Leigh are back in Super League after seeing off the brave run of Batley in the Betfred Championship Grand Final in front of a 7,233 crowd at Leigh Sports Village.
The star-studded Centurions were the hottest of favourites after winning all but one of their 27 matches of the regular season and, as expected, they had too much pace and power for their part-time opponents as they eased to a 44-12 victory.
Winger Krisnan Inu led the points spree with two tries and six goals from seven attempts as Leigh, relegated from Super League at the end of 2021, bounced back at the first attempt in former Wigan boss Adrian Lam’s first season in charge.
It completed a hat-trick of trophies for the Centurions, who lifted the 1895 Cup as well as the League Leaders Shield.
Lam’s men racked up 1,306 points, which included 100 in a match against York, and totalled 116 in two fixtures with the Bulldogs – but they met some stern initial resistance this time from Craig Lingard’s men.
Batley survived an early scare when impressive second rower Sam Stone strode through their defence, only to be brought back for obstruction. However, they gifted their opponents the opening try in the 15th minute as half-back Lachlan Lam swooped on a dropped ball by winger Dale Morton 30 metres from his own line.
Inu kicked the first of his six conversions and, as Leigh turned up the pressure, both Ed Chamberlain and Edwin Ipape were held up over the line and Inu fumbled the ball as a try beckoned.
Their gritty defence gave the 1,000 Batley fans plenty to cheer but there was a feeling of inevitability in the last 10 minutes of the first half as a tenuous 6-0 lead became a comfortable 18-0 advantage to the hosts.
🍾 A little insight into the behind the scenes celebrations from last night.
— Leigh Centurions (@LeighCenturions) October 3, 2022
Former Huddersfield second rower Joe Wardle squeezed a pass out of the tackle for Inu to go over and then crashed over himself courtesy of a short ball from the influential Lam.
Any prospect of a fightback from Batley was snuffed out within a minute of the second half when full-back Caleb Aekins sprinted 80 metres for a solo try after collecting Tom Gilmore’s kick and shortly afterwards put half-back Joe Mellor over for another in the 250th match of his career.
Unmarked Papua New Guinea international Nene MacDonald took the Centurions’ try tally to six but Batley gained some reward for their perseverance on the hour when Morton was the first to reach Gilmore’s kick to the Leigh line and Gilmore converted the try.
Normal service was quickly resumed, with Inu swatting off defenders to score his second try and substitute Kai O’Donnell went over for the Centurions’ eighth.
Well beaten but never bowed, Batley fought to the end and they had the satisfaction of completing the scoring when prop Adam Gledhill forced his way over from close range and Gilmore kicked his second conversion.