Catalans Dragons produced a second-half transformation to salvage their Super League status, coming from 10-4 down to beat Leigh 26-10 in the Million Pound Game at Leigh Sports Village.

Leigh, relegated after just one season in Super League, had only themselves to blame for letting slip their six-point lead after producing an ill-disciplined second-half display which was punished ruthlessly by Australian scrum-half Luke Walsh with four penalty goals.

The Catalans’ survival will be a big relief to the game’s hierarchy, who feared losing the European element of Super League, as well as coach Steve McNamara – the former England boss who gave up two jobs Down Under to return to Super League in June.

The consolation for Centurions fans is a pledge made before kick-off by owner Derek Beaumont to make up the shortfall in central funding to keep the club full-time in the Championship in order to give themselves the best possible chance of returning to Super League in 12 months time.

The Dragons were indebted to veteran Australian Greg Bird, whose return from suspension demonstrated the wisdom of the club’s decision to fight for a reduction in his ban from four to three matches, while McNamara will feel vindicated by his bold decision to drop former New Zealand international Krisnan Inu.

Leigh, who had veteran hooker Micky Higham back from a three-game absence to lead his hometown club, were the more impressive side throughout the opening quarter but only had a seventh-minute try from winger Matty Dawson, converted by Ben Reynolds, to show for their commendable efforts.

The Dragons pack struggled to create a platform for outgoing half-backs Walsh and Richie Myler but the visitors gradually gained a foothold in the game and pulled a try back six minutes before the break when on-loan Wigan full-back Lewis Tierney worked former Warriors centre Iain Thornley over at the corner.

Walsh had the misfortune to hit the far post with his conversion attempt, as the Catalans trailed 6-4 at half-time and they fell further behind three minutes into the second half.

Left winger James Clare, forced to wait seven months to make his Leigh debut after suffering a serious knee injury in pre-season, scored his sixth try in five appearances after taking a cut-out pass from scrum-half Josh Drinkwater.

Reynolds could not add the goal and the French side began their fightback on 49 minutes when Myler made the running for Tierney to touch down wide out.

Walsh was wide with the conversion but kicked two penalties in quick succession to nudge his side in front as the Centurions began to lose their discipline – and they opened up an eight-point lead on 58 minutes when Tierney crossed for the second time.

Walsh added the conversion and continued to punish Leigh’s indiscipline before French winger Fouad Yaha rounded off the scoring in the final minute with his side’s fourth try.

What they said

Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara: “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. We probably produced our best performance of the season under the most extreme pressure.”Leigh coach Neil Jukes: “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. There’s got to be a way for clubs to get up but ultimately people lose jobs and that’s sickening.”