Leeds, with Iestyn Harris making an immediate impact, were last night
denied the distinction of becoming the third side in a row to deprive
Wigan of Super League points by a late Andy Farrell drop goal.
Inspired by their expensive newcomer, Leeds had fought back
impressively during a thrilling second half, only to be robbed of the
draw that was the least they deserved by Farrell's boot and cool head.
The Wigan coach, Eric Hughes, has had much to say over the last,
uncomfortable couple of weeks, about the lack of bulk and power which
he has at his disposal, but an unlikely looking forward pack performed
well enough for him in the early stages at Headingley.
After two penalties from Farrell had outweighed one from Leeds'
Graham Holroyd, Wigan's French second-rower, Gael Tallec, had what
would have been a splendidly inventive try disallowed when he failed
to touch down after taking his own kick on the bounce and heading for
There was an argument as well about the try that was allowed, but
Jason Robinson had come from a marginally onside position to scoop up
Farrell's grubber kick and send the supporting Craig Murdock over the
line, Farrell adding the conversion.
After 32 minutes during which they had posed few problems for
Wigan's defence, Leeds brought on their record signing. Virtually
Harris's first act was to wrong-foot Terry O'Connor and Tony Smith
with a little shimmy and send Phil Hassan in for a try. Just to
embellish his dream start, Harris, taking over as kicker from Holroyd,
the man he had replaced, added the conversion.
Harris continued to be heavily involved for a player who had only
had two training sessions with his new team-mates, with Richie
Blackmore in particular enjoying a service which promised to unlock
his match-winning potential.
Wigan were starting to look worryingly scrappy before a little
glimpse of guile from Farrell steadied their nerves. The Wigan captain
dummied to kick, which gave him enough space to send Gary Connolly
through a gap. Robinson backed up to score, although Connolly's final
pass looked suspiciously forward.
Leeds should have hit back when Adrian Morley made as good a break
as any second-rower in the game could produce. That chance was wasted
but Holroyd, back on the field, soon put over a penalty.
Harris and Holroyd then linked up to send Hassan, originally from
Wigan, in for his second try, Holroyd landing a fine kick to bring the
scores level with 13 minutes left.
Leeds could have won it when Martin Masella made a marvellous run
but failed to find the supporting Damian Gibson and again when
Harris's cross kick picked out Paul Sterling, who was stopped two
yards short by Connolly.
Cruelly, with two minutes remaining, Farrell gathered a low pass
from Martin Hall, steadied himself and slotted over the winning point.
Leeds: Gibson; Sterling, Blackmore, Hassan, Rivett; Holroyd,
Sheridan; Masella, Collins, Mathiou, Morley, Anthony Farrell, Mercer.
Substitutes used: Harris, Hughes, Newton, Leathem.
Wigan: Murray; Robinson, Connolly, Radlinski, Johnson; Smith,
Murdock; O'Connor, Cassidy, Holgate, Haughton, Tallec, Andy Farrell.
Substitutes used: Hall, Baynes.
Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).