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 - Junior Sa'u
Leeds Rhinos are aiming to turn their form in the Betfred Super League around this Friday when Richard Agar’s side travel to Leigh Sports Village to face Leigh Centurions, who remain winless in 2021, kick off 8pm.
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 eighteen 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. Defeats to Warrington, Catalans and Hull FC followed before a trip to Emerald Headingley saw the Centurions continue their losing streak; Jack Broadbent scoring four tries in a 48-18 win for the Rhinos.
Kurt Heggarty’s side have only played twice since that defeat to loss to Leeds due to postponed fixtures. They were back on the field exactly a month after losing to the Rhinos when the Centurions travelled to the DW Stadium to face Wigan; Umyla Hanley scoring a hat trick in a 50-6 win for the home side. Seven days later, they pushed Hull KR close on home soil in a 34-28 defeat, thanks to two tries apiece for Adam Sidlow and Junior Sa’u.
Last Four Fixtures
Over the last week, Leigh have bolstered their squad for the remainder of the 2021 campaign and 2022. By allowing Nate Peteru and Nathan Peats go out on loan to Huddersfield Giants, and Jack Ashworth coming in the opposite direction, the club opened up two overseas quota spots that they filled with NRL duo Sam Stone and Jai Whitbread.
Stone, who is the son of former Huddersfield coach Rick Stone, debuted for Newcastle Knights in 2017 but has spent the last three season with Gold Coast Titans. The second rower played in nine games last season, including the final six games that saw the Titans win five consecutive matches. He has also represented Malta internationally. Prop Whitbread also featured nine times for the Titans in 2020, coming off the bench in all of his appearances last season. A product of the South Tweed Bears junior club, he made his NRL debut in round 18 of the 2018 season.
Leigh also added Championship talent Jack Logan to bolster their back line. Logan originally came through Hull FC’s academy and played over 40 times in black and white over six seasons. He signed for Batley Bulldogs in 2021 after a spell at Doncaster but is back in Super League with the Centurions.
Since taking over from John Duffy back in 2021, Leigh Centurions’ interim head coach Kurt Heggarty’s fortunes haven’t improved.
Heggarty played for Leigh twice during his playing career, which spanned seven years. His first spell at the club in 2009 saw the forward make a handful of appearances before he had a year at Blackpool Panthers. Signing for Widnes in 2011, he helped the Vikings earn promotion to Super League in 2012 before moving back down into the Championship to play for Barrow Raiders.
In 2014, he was back at the Centurions and over the next two seasons, he made over 40 appearances and helped the club lift the Championship League Leaders Shield in both 2014 and 2015. His final season came in 2016, when he completed the Championship season with Bradford Bulls before retiring for playing. He also represented Ireland between 2012 and 2013 and played in the World Cup.
In terms of coaching, Heggarty took up coaching Pilkington Recs while he was at Barrow and coached over 100 games during a three year spell, helping them earn promotion from Division 3 to Premier Division. In 2017, as he had retired from playing, Heggarty joined the backroom staff at Toronto Wolfpack as an assistant coach before joining Duffy at the Centurions for the 2021 Super League season.
Across both Leeds and Leigh’s squads, three 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 has also worn blue and amber in more recent years. 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.
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 Leigh Sports Village
A Liam Sutcliffe drop goal and a second half penalty proved the difference between Leeds and Leigh at the Leigh Sports Village as the Rhinos opened their account for 2017.
The Rhinos fell behind early on when Leigh moved the ball quickly along the back line and created space for Matty Dawson to score in the corner before Adam Cuthbertson, Jimmy Keinhorst and Ryan Hall scored tries for the Rhinos.
Tickets for Leigh Centurions v Leeds Rhinos are now on sale. Tickets can be purchased over the phone on 0371 423 1315 (Monday to Friday 10.30am – 3.30pm) or online at tickets.therhinos.co.uk. Please be aware that the ticket office at Emerald Headingley Stadium is not currently open on non-match days.