Wigan are stern teachers for sides who refuse to learn their lessons. Leeds should have known after last year's defeat at Wembley that dropping your guard against Wigan is almost always punished swiftly and severely.
Sadly for the quality of the spectacle in the last Silk Cut Challenge Cup final before the Super League competition compromises its central importance, they failed to take that information on board, and were soundly and embarrassingly beaten.
Their chief tormentor on Saturday was Jason Robinson, the kid from within a couple of miles of Headingley, who was disregarded by Leeds and allowed to cross the Pennines. His two tries were gems, showing that a week of fitness tests and financial windfalls - he has a post-dated contract worth £1.25m to go to Australia in two years' time - is not bad preparation for a cup final.
If Martin Offiah was the star last year, when Robinson was shattered by being left out of the side, this year's final saw him strictly in a supporting role. He provided the pass for Robinson's and Wigan's first try; not, in truth, a good pass, because Robinson had to turn back on himself to take it. Once he had it in his hands, however, he shook off Francis Cummins with ease and was simply too fast for Ellery Hanley, James Lowes and Alan Tait in a race for the line.
It was his second try, four minutes into the second half, that exposed the inadequacy of Leeds' performance and ensured they were not to claw their way back into the game. It was the most fundamental of errors on Leeds' part, turning their backs on Robinson at the play-the-ball. Once he had broken the frayed defensive line, he was beyond recall. For both his tries, Robinson had the luxury of being able to cruise in with his hand raised in salute.
With 36 minutes to go, the odds against Robinson becoming the first man to score a hat-trick of tries in a Wembley final were narrowing. As with Offiah in the past, he never got another clear view of the line, but he had already done enough to earn the Lance Todd Trophy as the man of the match.
Wigan had an abundance of other heroes. Henry Paul, despite suffering from pre-match nerves that gave him what he described as "a lump the size of a basketball in my throat," ran Robinson close for the Lance Todd with a near-faultless display at full-back and later at loose-forward. He scored a characteristic try, spinning giddily out of tackles to touch down, but, had he not taken Phil Clarke's pass it would have gone to Robinson.
The match was also a personal triumph for Andy Farrell. It might seem strange to think of a 19-year-old who has already established himself in the Wigan and Great Britain teams as an under-achiever, but such is his combination of size, speed and skill that he should make an even bigger impact than he does. Injury has hampered him in the latter stages of the season, but there should not, on ability, be six forwards in the country capable of confining him to a role as substitute.
As it transpired, Farrell spent only five minutes confined to that role. That was how long it took Mick Cassidy to get his normally immaculate tackling technique all wrong and attack Richie Eyres' knees with his head. For a while, it seemed as though Cassidy was badly injured and Farrell later admitted to going on to the pitch virtually in tears out of concern for his great mate.
In the event, Cassidy recovered and Farrell had a towering match, his irresistible running setting up the position for Robinson's second try and one from the hard-working hooker, Martin Hall.
Va'aiga Tuigamala, the scorer of the final Wigan try, was also playing in a state of high emotion, having heard of the death of his grandfather, who largely brought him up, and who, it should be said of the old man, did a pretty good job. Sheer muscle took Tuigamala over the line, and that superior strength running through the Wigan side repeatedly turned back Leeds' lame attempts to fight back. As the Wigan captain, Shaun Edwards, said: "If we had attacked as well as we defended, we would have scored 50."
Clarke and Denis Betts, both in their last Wembley appearance before continuing their careers in the southern hemispheres, were the players who set the tempo for that defensive effort. Even before the game, they were working themselves into a lather geeing up their team-mates, and there was never much doubt that they would be bidding farewell to Wembley as winners.
As for Leeds, there can be few excuses. Only the Eyres run that left Cassidy spreadeagled, an interception by Garry Schofield that was pulled back debatably for offside, and Lowes' late try saw them look capable of turning their generous supply of possession into points.
There were a couple of brief suggestions that Kevin Iro, Worzel Gummidge- like, had got his Wembley head on, but that was all they had to offer. Leeds proved disappointingly bad pupils and Wigan made them stand not in the corner but behind their try-line while Frano Botica, another bound for the southern hemisphere, kicked his goals. There was no question who were the masters.
Wigan: Paul; Robinson, Tuigamala, Connolly, Offia; Botica, Edwards; Skerrett (Atcheson, 53-71), Hall, Cowie, Betts, Cassidy (Farrell, 5) Clarke.
Leeds: Tait; Fallon, Iro, Innes, Cummins; Schofield, Holroyd; Howard (Mann, 28), Lowes, Faimalo (Howard, 52), Mercer, Eyres (Harmon, 59) Hanley.
Referee: R Smith (Castleford).Reuse content