A late drop goal from Sam Tomkins sealed a dramatic 9-8 victory for Wigan Warriors against Leeds Rhinos.
Leeds led 8-0 with ten minutes to go in what had been a scrappy, unspectacular game, but the final minutes couldn’t have been any more different with the visitors producing a remarkable comeback.
Much of the game was a tough arm wrestle in midfield, with Leeds taking control as the first half went on as Wigan made an increasing number of errors.
After Kallum Watkins’ loose carry saved the Warriors from conceding, Tony Clubb’s high tackle gave Leeds a penalty in good position and they took advantage as Richie Myler lofted a great pass over to Tom Briscoe to score in the corner.
Wigan were creating nothing in attack, and only good defence kept them a score behind the Rhinos at the break.
The second half didn’t start much better for Wigan, as Sam Powell was sent to the bin for a dangerous tackle on Ashton Golding, and they were almost punished immediately as a gap opened for Watkins, but his pass was too sharp for Myler to catch.
Wigan were slowly creeping into the contest, but it looked like the game would be settled by a Watkins penalty which stretched the lead to eight.
That’s how it stayed until the 71st minute, when the visitors got their first points through a move left that finished with John Bateman and Liam Farrell’s offloads for Oliver Gildart to squeeze in.
They almost backed that up with another try, but after Ryan Sutton broke and set Gildart away, Golding did brilliantly to track back and catch him up.
A high tackle by Sam Powell on Brett Delaney gave Wigan a penalty, and Tomkins made no mistake to level the scores before slotting a spectacular drop goal with two minutes to go.
Wigan still had hard work to do in defence to hold on in the final minute, as the pressure of Sean O’Loughlin prevented Myler from kicking and Joel Moon’s attempt was blocked by Willie Isa.
That put Leeds back to zero and gave Myler another chance to rescue a point, but under pressure from John Bateman he put the kick wide and Wigan held on for the win.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
HEAVYWEIGHT CLASH DELIVERS… EVENTUALLY
Meetings between these two great sides need no building up, but this one looked like disappointing after a flat 70 minutes where the defences were completely on top throughout.
Things rarely got out of the scrap down the middle, and it looked like Myler’s kick for Briscoe would be the one crucial moment of quality in attack, particularly after Watkins added the penalty to extend their lead.
Wigan had other ideas, however, as they injected an urgency to their game in the final minutes to mount a comeback.
The risk as they worked the try for Gildart demonstrated that change with the match on the line, and after plenty of drama with the two Tomkins kicks and last minute defence, it was enough to beat a Leeds side who offered little in attack themselves.
WARRIORS END HEADINGLEY HOODOO
A club like Wigan don’t tend to have hoodoos, but it looked like six years without a win at the home of the Rhinos would continue as they trailed towards the end.
The great comeback put an end to that, and establishes Wigan not only as a side with quality this season but a side that can fight to the end when up against it, after the comeback at Catalans they week before.
It wasn’t the attacking vintage that we have become accustomed to seeing this season, with the Warriors creating remarkably little for much of the game, but it may prove to be a very crucial two points as they keep themselves in second place in the table.
Man Of The Match- Richie Myler (Leeds Rhinos)
In a game of such little attacking quality it looked like Myler’s assist, a delightful lofted pass for Briscoe with the opposite winger drawn in, would be the difference.
It didn’t turn out to be that way but Myler didn’t deserve to be on the losing side after a controlling performance with the boot that kept Leeds in a dominant position for much of the match.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Leeds Rhinos Head Coach Brian McDermott
“It thought it was an awful game from both teams. I thought Wigan were really one-dimensional and they’ve clearly got a bit more in attack, and I thought we were awful in attack.
“We didn’t throw anything at Wigan really. It was a disappointing game; I nearly fell asleep watching it.
“I thought when we went 8-0 up we stuck our head up our backside and didn’t pull it out.
“With the tempo of the game and the pace of the game, when we went 8-0 up I believed our players thought that Wigan wouldn’t be able to get back into it, but what a stupid thing to think.”
Wigan Warriors Head Coach Shaun Wane
“For my team to get the win, after so many errors and penalties and having a man sin binned, against a very good Leeds side, is a great effort.
“It was really wet, as you could see with the Leeds players struggling with handling the ball as well, so it wasn’t the day for fantastic rugby.
“I’d like to have played in a more convincing manner. We got to the end of our sets and I thought our last plays were ordinary, but to get the win in the end is very pleasing.”
Leeds Rhinos 8
Goals: Watkins (2)
Drop Goals: n/a
Wigan Warriors 9
Goals: S Tomkins (2)
Drop Goals: S Tomkins
Leeds: Golding; Briscoe, Watkins, Handley, Hall; Moon, Myler; Delaney, Parcell, Singleton; Jones-Buchanan, Ward, Ablett.
Interchanges: Cuthbertson, Mullally, Smith, Oledzki.
Wigan: S Tomkins; Marshall, Bateman, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Powell; Clubb, Leuluai, Navarrete; Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin.
Interchanges: Sarginson, J Tomkins, Sutton, Tautai.
Referee: Ben Thaler