As storm Eunice continued to wreak havoc across the kingdom a hoard of hardy souls braved the gales and occasional snowstorm and descended on the DW Stadium to see the Wigan Warriors take on a Leeds Rhinos side who had battled the elements to cross the Pennines in search of their first win of the campaign.
The visitors were forced into five changes from last weeks side who suffered late defeat at the hands of Warrington with Bentley, Myler, Fusitu´a, Dwyer and Martin all missing from a side which included Blake Austin, Liam Tindall and Morgan Gannon. The only change for Matt Peet´s Warriors side was the replacement of the injured Iain Thornley as they looked for two on the bounce at the start of the 2022 season.
Leeds made the first mistake when they were offside from a kick but on the very next play the ball Wigan knocked on. A low benchmark had been set in poor conditions, the Warriors enjoying the wind at their backs in the opening forty.
All the early traffic was in one direction and took place inside the Wigan twenty. On ten minutes a moment of magic from debutant Blake Austin, stepping off both feet from ten metres out, saw the Rhinos half back over mid-way between the right post and the touchline. Aidan Sezer had the Rhinos kicking duties in the absence of Rhyse Martin and the accomplished goal-kicker slotted the ball between the uprights.
Jai Field stopped a certain try from Liam Tindall with a wonder tackle on twenty-one as the Rhinos youngster caught a high ball and went down the right wing, looking like he´d the space to round the Wigan full-back.
Jack Walker knocked-on for Leeds on twenty-three and gifted Wigan the ball twenty from the line. On the next play Wigan scored a freak try when a wayward pass hit Jake Bibby on the elbow and then the foot before being propelled forwards and collected by Field to run through a stationary Rhino defence for the try. Field added the conversion to level the scores.
A delightful John Bateman offload, thirty out from the Leeds sticks, went straight into the hands of Field who wound his way through a broken Leeds defence to score under the sticks. He added the conversion himself for 12-6 after the half time hooter had sounded.
After using five tackles from their own goal line to the Leeds twenty, a pinpoint Pearce-Paul kick was collected by Sam Powell who, despite appearing to lose control of the ball on the act of scoring, was awarded the try by the video referee in agreement with the on-field official. Hardaker added the conversion.
Receiving the kick-off, Field took a pass on his own twenty and sprinted through the Leeds defence to score a hat-trick try from eighty out. Hardaker was again accurate with the boot and Wigan were pulling clear of the Rhinos.
On forty-eight a Wigan kick through was collected by Jack Walker who was pushed over his own line and dropped the ball which was grounded by Powell for the fifth Wigan try. Hardaker was unable to add the extras, but the Rhinos were being put to the sword, Wigan starting the second half running red hot.
After Austin went close on the fifth tackle a quick play the ball saw Matt Prior take the miss-out pass and sidestep through the Wigan line for the Rhinos second try. Sezer added the conversion for 12-28.
On seventy-three minutes Cade Cust was able to get the ball free in the tackle and offload to Liam Farrell for a walk-in try to extinguish any lasting hopes that the Rhinos had of a comeback. Hardaker added the extras for 34-12.
On seventy-five video referee Ben Thaler turned down a penalty try but sin-binned Tindall for a professional foul in nudging the chasing Marshall off the ball.
In no way, shape, or form, was this a vintage Warriors performance as they dropped ball and made mistakes a plenty. But led by the enchanting Jai Field they settled down after a desperate start to the game and went about the business of demolishing what is looking like a second-rate Rhinos side. Meanwhile, Rhinos fans will be thumbing their fixture list for the home game against Toulouse in the hope of some Super League points, only to find that next up is a nightmare of a game against the Catalans Dragons.
Wigan Warriors: Field (3T, 2G), Hardaker (3G), Pearce-Paul, Bibby, Marshall, Cust, Leuluai, Singleton, Powell (2T), Ellis, Farrell (T), Bateman, Isa. Subs: Mago, Smithies, Byrne, Partington.
Leeds Rhinos: Walker, Tindall (SB on 76), Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Handley, Austin (T), Sezer (2G), Tetevano, Leeming, Prior (T), Mellor, Gannon, Smith. Subs: Oledzki, Johnson, Donaldson, Thompson.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 4-6, 6-6, 10-6, 12-6 : HT : 16-6, 18-6, 22-6, 24-6, 28-6, 28-10, 28-12, 32-12, 34-12, (SB) : FT .
Referee: Liam Moore.