Wigan Warriors regained their spot at the top of the Super League table with a professional and ruthless 50-0 win over Leeds Rhinos at Headingley.
Here are our five takeaways from the televised Round 25 clash at Headingley Stadium…
Wigan regain top spot
Matt Peet’s side are on course to scoop the League Leaders’ Shield following their win at Leeds.
The Warriors have leapfrogged St Helens and Catalans Dragons – who both enjoyed wins on Friday – to take pole position in the race for the League Leaders’ Shield.
Wigan, Catalans and St Helens all sit on 36 points with two games remaining – but the Warriors are in first place on points difference.
It was a clinical and ruthless display from the Warriors, weathering the storm that Leeds threw at them in the opening stages before running out comfortable winners.
Leeds play-off hopes hanging by a thread
The chances of Leeds now making the play-offs look very slim.
Rohan Smith’s side are sat eighth in the ladder, two points behind seventh-placed Salford and four points behind sixth-placed Warrington, with the Red Devils and Wolves playing each other on Sunday afternoon.
If Warrington win at Salford tomorrow then Leeds’ play-off hopes will be over before the penultimate round of games get underway.
If that does occur, then the Rhinos will be playing for pride in their final two games of the campaign against Catalans and Castleford as they prepare for 2024.
The only negative to come out of the game from a Wigan standpoint was the injury to key prop Liam Byrne in the first half.
The Ireland international, who played in last year’s World Cup, left the field in the 16th minute with a hamstring injury and didn’t return.
Wigan fans will be hoping it’s nothing to serious for the towering front-rower, who has been in tremendous form since returning from a couple of weeks off last month.
It’s not hard to see why Jake Wardle has broken into the England senior set-up over the last couple of years.
The centre, who joined Wigan on a three-year deal in the off-season from Huddersfield, has proven to be an excellent addition to Peet’s side.
Wardle plays the game tough and is a consistent performer. He bagged a hat-trick against Leeds to take him up to 13 tries in 25 appearances for the Warriors in Super League this season.
He could find himself win a spot in this year’s Super League Dream Team.
Major improvements needed for Rhinos
It has been a disappointing season on the whole for last year’s Super League Grand Finalists.
It’s the sixth year in a row that they’ve not made the top four – which is quite the stat given the success the club have enjoyed over the course of the Super League era.
They’ve already made three signings for next season in Lachie Miller, Matt Frawley and Mickael Goudemand – but you’d feel there is more to come to help rebuild for 2024.
As it stands, the Rhinos currently five quota spots taken up for next season – Miller, Sam Lisone, Rhyse Martin, Frawley and Nene Macdonald, although the latter’s future is reportedly up in the air.
There’s no doubting that Leeds have got some immensely talented youngsters within their ranks, but they need to get that blend of youth and experience right.