Twelve-man Sheffield Eagles crashed to a heavy 58-18 defeat to league leaders Leigh Centurions at Leigh Sports Village.
The Eagles were looking to close the gap on Leigh to just two points but their hopes evaporated instantly when Cory Aston was sent off for an alleged dangerous tackle on Leigh’s Adam Higson.
Aston had been recalled to the side after a neck problem, but lasted just three minutes after getting his marching orders from official Michael Woodhead, as the Eagles slumped to only their fifth defeat of the season.
With the extra man Leigh wasted no time in taking a firm stranglehold on proceedings with two early quick-fire tries. Firstly Greg Worthington dived over, then Gregg McNally added a second score. Martin Ridyard converted both tries.
After a brief spell of pressure from the Eagles where they threatened the Centurions line, Leigh ran in a third try when Brierley intercepted and ran 80 metres to score. Ridyard converted.
Despite being a man down Eagles did enjoy good field position but several handling errors prevented any impact on the scoreline. The errors were punished after another intercept, with Higson adding a fourth try for Leigh. Ridyard converted.
Aston’s side didn’t chuck the towel in and, after a timely interception from Sam Smeaton, he sprinted 90 metres to get the Eagles on the scoreboard. Briggs missed the conversion.
Liam Kay extinguished any faint hopes of a comeback with a try, but the Eagles came out fighting in the second half and Dave Petersen grabbed his first try for the club, after a lightning break from dummy half. Briggs missed the conversion.
McNally quickly dampened Eagles’ spirits with two tries in as many minutes to complete his hat-trick, with Ridyard adding the extras. The hosts were now threatening to run riot with Kay getting his second try before the hour mark as the Eagles began to toil. Ridyard converted.
Duane Straugheir brought some respectability back to the scoreline when he powered over to score under pressure for the Eagles, with Briggs converting. However, Leigh responded with Kay going over for his hat-trick from a McNally pass, the latter leaving the field on a stretcher after a tackle from Smeaton, and Tom Armstrong added a tenth try with Ridyard converting both.
Misi Taulapapa had the last word for Sheffield with a fourth try for the Eagles after a pass from Smeaton, but it proved to be a day to forget for Aston’s side.
Leigh: McNally; Higson, Worthington, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, MoiMoi,Beswick, Emmitt, Dixon, Goulden, Hock. Interchange: Higham, Hopkins, Spencer, Wilkes.
Scorers: Tries: Worthington (5), McNally (10, 49, 51), Brierley (15), Higson (30), Kay (39, 56, 69), Armstrong (73) Goals: Ridyard 9/10
Eagles: Laulu-Togagae; Turner, Yere, Smeaton, Worrincy, Briggs, Aston, Thorpe, Carlile, Stringer, Knowles, Davies, Taulapapa. Interchange: Petersen, Straugheir, Battye, Tonks.
Scorers: Tries: Smeaton (33), Petersen (44), Straugheir (60), Taulapapa (80) Goals: Briggs 1/4
Referee: Michael Woodhead