Before the game the fans of Leigh Centurions and Huddersfield Giants would tell you that the Challenge Cup third round calendar saved the best until last as the two Super League sides came together at the Leigh Sports Village for a game where the pundits were having difficulty to pick the winner.
Both sides found themselves winless at the start of the 2021 season, and this game was about kick-starting their Super League season, as well as progressing through to face St Helens in the Cup quarter finals.
The Giants were slight favourites with the bookies as Ian Watson looked to repay some of the faith showed in him by his chairman, but John Duffy was under the same pressure as he coached his side to both put on a good show, and secure the win.
Kenny Edwards got the scoring underway with the first real attack of the game on six minutes when he went over ten metres in from the left touchline on the last of the set with a short range try. Jake Wardle added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
The Giants ran in a second try on thirteen with fast hands ending up in the hands of Sam Wood to go over in the left-hand corner, all rather too easy against a poor Leigh defence. Wardle added the touchline conversion to cap a brilliant start for Huddersfield.
The Giants were now oozing confidence.
A silly Leigh penalty from Ryan Brierley gifted Wardle a penalty goal for 14-0, the Centurions struggling with possession and discipline. It was all far too easy for the Giants when Jermaine McGillvary took the ball on a fast passing move to cross on a big overlap and score in the corner on twenty-two. Wardle missed his first kick of the afternoon.
Leigh lost full-back Blake Wallace on twenty-four after he suffered a head knock as the situation went from bad to worse but they finally broke their deadlock on twenty-seven after some great work from Nathan Peteru who found Jordan Thompson to go in for the four-pointer. Ben Reynolds slotted the kick between the uprights for 6-18.
Directly from the kick-off, Leigh conceded another penalty and Wardle accepted the offer to push the lead back out to three converted tries.
Luke Yates was sin-binned for a late tackle on Ryan Brierley on thirty-six and despite the Giants trying to substitute the prop forward he was called back onto the field and yellow carded.
McGillvary’s second try of the afternoon pushed the Giants into a 24-6 lead when he took a Leroy Cudjoe flick pass to cross in the corner as they ended the period down to twelve men. Wardle was unable to add the extra two, but Leigh now needed to score four times.
Back-to-back restarts for the Giants put too much pressure on the Leigh line and a looping pass to the wing allowed Wood to complete his brace with another corner flag try. Wardle was unable to add the extras but with thirty still to play it was already all over for the Centurions.
Leigh rode their luck on fifty-nine after a Gaskell kick was charged down by Nathan Peats and collected to go over for the try. Reynolds added the conversion for 12-28.
With two tries in three minutes Thompson got his second of the afternoon as the ball was moved quickly across the field. Reynolds added the conversion and now there was just ten points between the two sides.
Adam Sidlow was punished for a dangerous tackle on Owen Trout and he saw yellow on sixty-six minutes. From the resulting penalty Darnell McIntosh went in but the try was ruled out for a forward pass.
Intense Giants pressure ended with McGillvary completing his hat-trick, once again in the corner, as the Giants kept the ball alive and laid siege to the Leigh line. Gaskell took over the kicking duties but missed the target with six minutes remaining.
Without Leigh getting their hands on the ball the Giants were in again on seventy-five when Lee Gaskell scored the seventh Giants try. Gaskell missed again but at 36-18 it was the Giants who would comfortably be making the trip to play St Helens in the quarter finals.
Leigh Centurions: Wallace, Tierney, Thornley, Mullen, Brand, Brierley, Reynolds (3G), Flower, Hood, Sidlow (SB on 66), Hellewell, Gee, McCarthy. Subs: Peats (T), Thompson (2T), Ioane, Peteru.
Huddersfield Giants: McIntosh, McGillvary (3T), Wardle (4G), Cudjoe, Wood (2T), Gaskell (T), Cogger, Yates (SB on 36), Cunningham, Ashworth, McQueen, Edwards (T), Jones. Subs: English, Trout, O’Brien, Lawrence.
Referee: Liam Moore.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 0-12, 0-14, 0-18, 4-18, 6-18, 6-20 : HT : 6-24, 6-28, 10-28, 12-28, 16-28, 18-28, 18-32, 18-36: FT.