Opposition Overview: Leigh Centurions

Picture by Jack Wray/Super League Europe/via SWpix.com - 06/03/2021 - Super League Season 2021 Pre Season Location Video Shoot and Stills Photography Portraits. Leigh Centurions - Blake Wallace

After securing back to back league wins for the first time in 2021 with a 38-12 win over Salford Red Devils, it is a quick turnaround for the Rhinos in the Betfred Super League as they take on the newly promoted Leigh Centurions in front of 4000 fans at Emerald Headingley this Thursday night, kick off 7:45pm.

Ahead of the match, here is a look at our opponents:

2021 so far..

Since returning to Super League for the first time in four years, it’s been a tough start for Leigh Centurions. After twelve rounds, they are anchored to the bottom of the Super League table with no points, although they have come close to winning games on a couple of occasions.

With a whole host of signings entering the club following the announcement that Leigh would be the twelfth Super League team for 2021, former coach John Duffy looked to have a side that could compete after a thrilling round one clash with Wigan. Held at Emerald Headingley, the Centurions took an 18-0 lead after 25 minutes thanks to tries from Liam Hood, Ben Hellewell and Iain Thornley, but couldn’t hold on as a fightback from Wigan was capped off by a penalty goal from Zak Hardaker as the Warriors took away a 20-18 win.

Heavy defeats to Warrington, Castleford and Salford followed before Leigh pushed St Helens close, although the Champions prevailed in the end by ten points. Huddersfield and Hull KR both reached 40 points in further defeats for the Centurions but a trip to Wakefield at the start of June, following the departure of head coach Duffy, saw the Centurions come so close to a first league win. The visitors led twice in the game but late tries from Wakefield’s Liam Kay and Mason Lino ended the contest at the Mobile Rocket Stadium.

Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com – 19/06/2021 – Rugby League – Betfred Super League Round 10 – Leigh Centurions v Hull FC – Leigh Sports Village, Leigh , England – Hull FC’s Jordan Johnstone is tackled by Leigh Centurions’ Nathan Mason

A late revival against the league leaders Catalans followed, although the Dragons did enough to secure a 36-30 result, before Hull FC put the Centurions to the sword with a twelve try performance (Andre Savelio scoring a hat trick). Warrington then followed that defeat up a week later with another 40 point loss.

2021 Squad

Last Four Fixtures

Key Player

Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com – 23/04/2021 – Rugby League – Betfred Super League Round 4 – Salford Red Devils v Leigh Centurions – AJ Bell Stadium, Salford, England – Leigh Centurions’ Ryan Brierley

One of Leigh’s players to watch out for on Thursday night is full back Ryan Brierley, who comes into this week’s game with four tries in his last four games.

The former Huddersfield Giants, Toronto Wolfpack and Hull KR player signed with Leigh ahead of this season having made his professional debut with the club back in 2012. After four years, he moved to the Giants but in 2018 decided to rejoin former coach Paul Rowley at Toronto. Following the Wolfpack’s promotion in 2019, he signed for Hull KR but was unable to make an impression, prompting his move back to Leigh.

So far in 2021, Brierley has been one of the Centurions’ stand out players on the field and is one of their main attacking threats. The Scotland international has six tries and 18 goals so far this season, as well as four try assists, and alongside Joe Mellor, who is also having a good season, they have ensured Leigh have been able to score points. He also marked 150 games for Leigh in the defeat to Warrington last week.

The Captain

Leigh captain Liam Hood returned to the club in 2019 and now captains the side in its third Super League season. The hooker started his career with the Rhinos, coming through the club’s academy system to debut in 2012. Scoring on his debut in a 36-14 win over Castleford, Hood went on to score tries in his next two games against Warrington and Salford but after a defeat to Huddersfield in round nine, he fell out of favour to Shaun Lunt and only played one more game that season.

He was released at the end of 2012 and signed with Hunslet but was soon back on the Super League scene with Salford Red Devils. Signed from 2015, Hood only spent a season at the Red Devils, making 22 appearances, before going to Australia to join Burdekin Roosters. He was back a year later to help Leigh earn promotion to Super League for 2017 and was one of their top performers that season as they were relegated again.

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com – 26/03/2021 – Rugby League – Betfred Super League – Leigh Centurions v Wigan Warriors – Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds, England – Liam Hood

Although he had a spell at Widnes Vikings following Leigh’s relegation, the hooker made his return to the Centurions in 2020 and played in all of their opening games before the Championship was suspended due to Covid. With Leigh given a Super League spot for 2021, Hood was named club captain and so far has played in all but one game under John Duffy and Kurt Haggerty.

Returning Faces

Across both Leeds and Leigh’s squads, four players have worn both Rhinos and Centurions jerseys in their careers. For Leigh, captain Liam Hood came through the Rhinos Academy and debuted for the club in 2012, making five appearances and scoring three tries. He made his debut for Leigh in 2016 and helped the club to promotion that season through the qualifiers. After two years with the club, Hood had a brief stint with Widnes in 2019 but soon returned to Leigh to lead them in their third Super League season.

Elsewhere in Leigh’s squad, forwards Jordan Thompson and Nate Peteru have also worn blue and amber in more recent years. Peteru was signed from NRL side Gold Coast Titans ahead of the 2018 campaign and over two seasons, played 32 games. He joined Leigh this season from Hull KR, having played eight times under Tony Smith. Thompson joined the Rhinos on a short term deal in 2018 from Leigh and helped Leeds survive that season’s Qualifiers campaign. Debuting in a 38-22 defeat to Salford, the two time Challenge Cup winner played six times as the Rhinos kept their Super League status. He was released at the end of the season and signed for his former club Hull FC but was soon back at the Centurions in 2019.

Nathaniel Peteru

The only Rhino in the current squad that has played for Leigh is Bodene Thompson. With nine years of NRL experience under his belt, he moved to England in 2018 to join Leigh Centurions before a switch to Warrington Wolves later that season, where he played in the Grand Final at Old Trafford. He helped Toronto Wolfpack to promotion to Super League in 2019, featuring in 21 games for the Canadian side, before bolstering Leeds’ forward pack in 2020.

Last Game vs Leeds at Emerald Headingley

When Leigh had last been promoted to Super League in 2017, the Rhinos welcomed the Centurions in round 17 and had to fight for the full eighty minutes to win. Two tries from man of the match Adam Cuthbertson helped the Rhinos to a 22-14 result, with Tom Briscoe and Joel Moon also crossing the whitewash.

More Information

For fans attending Thursday’s match, here is your guide to ensure your safe return to Emerald Headingley.