Leeds keep Grand Final dream alive as defeat ends Adrian Lam’s Wigan reign

Ash Handley scored the only try of a hard-fought Super League eliminator.

Ian Laybourn
Thursday 23 September 2021 22:10
Ash Handley celebrates after scoring Leeds’ try (Nigel French/PA)
Ash Handley celebrates after scoring Leeds’ try (Nigel French/PA)

Winger Ash Handley scored the only try of the game as Leeds secured a semi-final berth with an attritional 8-0 win over Wigan in the opening Super League play-off tie at the DW Stadium.

Wigan’s defeat brought Adrian Lam’s tenure as head coach to an abrupt end and took the Rhinos to within 80 minutes of an 11th Grand Final.

Richard Agar’s men now face a trip to either Catalans Dragons or St Helens next week and with it a chance to win the title from fifth place for the third time.

The result also signalled the end of the Wigan careers of Oliver Gildart and Jackson Hastings as they prepare to head off to the NRL with Wests Tigers.

Wigan were bolstered by the return of a host of players rested for last week’s game against Catalans Dragons and, although they were full of energy, the lack of creativity that has been a problem all season came back to haunt them when it mattered the most.

The first half was packed with aggression but little flair, with neither side able to break down some tight defence, and the last-tackle kicking game was poor from both teams.

Wigan second-rower John Bateman showed signs of rediscovering his old form while Leeds’ biggest threat came from exciting centre Harry Newman, who was also outstanding in defence.

Wigan, who lost 14-0 to Leeds at the DW Stadium a month earlier, had conceded just four tries in their previous four matches and there was certainly nothing wrong with their defence.

A rare handling error by Leeds full-back Richie Myler early in the second half gifted the home side a perfect attacking position but they could not capitalise and Myler quickly got the opportunity to make amends.

He got a hand to the ball from Kruise Leeming’s high kick and palmed it back for Handley to break the stalemate on 49 minutes.

Ash Handley touches down for Leeds (Nigel French/PA)

Rhyse Martin’s angled conversion made it 6-0 and a knock-on by Wigan winger Liam Marshall on his own 20-metre line gave Leeds the ideal opportunity to clinch the win.

Leeming’s drop-goal attempt went wide but, when Wigan prop Oliver Partington was pulled up for a ball steal on opposing front-rower Mickael Oledzki, Martin stepped up to kick the penalty that put his side two scores in front.

The Rhinos’ superb game management allowed them to comfortably see the game out as Wigan’s disappointing season finished on a tearful note in front of a crowd of just 7,396.

Leeds had loose forward Zane Tetevano back from suspension and Oledzki back from injury for this match and they could have more reinforcements back next week as they set their sights firmly on Old Trafford.

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