Stevie Ward produced a man of the match display as Leeds Rhinos claimed their seventh consecutive victory over Wigan Warriors at home with a comfortable win 32-16 win at Headingley.
A hat-trick from Ward, coupled with a brace from Ashton Golding and a Matt Parcell try gave Leeds the all-important two points in their quest for a top-two finish. A brace from young winger Tom Davies and a late consolation from Sam Tomkins wasn’t enough for the Warriors, who are now nine points behind the Rhinos.
After a cagey opening ten minutes, which saw Wigan’s Liam Farrell have a try ruled out for obstruction, Leeds soon raced into a ten-point lead thanks to efforts from Ward and Golding.
After an uncharacteristic error from Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin and a penalty given away by Tomkins put Leeds in good field position, Ward was able to take advantage, shrugging away weak Wigan defence to cross for the opening try. Kallum Watkins missed the conversion but was on target on his next attempt.
A quick play the ball allowed Leeds hooker Parcell to attack the line and drop the pass off to Watkins whose cut out pass found Golding to spin his way over the line.
It took Wigan until the 25th minute to register their first try, with a slick left to right play seeing Tomkins beat his man before supplying a lovely pass out the back to release his winger Davies to score in the corner. George Williams was off target with his first attempt.
Davies grabbed his second five minutes later after Leeds spilled the ball on Wigan’s own line. Thomas Leuluai picked up the loose ball before feeding Davies who ran 90m unopposed to score a brilliant long range effort. Williams levelled the score at 10-10 with his first successful conversion.
Leeds had a late first half try ruled out for obstruction, with Wigan hanging on to enter the sheds all square.
It was all Leeds in the second half, with the home side only needing four minutes to restore their lead through Golding. The Leeds fullback chased a Ryan Hall kick after a powerful line break to score. Watkins failed to convert the extras.
The Rhinos were having a field day down Wigan’s right hand side, with Sutcliffe breaking the line before a pass from Tom Briscoe on the following play found Parcell to extend Leeds’ lead. Watkins duly obliged with the conversion to give Leeds a ten-point lead.
Leeds put the game to bed with a Ward double, completing his hat trick in the process. Both tries were converted by Watkins to give Leeds a 32-10 lead with eight minutes to play.
Wigan had the final say in the 74th minute with a Tomkins try. After regaining the ball from the restart, the ball was spread wide to Tomkins who dummied his way over. Williams landed the conversion, albeit too late.
Wigan have now failed to win in their last seven attempts at Headingley, whilst Leeds cement their position inside the top four.
Report by Jack Ireland