Rugby League: Wigan much too smart for Leeds

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The Independent Online
Wigan 38

Leeds 6

WIGAN wore down and finally swept away Leeds, their second-half landslide last night showing their opponents how far they still have to go before they are genuine championship rivals.

Wigan won the territorial battle so overwhelmingly in the first half that it was something of a miracle that they approached half-time only six points ahead. Part of that was due to the new willingness Leeds have shown this year to work themselves to a standstill in defence and part to the way that the frenetic pace of the game began to hurry Wigan into the sort of handling mistakes Leeds had made from the outset.

There was nothing wrong with the handling that brought Wigan an early first try, however, Henry Paul's superb pass giving Va'aiga Tuigamala an overlap for

Jason Robinson to score.

Paul, a glorious player but no Frano Botica with the boot, missed a conversion but landed a simple penalty when he was grounded by a high tackle from George Mann.

Although Leeds had no attack worthy of the name, they held Wigan at bay until five minutes from the break, only to be twice exposed by Martin Offiah.

Shaun Edwards made the first try, dashing down the narrow side after Garry Schofield had dropped the ball, and it was his long pass to Denis Betts that opened the way for Offiah's second as the scoreboard began to reflect Wigan's dominance.

Wigan undermined their lead with an uncharacteristic blunder, Paul Atcheson, Edwards and Offiah all standing back as Graham Holroyd's high kick bounced kindly for Gary Mercer to race in from nowhere and touch down.

Holroyd added the conversion from the touchline and, even after Paul responded with a penalty, Leeds were again closer than they deserved to be.

Wigan seemed intent on keeping them there when Gary Connolly inexplicably failed to give Offiah the straightforward pass for his hat-trick, but Barrie McDermott corrected that omission when he crashed over from Phil Clarke's pass.

Paul, settling to the kicking role, added the conversion and two penalties as Leeds added to their problems by stretching the referee's patience too far.

A marvellous break by Betts created a try for Connolly and an equally good run by Robinson presented Edwards with four points, both improved by Paul, as Wigan hammered home their superiority in merciless fashion.

Wigan: Atcheson; Robinson, Tuigamala, Connolly (O'Connor, 74), Offiah; Paul, Edwards; Skerrett (McDermott, 36), Hall, O'Connor (Cassidy, 36), Betts, Farrell, Clarke.

Leeds: Holroyd; Tait, Iro, Innes (Howard, h/t), Cummins; Schofield, Entat; Faimalo (Innes, 65; Rose, 67), Mann, Howard (Harmon, 36), Mercer, Eyres, Hanley.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).

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