Another crucial basement battle for the Leeds Rhinos as they welcomed the old enemy, Wigan Warriors, to Headingley for a four pointer. An unlikley twenty-seven point victory for the Rhinos would lift them above the Warriors into eighth, a twenty-four point win for the visitors would lift them to the dizzy heights of sixth, there was plenty to play for.
The Rhinos started with the same seventeen that nilled Wakefield last time out and made it back to back wins for the first time in 2019. Wigan scraped a scrappy one point win over Hull KR last week and came into the game without Zak Hardaker through injury and Taulima Tautai, who was in court today pleading guilty to a drink driving charge.
The Rhinos were slight favourites with the bookies, but on paper, there was little to choose between the two sides.
Both sides had good early chances but spilled the ball close to their opponents line. There was some nervousness from both sets of players with a number of mistakes breaking down attacks.
Wigan were caught offside on fifteen, deep in their own red zone, and Leeds pointed to the sticks, Liam Sutcliffe kicking the penalty goal for a Leeds advantage.
On twenty the Warriors took the lead when Oliver Gildart took a pass twenty-five from the Rhinos line and outpaced Harry Newman to dive over. Chris Hankinson put his difficult conversion right between the uprights for a 6-2 lead.
Hankinson added a penalty from thirty metres after an infringement by Dwyer extended the cushion to six points. Another penalty, this time conceeded by Trent Merrin, enabled Hankinson to kick his third goal of the night for 10-2.
Konrad Hurrell went close on thirty-four but was held short but two plays later the Rhinos were over for their opening try of the night when Adam Cuthbertson lunged for the line and got the ball on the ground. Sutcliffe kicked the conversion for 8-10.
On the stroke of half time Sam Powell knocked over a nonchalent drop goal from thirty metres to send his side in with a three point lead at the interval.
Leeds were in front of fifty minutes after Trent Merrin took a Brad Dwyer pass at speed to give the Wigan tacklers no chance of stopping him as he went on to score under the sticks. Lolohea kicked the goal, Sutcliffe undergoing a head assessment.
On the hour mark Oliver Partington took a Liam Farrell pass to go through a gap in the Leeds defence and score under the sticks to regain the lead. Hankinson kicked his fourth try of the game for 17-14.
Ava Seumanufagai was held up over the line on sixty-three for Leeds and on the final play of the set the Rhinos relinquished possession.
Right on the final hooter, with the Rhinos trying one last play to get the win, Tony Clubb took the kick through and made his way to the line to dive over for the try. The video showed that Clubb lost the ball in the act of scoring, but the referee awarded it anyway. Hankinson added the goal for a 23-14 win.
There was little to choose between these two sides. Neither showed much confidence, both made mistakes, both gave away too many silly penalties, and both made some awful last tackle choices. Wigan took the important two points and move closer towards the play-off positions. The Rhinos are right back in the mire and depending on how London and Hull KR fare in their games this weekend they could be back level on points at the bottom of the table.
Rhinos: Lolohea (G), Briscoe, Newman, Hurrell, Handley, Sutcliffe (2G), Myler, Seumanufagai, Dwyer, Singleton, Watkins, Ferres, Merrin (T). Subs: Smith, Donaldson, Oledzki, Cuthbertson (T).
Warriors: Sarginson, Marshall, Hankinson (5G), Gildart (T), Burgess, Williams, Leuluai, Navarrete, Powell (DG), Clubb (T), Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Bullock, Partington (T), Sammut, Smithies.
Referee: Chris Kendall.