Leeds hold on to their pride

Rugby League: Leeds 20 Wigan 40
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The Independent Online
Wigan went to the top of the Super League, at least until after St Helens play this evening, but almost as significant a turning point in the season could be the first signs that Leeds have some pride left.

The champions won handsomely enough, but Leeds were by no means disgraced. Leeds' fallible tackling held up to Wigan's initial assaults, and when their defence was breached, by a jinking run from Jason Robinson, Rob Smyth put his pass down.

Leeds had their own early chance, created by Kevin Iro - far more involved than has been the norm - breaking through tackles and getting the ball away to Francis Cummins, who juggled but could not hold on. It was the sort of opportunity teams traditionally regret not taking against Wigan, but within two minutes Leeds were ahead anyway.

The new half-back partnership of Dean Clark and Graham Holroyd, upon whom so much hope of a Leeds revival hinges, were responsible, Holroyd picking out Clark, who wrong-footed Terry O'Connor and gave the ball back to Holroyd on the run-around. He sidestepped Kris Radlinski and held off Shaun Edwards to reach the line.

His kick, followed by a penalty miss by Andy Farrell, left Leeds with a six-point lead that survived until the 25th minute, when Robinson took a reverse pass from Edwards and went under the posts.

Just after the half-hour, Farrell charged on to Gary Connolly's pass to split the Leeds defence, and he turned his pass inside for Smyth to score. Wigan's momentum was interrupted by the sin-binning of Edwards for deliberate offside, and three minutes before half-time Leeds reduced the margin to two points when George Mann ran wide to score.

Mann was agonisingly close early in the second half for getting a pass away which would have given Iro a try and Leeds the lead. Instead, Farrell extended Wigan's slender advantage with a penalty for offside. That lead became a convincing one for the first time in the match when Lee Maher and Tony Kemp failed to catch Edwards' high kick and Farrell retrieved it to send Henry Paul in, Farrell kicking his fourth goal for good measure.

With Leeds looking increasingly weary, Martin Offiah took a pass expertly smuggled out of the tackle by O'Connor for his seventh Super League try.

Leeds were still not downcast, with an initial break by Nick Fozzard and a one-handed pass from Newton setting up a converted try for Holroyd.

Two penalties from Farrell eased any pressure on Wigan before Craig Murdock wriggled over from close range with nine minutes remaining.

Following a dropped goal by Iro, Smyth scoredthe softest of tries to over-emphasise the difference between the sides. At least Wigan knew that they had been in a match for most of the evening which has not been the case with all Leeds' recent opponents, and there was further consolation for the home supporters with a last-minute try from Cummins.

Leeds: Maher; Fallon, Cummins, Iro, Hassan; Holroyd, Clark; Harmon, Newton, McDermott, Mann, Mercer, Forshaw. Substitutes: Kemp, Fozzard, Field, Golden (not used).

Wigan: Radlinski; Smyth, Paul, Connolly, Offiah; Robinson, Edwards; Cowie, Hall, O'Connor, Haughton, Cassidy, Farrell. Substitutes: Murdock, Craig, Johnson, Tatupu.

Referee: S Presley (Castleford).

Bobbie Goulding, the St Helens captain, is out of the game for three weeks with a broken collarbone and may miss their match with Wigan on 21 June.

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