Alker's class tells against Centurions

Leigh 6 - Salford 32
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The Independent Online

The difference between a side who have adapted to Super League and one still struggling to do so was all too apparent as last year's promoted team proved far too classy for this year's.

The difference between a side who have adapted to Super League and one still struggling to do so was all too apparent as last year's promoted team proved far too classy for this year's.

For all Leigh's commitment, Salford, in the shape of players like Luke Robinson and Malcolm Alker, had just too much quality for the Centurions.

Big holes had started to appear in the Leigh defence by the time Gareth Haggerty went through for the fifth Salford try, closely followed by Ian Sibbit, twisting his way over for the sixth. Leigh are now on their own at the bottom of the table without a point and it is going to take a mighty effort to lift them.

The home side came into this game with the encouragement of a decent if ultimately unrewarded performance at Warrington last week behind them. They looked lively enough in the early stages, especially when Mark Leafa's strong run took them close to the Salford line and Rob Smyth just failed to hang on to a difficult pass from John Duffy.

The Salford coach, Karl Harrison, believes that he has much more pace in his team these days, and their first try bore out that theory. Anthony Stewart fielded a kick from Jason Ferris deep in his own half and got past the halfway line. From the next tackle, Robinson fed his former Wigan team-mate, David Hodgson, and Leigh had no cover on the flank to keep him out.

It took a terrific tackle from Karl Fitzpatrick to prevent Smyth making a similar long-distance raid for Leigh, for whom Ian Knott went close on their next attack.

Leigh spent a fair amount of time battering the Salford line, but it was the visitors who always looked distinctly more incisive, as when Robinson sent Haggerty on the charge. Leigh survived that, but had no answer when Alker was held up near the line and Cliff Beverley's inside pass sent Mark Shipway over, with Chris Charles adding the goal for a 10-point lead.

Leigh had nothing to show for all their effort and enthusiasm, and, a minute before half-time, they were caught out again by Salford's sharp cutting edge.

This time it was Charles who made the break through midfield, and Fitzpatrick was on his shoulder to complete a straightforward try.

Leigh's Richard Moore, already warned for a high tackle, was placed on report at the start of the second half on suspicion of raising a knee. Much more positive for the home side was the way they went to the other end after Salford's Stuart Littler had been penalised for going high and Jason Kent's pass put Phil Jones over for a try which Neil Turley converted.

Suddenly it was Salford under pressure, penned in their own territory and conceding too many penalties. Once more, though, it was their extra class that got them out of trouble, Alker making the break and Sibbit giving the final pass to Kevin McGuiness.

Leigh: Cooper, Wilshire, Jones, Jackson, Smyth, Kent, Duffy, Stapleton, Ferris, McCurrie, Leafa, Wilkes, Knott. Substitutes: Turley, Moore, Rowley, King.

Salford: Fitzpatrick, Hodgson, Littler, McGuiness, Stewart, Beverley, Robinson, Coley, Alker, Rutgerson, Sibbit, Jonkers, Charles. Substitutes: Haggerty, Johnson, Brocklehurst, Shipway.

Referee: R Laughton (Barnsley).

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