh Centurions have been right on the edge of the Super League, and have cracked it a few times.

Back in 1994, they missed the cut off after finishing bottom of the Championship. They only managed two wins all season, against St Helens and Bradford.

Rise back to the top tier

It was only in 2004, that they managed to achieve promotion to the Super League. They did it after beating Whitehaven 32-16 in the Championship Grand Final.

Whitehaven were winning 15-14 with four minutes to go, then Neil Turley kicked a drop-goal to force extra time. Turley then scored a try and Ben Cooper added another to seal victory. Leigh sealed it with two more drop goals, one from Tommy Martyn and another from Paul Rowley. Turley also scored a penalty.

Once again in the top division, Leigh only managed two wins all season, against London and Wakefield.

They did make the Quarter Finals of the Challenge Cup, but they were beaten 46-14 by Hull FC.

As a result of the licencing period, Leigh would not have the chance to compete for the Super League again for a number of years.

New Stadium and early struggles

Leigh Centurions moved to Leigh Sports Village ahead of the 2009 season. Credit: Richard Long/News Images

In 2009, they moved away from Hilton Park, their home since 1947. They moved to a new stadium, Leigh Sports Village, just off the East Lancashire Road.

It was a struggle there in their first season, as they finished second bottom in the Championship. They only avoided relegation after Gateshead Thunder were wound up.

However, they soon settled, and qualified for the playoffs in each of the next four seasons. They then won the League Leaders Shield in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Super 8s

Paul Rowley led Leigh Centurions to two League Leaders titles and two Northern Rail Cups. Credit: News Images

In 2015 and 2016, they entered the Super 8s.

2015 saw them only pick up one win and finish bottom of the pile. That was a 52-16 win against Sheffield Eagles. A hat-trick from Ryan Brierley and other efforts from Andrew Dixon, Tommy Goulden, Micky Higham, Liam Kay, Fuifui Moimoi and Greg McNally sealed the win.

Head Coach Paul Rowley had also resigned after this disappointment. Neil Jukes replaced him as Head Coach.

Then in 2016, the Centurions managed to finish second in the Super 8s, and book their place in the Super League for the 2017 season. They did it without the unpredictability of the Million Pound Game.

They only lost one game, a 37-12 defeat against Leeds Rhinos at Headingley.

Back in the Super League

Leigh fared better in the Super League this time. They beat St Helens, Warrington and Wigan, but still finished 11th, meaning they had to go back into the Middle 8s.

They won their last two games against Halifax and London, but they still had to go into the Million Pound Game. Leigh would get home advantage against Catalans Dragons.

The Centurions led at half time after a try from Matty Dawson, but a strong second half performance from the Dragons saw them win 26-10, sending Leigh back to the Championship.

Leigh missed the playoffs in 2018, but qualified in 2019. Although they were beaten against Featherstone Rovers.

The Future

Leigh had started the 2020 season well, and were considered the early pacesetters before the season was suspended.

Ahead of the season, Leigh made 20 signings to try and get their place back in the Super League. This has been a trait of the club, especially in the last few years, a high turnover of players.

If they can find that settled core of players and build around them, then they can certainly get back up to the Super League.

Rating 

4/10- It has always been their desire, but once they have got to the Super League, they haven’t really been able to make their mark at the highest level.

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