Wigan and St Helens finished off a highly productive week for Lancashire with crucial Super League victories to keep the pressure on leaders Bradford Bulls. Andy Farrell, who led Lancashire to a notable victory in the inaugural Origin Game at Headingley in midweek, returned to the scene of his triumph and inspired Wigan to a 36-18 win over Leeds.
The reigning Super League champions, St Helens, overcame the absence of three international half-backs to maintain their unbeaten home record with a 22-14 success over London Broncos.
Farrell, who was in superb form throughout, scored the decisive try at Headingley and recorded a 100 per cent success rate with the boot, scoring eight goals as the Warriors bounced back from their unexpected defeat at Warrington.
"I'm kicking well lately," he said. "The team keep scoring the tries, and the only good thing about playing three games in a week is that you get lots of practice."
Wigan narrowly trailed 12-10 at half-time after Leeds struck with tries from Karl Pratt and Tonie Carroll but, with Farrell pulling the strings, they dominated the second period and the centre Steve Renouf marked his comeback from a neck injury with a pair of tries.
The winger Brian Carney also went 90 metres for a touchdown, but some of the gloss was taken off the Warriors' victory by an injury to their in-form centre Gary Connolly, who was taken to hospital with a suspected dislocated shoulder.
The Wigan coach, Stuart Raper, shrugged off the disappointment of losing Connolly and paid tribute to his captain. "I had always admired him before, and now being able to work with him is even better," said Raper. "I think we have a great relationship. It's terrific to have such a great professional. It is always important when the captain can work closely with the coach. Andy can react to messages I send out on to the pitch and he knows the right things to do."
Raper was delighted with the way his side bounced back from last week's defeat at Warrington. "I have to take my hat off to all the blokes who backed up," he said. "These guys are true professionals. Kris Rad-linski had to have a pain-killing injection and nearly had to pull out."
Leeds crumbled badly after the break. "We didn't come to the party in the second half," admitted the Rhinos coach, Daryl Powell. "We spoke at half-time about controlling the first 10 minutes of the second half, but Wigan did that and controlled the game. But just because we lost one game I don't see any reason to panic. We are only a point behind Wigan and we have people to come back into the side."
Saints climbed into joint top place with their predicted victory over London, although the visitors, without five key players, put up a superb display and looked set to repeat their 1999 victory at Knowsley Road when they led 14-10 early in the second half.
Chris Joynt turned the game on its head when he raced 60 yards for a try after taking a pass from substitute Mick Higham, which put the champions ahead for the first time. The Broncos' hopes were finally dashed when the winger Steve Hall crossed five minutes from time.
Bradford meet bottom-of-the-table Huddersfield at Valley Parade today.