Saints won their second pre-season friendly 24-20 on Friday night – but were pushed all the way by a strong Leigh side.
Ben Barba grabbed a brace in a first half the Centurions shaded before Danny Richardson and Zeb Taia sealed a comeback victory.
The younger players also produced strong performances in the second half as Justin Holbrook rested some of his players ahead of the Betfred Super League opener with Castleford.
Saints struck first after Leigh knocked on straight from the kick off.
After the forwards laid a nice platform, Ben Barba got on the right hand side of the visitor’s defence and fed Jonny Lomax for the easiest of tries.
And ten minutes in they doubled their lead.
Ben Barba produced the magic once again showing some dazzling footwork close to the line to completely fool the Centurions’ defence.
Matty Smith missing the conversion attempt after Mark Percival had done the same earlier.
Saints continued to press home their advantage but it was Leigh who scored next – Liam Hood latching on to nice offload to make it 8-4.
And Kevin Larroyer levelled matters in the 28th minute as he took a fine line on a short ball.
Ben Reynolds adding the two.
Saints didn’t hang around to pull the lead back though – and it was down to the skills of Barba one more.
He hauled in a pass he had no right to take, dummied and then showed great feet to go over in the corner.
But with a few minutes to go former Saint Jack Owens dove in the corner for 14-12.
The home side made a number of changes for the second half – Danny Richardson, Adam Swift and Theo Fages all making appearances.
But it took just two minutes for Craig Hall to increase Leigh’s lead – capitalising on a Saints error.
Saints then reduced the deficit thanks to Percival’s run down the left hand side.
The centre bided his time, drew the full back and then fed the supporting Danny Richardson who converted his own effort.
Saints had dominated the second half in terms of territory and possession and went in front through Zeb Taia’s support.
Jonny Lomax did the damage; hitting a would-be tackle at full speed, spinning out and then offloading to the second rower who was never going to be stopped.
The home side spurned further chances to seal the win but they had done enough to head into next week’s clash with Castleford two from two.
Justin Holbrook said he was happy Saints had a tough hit out ahead of the Betfred Super League home opener with Castleford next week.
He said “I was happy to have a good hit out and we are all looking forward to next week,” he said. “Leigh were strong and will be hard to beat in the Championship this year. They are a Super League club in all but name. It was exactly what we needed.
“We know we need to play better, but I have never seen a good friendly in my life! There are a massive number of players chopping and changing and everyone knows it is a friendly.
“But there were some positives. Ben Barba played well and that is just what we need from him. Danny Richardson was a real live wire and I thought we created plenty throughout the match even though we were changing players.
“We defended well in the second half too, but we needed to as we were poor in the first half.”
He continued: “We don’t know our 17 for next week – tonight was a stepping stone to look at some positions and a reward for some guys to force themselves into the reckoning for round one. Some did that tonight and we now move on to next week.”
Tickets for Saints home opener with Castleford are now available online or via the Ticket Office at the Totally Wicked Stadium. You can also call 01744 455 052.
Tries: Lomax, Barba (2), Richardson, Taia
Goals: Percival (0 from 2), Smith (0 from 1), Richardson (2 from 2)
Tries: Hood, Larroyer, Owens, Hall
Goals: Reynolds (1 from 2), Hall (1 from 1)
REF: P Bentham
23. Ben Barba; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3, Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 1. Jonny Lomax, 7. Matty Smith; 10. Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 16. Luke Thompson, 11. Zeb Taia, 17. Dom Peyroux, 12. Jon Wilkin.
Subs: 5. Adam Swift, 6. Theo Fages, 8. Alex Walmsley, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 15. Morgan Knowles, 18. Danny Richardson, 20. Matty Lees, 21. Jack Ashworth, 22. Jake Spedding, 24. James Bentley, 30. Mathew Costello.
1. Craig Hall; 2. Matty Dawson, 3. Ben Crooks, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 19. Jack Owens; 6. Ben Reynolds, 7. Drew Hutchison; 13. Harrison Hansen, 9. Daniel Mortimer, 10. Jamie Acton, 11. Kevin Larroyer, 12. Bodene Thompson, 15. Jordan Thompson.
Subs: 14. Liam Hood, 16. Larne Patrick, 17. Kyle Lovett, 18. Nathan Mason, 20. Greg Richards, 21. Nick Gregson, 23. Jonah Cunningham, 24. Jack Blagbrough, 25. Ilias Bergal, 26. Jordan Dezaria.