11th December 2017, 09:50 | Leigh
Betfred Super League: 11th; Relegated via £1m Game
Ladbrokes Challenge Cup: Fifth Round
Top Scorer: Matty Dawson (14)
After knocking on the Super League door for the past few seasons, Leigh Centurions finally returned to the promised land after a strong Super 8s Qualifiers campaign, however 2017 will go down as a disappointing year as they failed to keep hold of their top level status.
Despite a promising start to the campaign, Neil Jukes’ men lost traction as the season went on and they suffered relegation following the defeat to Catalans Dragons in the £1m Game.
Three wins from their first six Super League games (over St Helens, Huddersfield Giants and Warrington Wolves) saw the Centurions as high as fifth in the table during mid-March.
But that was followed by a disastrous run of eight straight league defeats which saw them slip to 11th in the table following Magic Weekend.
That streak also saw a fifth round defeat to Hull Kingston Rovers, in what was a huge banana-skin tie in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
Wins at Hull FC and at home to fierce local rivals Wigan Warriors were two highlights of the campaign, but those victories were surrounded by six further Super League defeats which condemned the Centurions to the Qualifiers.
The Qualifiers campaign started brightly as they cruised past Championship side Featherstone Rovers but then faced defeat again to Hull KR, in a real Super 8s four-pointer clash.
An impressive 30-6 victory over Catalans Dragons in Perpignan followed but back-to-back losses against Widnes Vikings and Warrington Wolves left automatic Super League safety out of their hands.
Finishing the Qualifiers with big wins over Halifax and London Broncos wasn’t enough although they did secure fourth in the table to guarantee home advantage in the £1m Game against Catalans Dragons.
A miserable day at the Leigh Sports Village was summed up with an unconvincing performance against the French side, as they fell to a 10-26 defeat which confirmed their relegation back to the second tier.
After looking so strong in the 2016 Qualifiers, Jukes will be disappointed that his side couldn’t find the same consistency in Super League.
The 41-year-old has been retained as coach by Leigh chairman Derek Beaumont and will be aiming to return to the top tier but faces stiff competition up against the likes of Toronto Wolfpack in the 2018 Championship season.
In the absence of Micky Higham through injury for much of the campaign, experienced forward Hansen captained Leigh for a number of games in 2017.
The former New Zealand and Samoan international won both the Players’ Player of the Year and Coaches’ Player of the Year awards and has committed to Leigh for the forthcoming season.
There’s nothing better than getting one over on your local rivals, especially when you hand them out an absolute thrashing.
Both teams were low on confidence coming into the clash after poor runs of results but Leigh stepped up their game as they scored eight tries in the 50-34 win.
Chip and chase at its finest.
The half-back popped the ball over the Salford line before collecting and charging to the line as Leigh ended their regular Super League season on a high with a 25-0 win over Salford.