Super League: Wigan Warriors 21-6 Leeds Rhinos
|Wigan Warriors (14) 21|
|Tries: Burgess, Smith, Flower|
|Goals: Smith 4 Drop-goal: Smith|
|Leeds Rhinos (0) 6|
Wigan Warriors took a step towards a top four Super League spot while denting Leeds Rhinos own hopes with 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.
Rhinos responded after the break when Liam Sutcliffe crossed, converted by captain Kevin Sinfield.
However Ben Flower crossed to lift Wigan above Castleford into second having played a game more.
Smith's last-second drop goal added insult to injury for the Rhinos, who have now lost four league games in succession and are reliant on other results to book a top four place.
This game was marketed as 'The Big One' by the Warriors, and they moved ahead first after their defence had repelled the Rhinos early surges.
|Battle for the top four|
Jamie Peacock's infringement in tackling Matty Bowen close to the try-line created field position and subsequently Blake Green measured a perfect kick in behind for Joe Burgess on the left edge.
Smith converted, and then snatched Zak Hardaker's loose pass to score an interception try to which he again added the extras.
The Challenge Cup winners were struggling to find space with Wigan's line-speed, and that frustration led to a penalty on the half-time hooter that Smith successfully opted to kick for two points.
It was only the third time Brian McDermott's side had been kept scoreless at half-time in Super League this term, and they responded promptly in the second period.
Jimmy Keinhorst intercepted a loose Wigan pass with his foot and after the loose ball was hacked downfield, the onrushing Sutcliffe dived over in the corner.
The game grew increasingly feisty and ragged with both sides turning over cheaply, while Dan Sarginson was a ball-spill away from sealing it for Wigan when the video referee chalked off his score.
Flower eventually made sure when he powered over from Sean O'Loughlin's short-ball to end Leeds' resistance, and Smith's one-pointer was the final nail in the coffin.
Wigan coach Shaun Wane said:
"I'm really pleased. We've been in a tough place in the last few weeks but today we defended really tough and showed that when we keep hold of the ball we can beat teams.
"Credit to Leeds, they never go away, but I thought we were really good. At 14-6, I wasn't worried. I thought we were in control. I thought our defence was pretty solid all the way through.
"I've said we can play in big games. If we complete and defend with a bit if desire we can beat anybody."
Leeds coach Brian McDermott said:
"Never mind top four or top two, we wanted to be top and it doesn't make good reading. It's a big thing for a club like Leeds.
"It's something we're not proud of and it's not lost on the players. At the same time, the play-offs are an exciting prospect. The likelihood is that we'll finish fifth or sixth and we'll plan for that.
"Wigan were really intense and up for it. They had the edge in the first half but the game wasn't won then.
"We played a lot better in the second half and at 14-6 it was very do-able but we gave them too much ball and made too many errors."
Wigan Warriors: Bowen, Charnley, Hughes, Sarginson, Burgess, Green, Smith, Crosby, McIlorum, Flower, Tomkins, L. Farrell, O'Loughlin.
Replacements: Powell, Pettybourne, Clubb, Bateman.
Leeds: Hardaker, Briscoe, Watkins, Keinhorst, Hall, Sinfield, Sutcliffe, Bailey, Aiton, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Delaney.
Replacements: S. Ward, Leuluai, Achurch, Singleton.
Referee: Ben Thaler (RFL)