Wigan duly consolidated their position at the top of Super League last night, but they had more trouble for longer than they might have expected from a Leeds side lacking eight regulars. The champions have now lost five of their eight games, but there was no faulting them for their bravery and determination.
"I am very, very proud of them," said Leeds coach Brian McClennan of his short-handed side. "They had a good dig, but Wigan came very strong."
From the off it all looked set up for Wigan at the DW Stadium. That was not quite the way it worked out in a first half-hour that saw the depleted Rhinos more than hold their own.
Both sides went close early on, but Leeds were unfortunate to be denied when Rob Burrow scampered for the line and Thomas Leuluai's tackle seemed to have inadvertently helped him to force the ball down – but not to the satisfaction of the video referee.
Leeds were defending magnificently, but six minutes before half-time Wigan broke through. They had probed down the left flank repeatedly without success, but then the handling of Sean O'Loughlin proved slick enough to give George Carmont a hint of a gap and a try which was converted by Pat Richards.
There was always a risk that the first score would open the floodgates, although it was Leeds who looked the more dangerous side early in the second half – helped by a rash of handling errors from Wigan.
From one of them the Rhinos finally got their reward. Jamie Jones-Buchanan spotted that Ryan Hall was unmarked on the wing and sent last season's leading try-scorer in at the corner. Burrow could not convert, but Wigan were under pressure, which they eased in the best possible manner with rampaging runs from deep by Amos Roberts and Richards setting up the position from which Sean O'Loughlin put Darrell Goulding over with a perfectly-weighted pass.
When Joel Tomkins went over from close range, it appeared that Leeds' resistance might at last have been broken, an impression confirmed when Goulding went in for his second try.
Over at Grattan Stadium, Bradford ground out a hard-fought 19-12 victory over rock-bottom Harlequins – but they were made to work for it. The visitors led through Chris Melling's 13th-minute score but the Bulls responded immediately through Michael Platt and Brett Kearney. Steve Menzies added a third in the 52nd minute but a fine breakaway try from Danny Orr set up a tense finish. Matt Orford then landed a late penalty and drop-goal to seal Harlequins' seventh defeat from eight games.
Wigan: Roberts; Goulding, Gleeson, Carmont, Richards; S Tomkins, Leuluai; Fielden, Riddell, Coley, P Bailey, J Tomkins, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Prescott, McIlorum, O'Carroll, Mossop.
Leeds: Webb; Hall, Clarkson, Senior, Bush; McGuire, Burrow; R Bailey, Diskin, Burgess, Pitts, Kirke, Jones-Buchanan. Substitutes used: Buderus, Lauitiiti, Amor, Ambler.
Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).Reuse content