With just five games remaining in the regular rounds of Super League 2021 the race for the all-important top-six was heating up as fourth placed Wigan Warriors hosted a Leeds Rhinos currently sitting in seventh spot, but who knew that a win would lift them into fifth above both Hull clubs.
Wigan were without the suspended Willie Isa but Jai Field and Brad Singleton both returned to the starting line-up alongside a John Bateman who had a one game suspension overturned on appeal, while the Rhinos were without a ill Callum McLelland but with Rhyse Martin, Matt Prior and Cameron Smith all back in the seventeen.
The Warriors were slight favourites for the win with the Rhinos being given a two-point start on the coupon, but there was very little in it for the pundits who were divided on who would take the win to improve their league win percentage.
It wasn’t the best start for Leeds as Rhyse Martin put his kick-off out on the full but after defending a couple of sets of six the Rhinos regained their composure as the teams got stuck into an early arm wrestle.
On twenty-one Zane Tetevano saw yellow, for the second week running, for an ugly tackle on Liam Farrell, the Rhinos down to twelve for ten minutes.
On the half hour mark the Rhinos hauled down Jackson Hastings and when Luke Briscoe was not square at the play the ball, leaping over a Rhyse Martin and stealing the ball, he was shown the yellow card by referee Hicks. Leeds were down to eleven but only for fifteen seconds as Tetevano returned to the pitch.
It was the twelve men who opened the scoring with just three minutes of the half remaining when Brad Dwyer collected a Kruise Leeming grubber which bounced off the right hand post, the Leeds hooker grounding under the sticks and giving Martin a simple kick for a 6-0 half time lead.
The Rhinos went in for their second five after the restart after a Martin break through a broken Warriors defence before he found his full back Richie Myler in support to go the remaining ten a slide over by the uprights. Martin added the extras for a 12-0 lead.
A high tackle from Amir Bourouh on Tetevano gifted the Rhinos a penalty goal from the boot of Martin to extend the lead and put three tries between the sides.
On seventy-two Bibby went for the line but a great defensive effort from Ash Handley held him up over the line to prevent the try, aided by Myler. Leeming went for the line on a minute later, and with players in support the Rhinos should have scored, but Wigans defence dragged him into touch.
The Rhinos ran down the clock while in possession for an historic 14-0 win, as the Warriors fans left the stadium in droves for an early journey home.
The Rhinos first win at the DW Stadium for eight years which lifted them into fifth spot after a season of languishing in the bottom half of the table. Many will now be asking whether Richard Agar has timed a run to Old Trafford, and Grand Final glory, with perfection, while at the same time asking whether Adrian Lam’s Wigan are a spent force in 2021. Wigan have now gone over one hundred and sixty minutes without crossing the whitewash and this was their first home nilling since the start of Super League.
Wigan Warriors: Field, Marshall, Gildart, Hardaker, Bibby, Hastings, Smith, Singleton, Shorrocks, Partington, Farrell, Bateman, Smithies. Subs: Bourouh, Byrne, Havard, Pearce-Paul.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler (T), Briscoe L (SB on 31), Newman, Briscoe T, Hadley, Leeming, Lui, Thompson, Dwyer (T), Prior, Gannon, Martin (3G), Tetevano (SB on 21). Subs: Vuniyayawa, Donaldson, Holroyd, Smith.
Referee: Rob Hicks.
Score Progression: (SB), (SB), 0-4, 0-6 : HT : 0-10, 0-12, 0-14 : FT.