A crowd of 20,295 saw Wigan claim their fifth straight win on Friday night, with a professional 28-10 win over Leeds Rhinos at the DW Stadium.
In a game dubbed “the Big One”, Wigan’s second-highest attendance of the season, and all-time highest gate for a home game against Leeds, saw tries each from the Tomkins brothers, George Carmont and Harrison Hansen, and a twelve-point haul from Pat Richards, wrap up the points in a battling encounter.
Wigan fell behind midway through the first half, but came back superbly to keep the champions scoreless and stop them leapforgging St Helens into top spot.
Stand-off Danny McGuire had a superb breakaway run halted just before the line by Amos Roberts, before both sides exchanged several handling errors and solid tackling. The game remained nip-and-tuck for the first 20 minutes, with last-ditch tackling and a handful of knock-ons keeping the game scoreless.
On 21 minutes, though, and somewhat against the run of play, McGuire opened the scoring for the visitors, combining typically with half-back partner Rob Burrow on the end of a sharp move. Hooker Danny Buderus brilliantly switched the ball inside to Burrow, who released McGuire for a simple touchdown. Captain Kevin Sinfield added the extras to give his side a 6-0 lead.
Just four minutes later, prolific wingman Scott Donald extended the lead, fully exploiting debutant centre Michael Ratu‘s offload. Donald did well to barge through two Wigan tacklers and get the ball down in the corner, before Sinfield narrowly dragged his conversion the wrong side of the posts, leaving the score at 10-0.
With five minutes of the half left, centre George Carmont touched down his fourth consecutive home try to close the gap to six points, before Pat Richards‘ conversion shaved that deficit to four points. Full-back Cameron Phelps wonderfully created space for Carmont, excellently switching the play back inside for Carmont to pierce the gap and dive over, leaving Leeds with a slim 10-6 interval lead.
Within two minutes of the restart, video referee Ian Smith awarded second-rower Harrison Hansen a try which turned the game on its head. Young stand-off Sam Tomkins marvellously flicked the ball back inside to Carmont, whose pass to scrum-half Thomas Leuluai fell too low and had to be punted towards the line. After much deliberation, Mr. Smith adjudged Hansen to have pounced on the ball inches before it could go dead, giving Richards the simple task of giving Brian Noble’s side a 12-10 advantage from right underneath the sticks.
In the 57th minute, Hansen’s second-row partner Joel Tomkins capitalised on hooker Mark Riddell‘s pass to earn his third try in four games in the corner. Just seconds before, Joel and Sam Tomkins and Lee Mossop had taken exception to Jamie Jones-Buchanan‘s attentions in the tackle, and it was Joel who exacted revenge with this score. Richards’ fabulous touchline conversion stretched the cushion to eight points just after, setting up an intriguing final 20 minutes.
The game was halted for several minutes in the 66th minute, when Leeds hooker Buderus was laid out after a clash with Wigan prop Andy Coley, stretchered off with a suspected elbow injury.
15 minutes after older brother Joel’s try, Sam Tomkins clinched the game for the Warriors with an exhilirating breakaway move. Richards pierced through space in the Leeds defence, slipped it inside to Leuluai who set up Tomkins for a simple touchdown under the posts. Richards made it 24-10 with the extras.
Leeds threw caution to the wind from the kick-off, managing to regain possession from the kick but spilled the ball in the aftermath, leaving Wigan with the basic task of seeing off the final nine minutes.
Two late Richards penalties chalked up a 28-10 full-time victory for the Cherry and Whites, rounding off an exceptional scalp over the reigning champions.
Wigan – 28
T: Carmont (35); Hansen (43); J Tomkins (57); S Tomkins (71)
G: Richards (35, 43, 57, 71, 75, 77)
Leeds – 10
T: Mcguire (21); Donald (25)
G: Sinfield (21)
Ref: P Bentham