Last week our fourth worst defeat of all time! This week we do a
right good job on the league leading Leeds Rhinos and keep them to
nil for the last 62 minutes of the contest. Nope.....I can't weigh
it up either.
This should settle doubts though that may have
crept in after the cup exit and the heavy defeat in France. Wigan
were excellent in this match.
When you play Leeds it's never any different. They try to
offload for fun and are miserly in gifting teams penalties. You've
got to be prepared to be ultra disciplined and beat them by working
damn hard and grinding them down.
Wigan did all the hard work to a tee and got their rewards for
it with a bit of patience. The first 18 minutes of the second half
in particular were key. It was midfield ping pong for a long time
with little sign of getting up to the try line to pile on some
The game was waiting for a big error or a big penalty and I
reckon Shaun Wane will be delighted that it was his side that came
out on top in that battle. We did the same against Saints on Good
Friday. For all the daft things we've done in away games this year,
it's good to have that in your locker.
I thought the pack as a whole really did a great job. When we
played Leeds at Headingley in March, Jamie Peacock and Adam
Cuthbertson absolutely beasted us with a combined 286 metres
between them. On Saturday at Newcastle we reduced that to 188
metres. I thought we really muscled up on them and that's pleasing
from a pack still missing Tony Clubb and Liam Farrell whilst Joel
Tomkins is still filling in the centres.
Saying that though, you did fear another try would be costly for
Wigan having found themselves 12-4 down after 20 minutes. I made
the point during Wish FM commentary that had Micky McIlorum been
spelled, like normally would happen, at that time, I don't think
we'd have come back with Sam Powell in at hooker.
That 12-4 lead had come for Leeds after Wigan had started well
to score first with Dan Sarginson finishing well in the left
corner, Matty Smith failing to convert.
Wigan though might have had territory but they made some sloppy
errors near the Leeds line and it was from these that they would
find themselves under most pressure during the game. When they had
time to set their defensive line, it all worked perfectly, but when
Leeds scooped up these loose balls, we were always on the back
It played a part in two Leeds tries being scored in 13th and
18th minutes with first Cuthbertson crashing over near the posts
before Joel Moon scored a sneaky try after Josh Charnley failed to
get a kick in the air dead. Kevin Sinfield converted both for that
Next ten minutes up to the half hour were spent worrying what
could happen if Leeds scored next. It's would have been a long, and
probably impossible, way back from 16 or 18-4 and at that point I
was saying on the radio that "we don't look like we have a break in
us at the moment".
I was made to look a mug with that statement but I think it was
right at the time. Two breaks somehow saw us recover to lead at
half time and they were both bolts out of the blue. First George
Williams burst clear down the left in the 33rd Minute and just
about beat Zak Hardaker to finish in the left corner. That made it
12-8 and two minutes before the interval came the try that got that
A clearance bomb when up from Leeds but rather than letting the
ball bounce safely, which was the easy option because Leeds had no
pressure on the kick, Matty Bowen sprints after the ball and
catches it on the full. This immediately gets him on the front foot
and he timed a pass superbly to Burgess who left Hardaker for dead
before racing 50 metres under the posts. Easy conversion for Smith
made it 14-12 to Wigan at the break.
I mentioned the first 18 minutes of the second half earlier.
Leeds were perhaps just getting on top when it was them who made
the crucial error that broke the back of this game. Good hustling
in defence from Wigan helped and when Hardaker passed to Ash
Handley on the wing, Burgess forced an error which left a loose
ball for Bowen to collect. Not many would have backed him 70 metres
down the wing but the two nearest chasers ironically were Danny
McGuire and Jamie Peacock, the same two players that Joel Tomkins
left for dead at Wembley in 2011. Bowen skinned them easy and
finished under the posts, Smith converting for 20-12.
Game still wasn't won but I really can't remember Wigan gifting
Leeds any chances. Superb discipline, composure and attitude to
work hard to see out the win. This holding of the nerve was seeing
Leeds begin to get more and more frustrated and they didn't really
threaten to comeback.
In the end Wigan sealed the performance with a second try for
Bowen in the 76th Minute and a drop goal from Smith two minutes
later finishing a 27-12 victory. Wigan needed a big response to the
Catalan defeat and certainly produced it in the big St James Park
As for the "Magic Weekend", it really did work well in Newcastle
and I'd be surprised if the RFL don't return there next year. We
didn't get much Magic in the first two of these events, when we
lost 34-18 and 57-16 to St Helens in 2007 and 2008, but we are now
unbeaten in the last seven with six wins and a draw. In the grand
scheme of things, this win may only be two points for the league
ladder but claiming victories in big stadiums can only be a good
thing to achieve.