Rugby League: Wigan have top-four finish in the bag

Wigan 38 Leeds 4
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Wigan showed no inclination whatsoever to become the first team from the club for 14 years to finish outside the top four.

A dominating performance at Central Park last night demoralised Leeds, who looked set for runners-up spot for much of the season, but now need Paris to beat St Helens tomorrow to give them a place in the first four and a bye in the first round of the Premiership.

If they miss out, as they are now likely to do, it will mark a sad end to a season that promised such dramatic improvements. Faced by a revitalised Wigan, Leeds' progress this year began to look at least partially composed of illusions.

Leeds' fans taunted Wigan with the uncertainty over their long-term future by stringing Tesco bags across the Kop. That example of West Yorkshire wit could not disguise the way that, in the short term at least, victory on Monday over the champion Bradford Bulls has restored the club's self- confidence.

That was in evidence from the start, with the rejuvenated Henry Paul initiating an attack that seemed to have been snuffed out by a splendid Dean Lawford tackle on Tony Smith. Paul still managed to get there to pick up the pieces, ducking under Iestyn Harris' attempt to stop him and go over for the opening try.

A clever switch of play between Smith and Andy Farrell sent Simon Haughton stomping through for a typical try and Leeds did not have an attack of any promise until Harris went on a long break.

Even then - and this was an illustration of Leeds' failing all night - there was no support to help him. By contrast, when Wigan got the ball and Danny Ellison took it to the other end, Paul arrived to capitalise on the position with his second try.

When Farrell took a short ball from Smith, back after injury and adding an extra strand of penetration to Wigan's attacks to power his way over, Wigan were as thoroughly in command as in any of the recent meetings between the teams at Central Park.

A burst of sheer class from Gary Connolly saw him go through from halfway for Wigan's fifth try after Leeds had worked hard to keep them out in the early stages of the second half.

Farrell's long pass, Ellison's strength in the corner, and some woeful Leeds tackling then produced the sixth.

Leeds, who were without too many of their first-choice forwards to mount a serious threat to a Wigan team in this mood, got one back through Leroy Rivett, before Andy Johnson rounded off one of his side's most convincing displays of a confused season.

Long before that, however, Leeds' fans knew what their supermarket bags contained - a bumper, family sized pack of disappointment.

Wigan: Robinson; A Johnson, Connolly, Radlinski, Ellison; Paul, Smith; Cowie, Clarke, Hansen, Haughton, Cassidy, Andy Farrell. Substitutes used: Holgate, O'Connor, P Johnson, Murdock.

Leeds: Gibson; Rivett, Blackmore, Hassan, Sterling; Harris, Lawford; Field, Collins, Anthony Farrell, Morley, Hay, Newton. Substitutes used: Holroyd, Cummins, Cantillon, Fleary.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).