Lokomotiv Moscow came off the rails when they found themselves playing out of their class in last night's Challenge Cup third round tie. To be realistic, the idea of inviting the Russian champions into the cup ceased to look quite as good once they came out of the hat with opposition as powerful as Leigh, who were only one game away from winning a place in Super League last season.
Although there were passages of play when they showed that they had improved, even since their most recent visit last spring, they still found themselves heavily punished for their defensive naïvety and the result was a demoralising flow of points.
Moscow showed some promising early signs, especially with a break from their winger, Andrei Postnikov, and a crafty kick from their scrum-half, Denis Nikolski. After seven minutes, however, Leigh capitalised on a handling error and Alan Hadcroft got around the outside of a defence who were slow to react. Three minutes later, Paul Rowley went over from dummy half, but Lokomotiv rallied to play some good rugby.
Their new signing, Robert Iliassov, recently voted the best player from a developing rugby league nation, was a strong influence, running at Leigh with purpose, but his best break ended with Denis Mechov failing to hold a pass and Nikolski also failed with a penalty attempt.
Leigh were biding their time, but when the floodgates opened, they stayed open for the rest of the half. Dave Halstead began it by breaking through a series of tackles and Dale Cardoza and the close-season signing, Damien Munro, both scored two tries and Lee Sanderson landed five goals as Leigh raced clear as Moscow found it hard to contain them as the ground announcer did to get his tongue round their names.
Sean Richardson started the second half in the same vein, pulling out of some weary tackling to score, with yet another new arrival, Sonny Nickle following suit to bring up the half-century.
Lokomotiv then had one of their intermittent periods of pressure, but Mechov wasted their two best opportunities with nervous handling. They were spared too much further punishment as the Leigh side became careless, but Dale Holdstock went over and Rowley got his second.
It was a chastening experience for Moscow but not one for which they will necessarily be any the worse. Given a kinder draw, they and other Russian clubs might yet make their mark, but this was too much, too soon.
Leigh: Alstead, Andrews, Munro, Cardoza, Hadcroft, Weisner, Sanderson, Ball, Rowley, Bradbury, Richardson, Blackwood, Bristow. Substitutes: Holdstock, Hamilton, Duffy, Nickle.
Moscow: Romanov, Postnikov, Gavriline, V Ovtchinnikov, Mechov, Nechaev, Nikolski, Sokolov, R Ovtchinnikov, Lysenkov, Iliassov, Doumalkine, Bojoukov. Substitutes: Logounov, Izmailov, Koltykhov, Jivorykine.
Referee: S Nicholson of Whitehaven
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