AS you enter Leigh from the north, the sign signalling you are entering the town reads ‘Home of Leigh Centurions and Super League rugby’.

The latter is not the case for this year at least following the Centurions’ relegation from the latter, although if their ambitions are realised then it it will not be long before they are back at rugby league’s top table.

Bearing that in mind, it underlines how this was again another impressive display from Barrow Raiders against one of the Betfred Championship’s big-spending full-time sides and how many positives they have to take forward following arguably the toughest block of fixtures they will face all season.

On the face of it, the final score of 46-18 in favour of the hosts from yesterday’s encounter of Leigh Sports Village suggests something of hammering for the Raiders. As is often the case though, that does not tell the full story.

Because having trailed 22-6 at half-time, Barrow showcased exactly what they can do with a composed response which saw converted tries from Jarrad Stack and Brett Carter take them to within touching distance of the home side.

The challenges of giving the Championship’s top teams an almighty fright is something the Raiders players clearly revel in too, evidenced by Declan Hulme enjoying on the pantomime villain role and applauding the Leigh crowd who booed lustily following the second of those tries due to the number of stoppages caused by Barrow players going down injured.

Leigh, however, had not been on a seven-game winning run prior to this – running up some eye-catching scores in the process – for no reason though and inspirational scrum-half Drew Hutchinson dashed Barrow’s hopes of repeating their 24-20 triumph with two tries inside the final 10 minutes.

Liam Hood’s score and a length-of-the-field interception try from Craig Hall then added some gloss to the final score for the Centurions in the closing minutes, but even they were not able to detract from another encouraging overall display.

Perhaps the most impressive element from the Raiders was the fact they were able to run Leigh close for so long despite having just two players coming off the interchange bench in relief after Martin Aspinwall and the man who replaced him, Dan Toal, being forced off injured with just seven minutes on the clock.

At that point, the signs were pretty ominous for the visitors as Leigh had gone four points up after three minutes through an unconverted try from Hutchinson, followed by Ben Reynolds scoring under the posts and converted his own try on 10 minutes.

Rather than use their pace and power through the middle though, Leigh opted to try to play expansive rugby which ended up playing into Barrow’s hands and found themselves thwarted by some stoic defence.

Conversley, the Raiders were unable to make the most of the opportunities they were able to create as their execution at key moments let them down. But it all came together for them on 19 minutes when Alec Susino’s dummy run drew in the defence and Jamie Dallimore flung a cut-out pass to Joe Bullock for the prop to crash over against his former club, followed by Dallimore converting.

Leigh adopted a patient approach after this and it eventually yielded a reward on 32 minutes as ex-Super League star Ryan Bailey – most recently of Workington Town – got over from close range for their second converted try.

That was followed by a simple move from a scrum following a knock-on where the ball was worked out wide for Peter Mata’utia to send Matty Dawson-Jones streaking away down the wing before dotting down behind the posts to give Reynolds a simple shot at goal.

Down by 16 points at the break, Barrow showed great composure to get themselves back into the contest and that was in no small part to their Australian trio, with Alec Susino and Dean Parata laying the foundations for the attack which was finished off by Stack on 47 minutes.

Then eight minutes later, some trademark Raiders running rugby saw Ryan Fieldhouse send winger Carter darting through the Centurions defence for a score. Dallimore converted, the gap was down to single figures and it was game on.

Had Jono Smith, who was again outstanding in Barrow’s second row, then not had a try ruled out for a forward pass from Gene Ormsby, the result may well have been different.

As it was though, Hutchinson completed his hat-trick to break the Raiders’ hearts, followed by the late flourish from Hood and Hall. Barrow can, however, go into this Sunday’s home game with Batley Bulldogs knowing they can be a match for almost any team in this division.

Leigh Centurions: Peter Mata’utia; Matty Dawson-Jones, Rhys Evans, Craig Hall, Jack Owens; Ben Reynolds, Drew Hutchinson; Nathan Mason, Liam Hood, Jamie Acton, Harrison Hansen, Bodene Thompson. Interchange: Mickey Higham, Ryan Bailey, Greg Richards, Kevin Larroyer.

Barrow Raiders: Ryan Fieldhouse 7; Brett Carter 7, Declan Hulme 7, Andy Litherland 7, Gene Ormsby 6; Jamie Dallimore 7, Ryan Johnston 7; Joe Bullock 7, Nathan Mossop 7, Alec Susino 8, Jono Smith 8, Jarrad Stack 7, Martin Aspinwall 6. Interchange: Dean Parata 7, Bradd Crellin 7, Dan Toal 6, Ryan Duffy 7.

Referee: Marcus Griffiths.

Attendance: 3,228.

Playback: 3 – Hutchinson try (4-0); 10 – Reynolds try and conv (10-0); 19 – Bullock try, Dallimore conv (10-6); 32 – Bailey try, Reynolds conv (16-6); 35 – Dawson-Jones try, Reynolds conv (22-6); 47 – Stack try, Dallimore conv (22-12); 55 – Carter try, Dallimore conv (22-18); 70 – Hutchinson try, Reynolds conv (28-18); 75 – Hutchinson try, Reynolds conv (34-18); 78 – Hood try, Reynolds conv (40-18); 80 – Hall try, Reynolds conv (46-18).

Raiders star man: Jono Smith: Another hard-charging and tough-tackling display from the second row who showed again why Paul Crarey has been a long-time admirer of his.