Wigan Warriors: Tries: Joe Burgess, Matty Smith, Ben Flower. Goals: Matty Smith 4/4.
Leeds Rhinos: Tries: Liam Sutcliffe. Goals: Kevin Sinfield: 1/1.
Wigan Warriors took a step towards a top four spot in Super League while ending Leeds Rhinos’ hopes with a convincing victory at the DW Stadium.
Tries from Joe Burgess and Matty Smith, who also kicked three first-half goals, gave Wigan a 14-0 half-time lead.
The Rhinos responded after the break when Liam Sutcliffe crossed for a scrappy try which was converted by captain Kevin Sinfield. But Ben Flower crossed to secure the points for Wigan and lift them into third with one round to go.
Smith’s last-second drop goal added further insult to the Rhinos, who have now lost four league games in succession and will finish the season in their lowest position on the league ladder since 1996 when they finished 10th.
This game was billed as ‘The Big One’ by the Warriors, and they moved ahead first after a period of dogged defence. Jamie Peacock conceded a penalty close to the try-line to help Wigan gain some field position and Blake Green subsequently pushed a kick in behind Tom Briscoe for Joe Burgess to cross.
Smith converted, and then snatched a loose pass from Zak Hardaker a few minutes later to score an interception try. Again, he added the extras to give the Warriors a 12 point lead.
The Challenge Cup winners were struggling to find room to display their attacking talents thanks to Wigan’s impressive line speed, and their frustrations led to a penalty on the half-time hooter and Smith opted to kick for goal and he kept up his 100 per cent record with the boot to give his side a 14-0 half time lead.
It was the third time Brian McDermott’s side had been kept scoreless at half-time in Super League this year, but they responded quickly in the second period.
Wigan tried to spread the play but the ball went to ground and Jimmy Keinhorst kicked ahead and Ryan Hall subsequently got himself in possession before offloading into the path of Sutcliffe who dived over in the corner.
The game developed a feisty edge as the second half wore on while both sides regularly coughed up possession. London-born centre Dan Sarginson then spilt the ball with the try line at his mercy which would have made the game safe, but Ben Flower has on hand to finish the game as a contest a couple of minutes later.
It was Sean O’Loughlin who set up the gamebreaker with a cute short ball, putting a definite end to Leeds’ resistance, and Smith’s one-pointer in the final minute extended the hosts’ lead to 15 points on the hooter. The score condemned Brian McDermott’s men to their worst final league position in 19 seasons, while Shaun Wane’s men look to be building themselves into some ominous form heading into the play offs.
WeLoveLeague Man of the Match: Matty Smith.