Leeds Rhinos 42-12 Wigan Warriors: Highlights, player ratings and talking points

In a remarkable night at Headingley, Leeds underlined their development under Rohan Smith as they did to Wigan what we’re so used to seeing Wigan do to others in 2022.

The Rhinos were fast, energetic, creative and irrepressible from minute one. It feels like this was the Rohan Smith Leeds Rhinos and they look like a real threat.

Highlights:

Leeds get deserved reward for fast start
If you want to know how to start a game against Wigan, go watch the first six minutes from Leeds. The Rhinos started with huge energy making metres despite their lack of props, kicked well but most importantly chased well pinning down the likes of Jai Field. Eventually the Rhinos reaped their rewards with a try from Liam Sutcliffe – curiously starting the game on the right – scoring from a Richie Myler crossfield kick.

French fluffs his lines as O’Connor proves his worth
We see Bevan French score tries for fun but he was made to rue a missed opportunity 10 minutes into the game when the ball bounced in front of him and he fumbled the ball with the line at his mercy. From the very next set, Jarrod O’Connor burst through from a Harry Newman offload. That created the position for Leeds’ second score of the first 12 minutes when Richie Myler’s short pass sent James Bentley over.

French makes amends after controversial incident
After a fast start from the Rhinos, Wigan got right back into despite a bizarre error from Bevan French. The winger so the ball slip out of his hands and through his legs as he tried to gather a kick. The home fans wanted a knock on but instead saw their team concede a penalty from which French was the man on hand to take Jai Field’s pass to score.

The race of the century
After the Magic Weekend where Ash Handley recorded an exceptionally fast time, the race we’ve all been waiting to see is him vs Jai Field or Bevan French and we got that today when Handley intercepted and Jai Field hunted him down. There was still a great chance on for the Rhinos but a poor kick from Rhyse Martin saw it squandered.

Martin makes amends
After squandering that chance, he made amends very quickly when taking a lovely short ball from Jarrod O’Connor to crash over and extend Leeds’ lead as O’Connor enjoyed an exceptional first half.

Lewis Jones, John Holmes, Iestyn Harris, Danny McGuire and…Cameron Smith?
A true halfback’s try from the stand-in stand-off Cameron Smith. Last tackle, options outwide, Cameron Smith instead shows the dummy and goes over himself.

Handley does the hard work and Harry finishes things off
For the second time in the game, Ash Handley nicked a Wigan pass and showed his great pace. Again Wigan were able to track him back with Liam Marshall doing so this time. But a quick play the ball allowed Harry Newman to force his wat over from close range.

12-point try gives Wigan hope
It’s something that has stirred up debate for a long time and especially recently. James Donaldson appeared to crash over for Leeds but the try was sent to the video ref as a ‘no try.’ Sufficient evidence wasn’t found to overturn it but it was one of those that had it gone up as a ‘try’ it would have been six more points for Leeds. Almost instantly after that, a mad last tackle play from Wigan which played to the strength’s of French saw his grubber lead to a Jake Bibby try to give Wigan hope.

Dwyer’s parting gift
Against his hometown club the week his Leeds departure was confirmed, Brad Dwyer reminded everyone of his class with a signature electric try to seal the win.

Mustapha’s bumper car try
He just kept going. A young forward who has not played much for Leeds since his debut back in 2019, but he showed the value he has with an excellent try as he bounced of tackles galore to wrap up the famous win.

Talking Points:

The Field and French solution
All season, teams have struggled to deal with Jai Field and Bevan French. Their pace has made them exceptional and almost impossible to deal with at times. But Leeds have the rest of the league hope tonight with how they managed the duo. They turned them both around and weren’t afraid to kick to them trusting their kick chase to close them down which they did with Harry Newman particularly exceptional at closing them down. That’s how they managed them defensively getting up in their faces but also having the agility to match their fancy footwork. It sounds simple, but all it took was confidence and energy. Of course, the duo still had their moments but that’s down to their sheer quality.

Rhinos a different animal under Rohan
It’s been easy to question whether Leeds have improved that much under Rohan Smith. Their defeat to St Helens recently was a real low and came off the back of a lukewarm display at Huddersfield as Leeds still struggled for consistency. They still do largely down to absences, but the rugby they play under Smith is mesmeric and exactly the kind of rugby you need to play to excel in the modern game. Today was the best indicator of how much Leeds have improved under Smith. Such a result would’ve been unthinkable earlier this season.

Is Harry Newman the best centre in Super League?
People often assume that centres aren’t that important to the makeup of a team, that they’re just there to finish off chances but Harry Newman tonight showed that that is not the case. The injection of speed and strength into the Rhinos tonight, his ability to change direction and make things happen made Leeds look like a different team from the one we’ve seen for most of the season due to his recurring absences. It would be hard to make the case for him to be in the Dream Team at the end of the year as consequence, but he showed tonight why he’s perhaps the best centre around.

Rhinos defensively brilliant
A lot of focus will be on the Leeds attack for the way they scored some lovely tries tonight but it shouldn’t be dismissed how well they defended. The Rhinos – unsurprisingly given the number of props absent from their side tonight – spent a lot of the game having to manage Wigan’s go forward and defending their own line but they stood up to the challenge brilliantly. As I’ve already said, the way they closed down Field and French was exceptional.

Wigan off colour
Leeds were defensively brilliant and frustrated Wigan and that really saw Wigan’s attack falter like we’ve not seen under Matt Peet. Their usual clinical edge was not there and they made plenty of errors as panic set in. Quite strange for a side who won 60-0 last week with a star man scoring seven tries.

Player Ratings:

Leeds Rhinos
33 Zak Hardaker – 8
2 David Fusitu’a – 8
3 Harry Newman – 9
4 Liam Sutcliffe – 8
5 Ash Handley – 9
17 Cameron Smith – 8
16 Richie Myler – 9
8 Mikolaj Oledzki – 9
24 Jarrod O’Connor – 9
19 Bodene Thompson – 9
11 James Bentley – 9
12 Rhyse Martin – 9
25 James Donaldson – 8
Substitutes
14 Brad Dwyer – 8
21 Morgan Gannon – 7
27 Muizz Mustapha – 7
34 Yusuf Aydin – 7

Wigan Warriors
23 Jai Field – 6
1 Bevan French – 6
11 Willie Isa – 5
2 Jake Bibby – 5
5 Liam Marshall – 6
6 Cade Cust – 5
16 Harry Smith – 5
20 Liam Byrne – 5
9 Sam Powell – 5
19 Ethan Havard – 5
12 Liam Farrell – 6
21 Kai Pearce-Paul – 7
14 Morgan Smithies – 6
Substitutes
15 Kaide Ellis – 5
17 Oliver Partington – 5
22 Joe Shorrocks – 5
36 Mike Cooper – 5

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