Million Pound Game: Leigh Centurions 10-26 Catalans Dragons
|Million Pound Game|
|Leigh Centurions (6) 10|
|Tries: Dawson, Clare Goal: Reynolds|
|Catalans Dragons (4) 26|
|Tries: Thornley, Tierney 2, Yaha Goals: Walsh 5|
Catalans Dragons scored 22 second-half points to come from behind and win the 'Million Pound Game' to consign Leigh to Super League relegation.
Leigh led 6-4 at the break, with Ben Reynolds converting Matty Dawson's try before Iain Thornley responded.
James Clare added to Leigh's lead with the first try of the second half, but two Lewis Tierney tries helped put Dragons ahead for the first time.
A series of Luke Walsh penalties and late Fouad Yaha try sealed victory.
The 'Million Pound Game' was Catalans' second attempt in as many weeks to extend their stay in Europe's premier rugby league competition, having lost to Widnes a week earlier in a match which saw the Vikings secure their status for another season.
While Leigh owner Derek Beaumont said before the game that it would be "devastating" for rugby league if the French side were relegated, he would have been heartened by the Perpignan club's cautious first-half performance.
Dawson's converted try was just rewards for Neil Jukes' men after making a strong start at Leigh Sports Village, but in a tense first half chances of adding to their lead were limited.
Catalans, a side that had failed to beat Super League opposition away from home for more than five months, were conservative in reply and struggled to stretch Leigh until Thornley crossed in the corner five minutes before the break.
While Walsh failed to level scores with the boot, Steve McNamara's side went into the interval brimming with confidence, thanks to the growing influence of second-rower Justin Horo.
A superb long pass from Josh Drinkwater put Clare over for Centurions' second try, but a combination of poor discipline and fine finishing from Tierney proved Centurions' undoing.
In eight dramatic minutes, Leigh gave away five penalties and the French side racked up 14 points, including two Tierney tries and two Walsh penalties.
The halves combination of Walsh and Richie Myler kept Catalans well in control, with Yaha completing the win late on as Leigh had their second Super League stay ended after just one season.
Leigh Centurions head coach Neil Jukes:
"There are guys in the changing room who are tough men and they're crying.
"There's got to be a way for clubs to get up, but ultimately people lose jobs and that's sickening.
"This was all about not losing a game. The uncertainty surrounding this situation is ridiculous.
"You talk a lot about player welfare and mental health but that comes around job security so this is hypocritical of what we stand for."
Catalans Dragons head coach Steve McNamara:
"We probably produced our best performance of the season under the most extreme pressure.
"There's lots of tears in the dressing room. They're tears of relief. There was a release of a huge amount of tension from everybody involved.
"I thought our players showed huge respect at the end of the game and I was pleased about that."
Leigh Centurions: Hampshire; Dawson, Crooks, Fleming, Clare; Reynolds, Drinkwater; Maria, Higham, Tickle, Paterson, Stewart, Burr.
Replacements: Hood, Hopkins, Hansen, Richards.
Catalans Dragons: Tierney; Duport, Thornley, Wiliame, Yaha; Walsh, Myler; Moa, Aiton, Bousquet, Anderson, Horo, Bird.
Replacements: Garcia, Baitieri, Albert, Margalet.
Referee: Ben Thaler.