Leeds Rhinos made it four wins on the spin as they beat a depleted Wigan Warriors 26-18 down at Headingley. The Rhinos led 14-12 at halftime, and played with 12-men for 10 minutes of the second half, but managed to hold on for a great win.

MARCHING ON TOGETHER

Leeds made it four on the spin tonight, and continued their great form of late. Tonight’s win against Wigan, backs up wins over Catalan Dragons, Wakefield Trinity and fierce rivals, Huddersfield Giants. After a real sloppy start to the season, which saw them scrape through games, they’ve now started to show their class again. They’re still a good way off their 2015 standards, but it’s much better than last season.

Their home form is what’s doing them good this year, having won all four at Headingley. Without making too much of a racket, they’re improving by the game and new players such as Matt Parcell are fitting nicely into the side. Tonight, they just about deserved the win, in what was a very good game. They led for the majority, and defended well in most parts. Although, Wigan did make it an easier task with their poor attacking display.

From the get go, it was set for set, and both sides struggled to take advantage. The defensive efforts of Wigan were given huge credit, as Leeds decided to kick for goal and get the first points on the board. Rhinos led 2-0 after eight minutes. Wigan started to hit back, and push for a try. After gaining a drop-out, the genius that is George Williams, jinxed in and out of the Rhinos defence, and dove over for the first try of the game. Wigan led 6-2 after 14 minutes.

CLOSE AFFAIR THROUGHOUT

That try gave Wigan some much needed confidence and they had a great period, in which they really pushed, and pressured the Leeds try-line. However, it wasn’t a great attacking display from Wigan, and they struggled to get over. They had countless sets, but the stubborn Rhinos defence stood strong. Then came a game-changer. A loose pass from Wigan was scooped up by Kallum Watkins who went 60-metres, and found Ryan Hall on his inside, and the winger went under the sticks for their first try of the game.

This just killed Wigan and instantly spurred Leeds on. Minutes later, they were in again, this time through Joel Moon. The Australian just walked through a poor Wigan defence for an easy score. Suddenly, Leeds led 14-6, and it just stunned Wigan and their fans. However, Williams was at it again, as he turned the Rhinos defence inside out to score his second of the game. Wigan trailed 14-12, and it was game back on.

Then came a couple minutes of madness. Leeds looked to have furthered their lead on halftime, but it was chalked off by the video referee. Then, a little scuffle began, which started with Willie Isa and Aston Goulding, following the decision. The match restarted and Brett Ferres would hit Oliver Gildart with a nasty looking crusher tackle, one that earned him 10 minutes in the sin-bin, and rightly so. He could be missing the next few games after that one.

LEEDS CAPITALISE ON LACKLUSTRE WIGAN

Wigan started the second half, just two points behind, with Leeds down to 12-men for the first nine minutes of the half. It was a real chance to capitalise and re-take the lead. However, it just wasn’t to be for Shaun Wane’s men. They pushed, and got near the line, but never looked like scoring. They needed to be much smarter with the ball, and not panic. The experienced heads let them down tonight, a few players went missing for Wigan.

After sustaining all the Wigan pressure, Leeds just slowed the whole game down, and took control after opting for two-points following a penalty. Goulding kicked it, and Leeds led 16-12. Then, came a real kick in the teeth for Wigan. Nick Gregson looked to have scored, until the replay shown that he’d committed a double-movement, and it was chalked off. That decision seemed to lift the Rhinos and their fans, and they fired up.

From the resulting penalty, Kallum Watkins would fly down the right edge with no Wigan defender in sight, to put Leeds further ahead. It was Leeds’ third try of the game, and all three were real soft ones for Wigan to concede. Leeds led 20-12 after 54 minutes. The game went quiet for a while, until Liam Marshall picked up a loose ball and raced 50-metres to give Wigan some hope. Warriors trailed 20-18 with 15 minutes left.

IT DOESN’T GET ANY EASIER

Wigan had 15 minutes to try and record a great win. But it was just one of those nights, a night that’s become the norm at Headingley for the Warriors. They struggled and panicked when on the attack, and too many errors cost them dearly in the final minutes. They had countless chances throughout, but couldn’t get over the try-line, it’s something that’s been apparent in the previous three games. They need players back, and back soon.

It was Leeds doing all the pressing in the closing moments, and they were rewarded with a try through Carl Ablett on his 250th appearance for the Rhinos. It capped off a great night for Brian McDermott and his team, as they recorded a superb 28-16 over the Champions. They look to be getting back to their best now, and the memories of the 2016 season, are started to be well and truly forgot, as they sit second in Super League.

As for Wigan, it’s back-to-back defeats for them, not finding a win in three attempts. It doesn’t get any easier for the cherry and whites, as they host the in-form, Castleford Tigers next Thursday at the DW Stadium. Wigan desperately need players back from injury, as the busy Easter schedule is just around the corner. They can’t be going into that with half a squad, as it’ll show on the pitch, with having to play three games in 10-days.

POST-GAME MEDIA

Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott:

“It was a real tiresome game. Wigan never went away, every time we threatened to put more points on them, they came back and made it a real contest.

“I still don’t think I can tell you it’s a blip what happened four weeks ago (against Castleford).”

“Add another four weeks of improved performances and wins and we can look back on it as a blip.”

“But I knew it was a blip at the time, we just faced a really hot team on the night. It wasn’t the case that we had four weeks to save jobs.”

Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane:

“I’m depressed. I thought we could have won it, we were just dumb – we were not smart enough.

“We had a load of young kids who gave everything but at this level effort is not enough.

“I 100% expected to win, we put 17 players out there who could have won and they’re devastated that they haven’t and I’m devastated.

“But I don’t want to take anything away from Leeds, who were the best team on the day.”

IN THE SHEDS

Wigan lost Oliver Gildart late in the first half due to a horrible looking crusher tackle from Brett Ferres. He returned for the second half, but soon left, unable to continue.

Brett Ferres was sent to the sin-bin for his crusher tackle on Oliver Gildart. He could be on the side-lines for a few weeks, when the RFL get another look this week.

FINAL SCORE

Leeds Rhinos: (14) 26

Tries: Hall, Moon, Watkins, Ablett

Conversions: Golding 3/4

Penalty goals: 2/2

Wigan Warriors: (12) 18

Tries: Williams 2, Marshall

Conversions: Escaré 3/3

MATCH DETAILS

Leeds Rhinos: Golding; Briscoe, Watkins, Keinhorst, Hall; McGuire, Moon; Garbutt, Parcell, Cuthbertson, Ablett, Ferres, Jones-Buchanan.

Replacements: Mullally, Burrow, Delaney, Sutcliffe.

Wigan Warriors: Escaré; Davies, Gildart, Forsyth, Marshall; Williams, Leuluai; Nuuausala, Powell, Flower, J Tomkins, Isa, Clubb.

Replacements: Tautai, Sutton, Gregson, Navarrete.

Referee: Ben Thaler

Attendance: 17,030

Venue: Headingley Stadium, Leeds

Date/Time: Friday 31st March 2017 – 20:00pm GMT