Wigan team-effort brings curtain down on Leeds era

Leeds 6 Wigan 26
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The Independent Online

It is not always the obvious stars who give you the timely push you need in the quest for trophies.

Wigan's qualification for their first Super League Grand Final since 2003 was a genuine team effort, but it was some of their less-vaunted players who made the crucial contributions.

Darrell Goulding has sometimes been overshadowed by the scoring feats of Pat Richards on the opposite wing, but his try before half-time was his 28th of the season. It was, like a lot of them, particularly well taken, with a difficult pass gathered in before he found the instinctive angle to get him to the line.

That pass came from Joel Tomkins, who, like David Milliband, has found himself slightly overtaken by his younger brother of late. Brilliant though Sam was at times at Headingley, it was Joel who had a bigger influence on the result. His back-handed flick pass could have gone to ground, but he is a forward who tries things and makes them happen.

Straight after the interval, he did so again, juggling the ball on his fingertips after Scott Donald had failed to deal with Paul Deacon's high kick.

When George Carmont scored an equally messy third Wigan try four minutes later, the game was, for practical purposes, all over.

Leeds had refused to accept their three-year reign as Super League champions was coming to an end. They hammered away for most of the last half hour, but only got over the line when it was too late and, even then, Danny Buderus' effort was disallowed for an obstruction.

Wigan's defence was a perfect demonstration of their coach's emphasis on working for each other. Michael Maguire said: "They made sure they watched each other's backs and it showed in the scoreline."

He knows it will take the same sort of physical commitment against St Helens on Saturday to give Wigan a chance of a first title since 1998.

The timing looks right, in that there are senior players, like Stuart Fielden and Martin Gleeson, who have played themselves back into form, as well as exciting young talents like Sam Tomkins and Liam Farrell. For Leeds, it felt like the end of a golden era. They badly missed the injured Danny McGuire and Jamie Peacock, but a longer-term worry is they do not appear to be bringing their usual quality of players through the youth teams.