Wigan's eight game winning streak, that
ironically began with a victory over Leeds at Magic
Weekend, may have come to an end on Friday at Headingley
but I've got to be honest that it wasn't too much of a
shock to me.
I had a gut feeling all week that this
game was ripe for us to lose. I just felt that the team
selection would have more eyes on the upcoming Semi Final
against Hull and Leeds are finding form for two reasons.
One is that they are practically back to full strength, bar
Danny McGuire, and also that James Segeyaro is giving them
a bit of buzz from hooker that they haven't had all season.
My low expectation was heightened when I
arrived and saw the teams but that's not to say I had no
hope. I knew we would compete and that's exactly what we
did. When Leeds got to 18-4 I thought that was harsh on
Wigan but they rallied like they had done all season but
this time perhaps lacked the patience when it mattered in
The match in reality was decided by a
goal kick missed by Matty Smith but the ultimate difference
was the two benches. Leeds had an all forward bench which
included three hugely experienced props. Wigan in
comparison to those three had a jetlagged debutant who
arrived in the country just last Monday, a 20 year stand
off who was playing just his fourth match and a 19 year old
centre who was making just his third appearance.
Neither Higginson or Shorrocks let us
down but the game was screaming more for forwards when they
arrived on the field but with Dom Crosby, Micky McIlorum,
Joel Tomkins, Liam Farrell, Sean O'Loughlin, John Bateman
and Tony Clubb all absent it is frankly remarkable we can
compete so well with all those out and that's before
mentioning key attacking strike power in Sam Tomkins and
I've actually no idea where Shorrocks
came on to play because he was on whilst George Williams,
Matty Smith and Sam Powell all remained on the field also.
That highlighted how much we were having to make do in this
game. I think the lack of alternative to Powell at hooker
is another issue that perhaps could haunt us when the big
games come later in the year. He is busting his gut every
match but how long can he keep doing that effectively?
We still could have won though. Two
referee decisions against Charnley, one after he had broke
up field, the other when he was penalised for taking a
Leeds player out, when to me it looked more that the Leeds
player had ran into him, where big moments in the second
You have to credit how strong Leeds
defence was though. They worked and worked and although I
sensed signs of tiredness second half they found two key
opportunities to score second half that helped give them a
second and perhaps third wind.
Earlier in the first half it was quite a
defensive battle. I saw some on twitter suggesting it was a
poor watch on Sky but without that commentary at the ground
I thought it was a good contest.
Leeds had taken an 11th minute lead with
a bad missed tackle by Oliver Gildart being followed by
weak defending behind him that allowed Kallum Watkins to
finish well. Liam Sutcliffe converted for 6-0.
Wigan quickly responded with a superb
grubber from George Williams being touched down by Josh
Charnley but Smith missed the extras so it was only 6-4.
The only other talking point left in the
first half was a third man in "Cannonball" by Taulima
Tautai that had the press benches wincing at the ground. My
view is that it wasn't as bad as it looked BUT I still
think that his involvement was totally unnecessary risk
against a pretty much held Cuthbertson and that if we can
eliminate the risk out of the game then that can only be
good for the sport.
Second half saw Leeds increase their
lead after 5 minutes with a try from Cuthbertson being
scored near the posts for Sutcliffe to convert for 12-4 up.
Leeds are masters of controlling games
when they get in front but I felt Wigan were lacking
patience during this period of the match. Two breaks ended
up wasted and if I feel their is one area that Wigan can
improve massively on it is patience and an ability to rank
up pressure by ruthlessly creating repeat sets.
Brian McDermott's side up the other end
took one chance on 66 minutes which we all though had
sealed the game. Instead of testing Dom Manfredi, who won
his aerial battle with Ryan Hall 4-0, they instead kicked
in the area Dan Sarginson was defending and he was legally
bumped out the way by three big men and Brett Ferres
pounced on the loose ball to score. Sutcliffe kicked for
Even though Wigan have notoriously won
tight games this year, this looked too much a score to
overhaul. But within six minutes of that try Wigan had
scored twice through Jack Higginson and then a great solo
score by Williams that had Wigan just 18-16 down with still
eight minutes to go.
Wigan were pumping Leeds line after that
and had a penalty been given it would have been an easy
option to "take the two" for the draw that would have kept
us a point clear at the top. Leeds though held their
discipline and when Leeds had survived Wigan's pressure you
felt that our opportunity had gone even though we still had
three minutes left. So it proved, Leeds hung on but Wigan's
spirit certainly wasn't lacking. I'm adamant the Semi Final
is far more important than this but it also increases the
pressure for us to win that one at Doncaster.