Wigan practically fixed everything I moaned about last week. Mike
McIlorum did 80 minutes, the pack got stuck in and played very
direct and a performance all came together off the back of that
against the league leading Leeds Rhinos.
Whilst on one hand
delighted, it proved really what a wasted opportunity last week
against Warrington was. If we'd have played like this last week,
then I think we'd have beat Warrington and with that we'd be joint
top of the table.
Nethertheless this was a huge win. Finishing second above Saints
means we'll have them visiting the DW for a derby after the split
rather than us going to Langtree. We have Widnes and Hull left to
play whilst Saints have Huddersfield (tonight), Warrington (away)
and Hull KR to play before the split. You have to fancy they'll
slip up at least once, so no excuses for Wigan to not take a top
two finish now.
In terms of this match, it's certainly being argued by Leeds
fans that we shouldn't have had a first half try, because we got a
scrum from a Matty Smith knock on, and then they should have had
the try chalked off for obstruction. They may well be valid
arguments, draw your own conclusions, BUT I think you can earn your
luck in sport and Wigan's effort did so here.
I felt in general that Wigan stifled Leeds natural play.
Highlighted by the fact three of their four tries came from a metre
out. Two of them also came from gifted territory in the form of
ridiculously mad and unnecessary offload intercepts thrown by Joel
Wigan in comparison scored three good tries from kicks, which
was pleasing to see, and in general had a little more deep threat
than Leeds did. Joe Burgess set up the first try from deep
whilst McIlorum should have slipped in George Williams for a
certain try under the posts from a long break and Dan Sarginson was
unfortunate pulling up with a hamstring on another deep break that
was looking ominous.
Leeds found ground at times up the middle, particularly from
Adam Cuthbertson's offloads, but didn't really threaten out wide,
which is a key strength for them. Often when going wide they threw
the ball into touch, such was the good job being done of them by
the Wigan wide defence. In particular John Bateman was strong
filling in at centre against the experience duo of Joel Moon and
Ryan Hall. Those two made five errors between them to highlight
It was obvious from the first set that the Wigan forwards were
going to get stuck in but the first mad offload from Joel in the
7th Minute got Leeds on the attack and although they didn't score
initially from that mistake, Wigan never got back on the front foot
until after Paul Aiton had claimed the games first try and Kevin
Sinfield converted for 6-0 to Leeds.
Wigan's response though was swift. Good overlap on the left saw
Joe Burgess breaking through. He spotted Liam Farrell's inside
support and put in a beautifully weighted kick that bounced perfect
for the Pearl. Great vision and Ginger saw off Carl Ablett for pace
Matty Smith converted that and he was sending Sean O'Loughlin
through a gap for the second try soon after. Lockers went through
the defence of Aiton and Kylie Leuluai before beating fill in full
back Kallum Watkins for strength with the put down. Smith converted
for 12-6 after quarter of an hour.
I felt Wigan were looking for likely to push on for a third
score and were mightily close when a kick through found a wide open
Josh Charnley but the bounce of the ball proved unkind. Leeds
though got back on the attack from the second mad early tackle
count offload by Joel. It was taken by Aiton, who read it well to
be fair. This got Leeds on the front foot again and Cuthbertson
slipped Brad Singleton over for a 26th Minute try that made it
12-12 after Singleton converted.
Then Leeds had a much disputed try chalked off for offside that
would have been a great try to remember had it been given. Several
offloads in the build up and Danny McGuire finished, but it got
I've not seen video of it to comment but whatever you think
about it, I still firmly believe we should not be using the video
referee to look at obstruction. I ranted about this on the radio at
the time. The video refs looked five times at the incident, when I
reckon two would of sufficed, and the decision took far too long to
be concluded. The game needs speeding up and had Silverwood made
his call, which he gave as "no try" when it actually happened, then
we wouldn't even be talking about this because the "try" would have
got so far to be scored.
Also, whether you agree with the decision or not, it was chalked
off BUT if Leeds had been tackled short it couldn't have been
checked and we would have just played on, thus the reverse of the
decision concluded by at least two match officials. That is wrong,
fundamentally wrong, in my eyes and it continues to happen on a
regular basis. If Richard Silverwood had made his own call, then
he'd be saved from a lot of the grief he is getting over it.
Anyway, Wigan ended up with the lead at half time with a lovely
kick from George Williams being superbly won in the air by Matty
Bowen near the sticks. It was a lovely side swerve by George before
the kick. Smith converted for 18-12.
That was a good half time lead but I felt Wigan were dumb in not
setting up for a drop goal late for 19-12 at the break. A Leeds
error gave them a scrum 40 out but rather than going into a drop
goal mode of tunnelling towards the posts and setting up for it,
the last tackle came towards the left wing and Smith was never set
and had a scrappy woeful effort in the end. That lost one point
almost cost Wigan at the end of the game and they were guilty of
the same thing in the second half also.
First try of the second half was a big one and it came to Wigan
from another kick. Smith spotted Charnley free on the right and his
weighted kick sat perfectly, unlike the one in the first half.
Smith then nailed a very important conversion off the touchline
which made it 24-12.
Two minutes later Wigan should have made it 30-12 with a long
deep break by McIlorum seeing George Williams in support. It looked
like all he had to do was slip the pass to send Williams under the
posts but he went for the glory himself and not only got tackled
but McGuire's good tackle forced an error.
That proved a massive moment because a minute later, Leeds
turned what could of been 30-12 down and practically game over into
game on with a try that pretty much mirrored Charnley's try three
minutes before. Kick to the right found Ash Handley in space and he
scored for 24-18 after Sinfield added the extras.
24 minutes without a score followed that and my
frustration turned to Wigan never really setting up for the one
pointer. It looked so obvious to me in this game that seven score
lead would be enough to win it and we got at least three
opportunities to set up for it and never did. Leeds errors gave us
two scrums on half way for example but rather than tunnel towards
the posts, we still kept going left and right and the only attempt
we did have was another scramble effort from Smith that was
Hindsight can be beautiful, or a complete bastard, but
the failure to kick the one looked mightily costly when Rob Burrow
scored to level with three minutes to go. If you keep Leeds within
a sniff of hope, they keep coming and that try was coming for a few
minutes before it did. They are like trying to pin down a kangaroo
on a trampoline, they wouldn't go away and it was a choker to see
them level at 24-24.
About two minutes remained still in the game but I
think Leeds actually played it dumb late on. They fancied the glory
of nicking the win when instead I think they should have stuck it
up the jumper and took the draw. In terms of the league table, the
one league point would have been a great one for them but instead
they still went for the win and came unstuck with an obstruction
going against them giving Matty Smith a kick at goal to win it. 40
metres out, many wouldn't have backed him, but he nailed it to put
Wigan 26-24 up with 17 seconds remaining. Their was still time for
a short kick off by Leeds but it went out on the full and the
result went to Wigan in the end.
So a great performance in terms of hard work from
Wigan but they need to be doing this every single week. We haven't
seen anything close to that hard work away from home this season
and that's why fans have every right to still ask questions. If we
put that effort in and lost then at least we could be content that
the opposition put in a good shift to beat us. Often away we've
been far too soft for our own good.
Finally I have to comment on the return of Tony Clubb.
He only got two ten minute spells on his comeback but his will and
work rate in defence was absolutely fantastic. More of that please!