Leeds produced a masterclass to end Wigan’s eight-match winning run and return to the top of the Super League with a hugely-impressive victory at Headingley last night.
The Rhinos’ outside backs were once more the stars of the show, with England trio Ryan Hall, Tom Briscoe and Zak Hardaker all scoring tries to condemn the reigning champions to their third defeat of the domestic season.
It can be no coincidence that all three defeats have come in the absence of influential captain Sean O’Loughlin, whose injury jinx struck again on the eve of last night’s game.
O’Loughlin’s frustration was in marked contrast to the pride of his opposite number Kevin Sinfield, who led his team to a spectacular win on his record-equalling 416th Super League appearance.
If the Rhinos’ England backs provided the highlight for the bulk of the 18,139 crowd, coach Brian McDermott will no doubt be more satisfied with another magnificent defensive effort, once more led by veteran prop Jamie Peacock. Wigan scored two tries but both were scrappy efforts from close range.
The Rhinos were in front inside two minutes when Hall palmed the ball back from Sinfield’s kick for Danny McGuire to touch down and 10 minutes later in-form full-back Hardaker scythed through the Warriors defence to score.
Tony Clubb pulled a try back for Wigan but Leeds reasserted their superiority when Hall stormed in trademark fashion from deep inside his own half to set up the position for Watkins to skilfully work his winger Briscoe at the corner.