Defending Super League
champions Leeds kept the pressure on leaders St Helens with a
crushing win at the JJB Stadium that dealt a hammer blow to
Wigan's hopes of a home tie in the play-offs.
produced a polished performance to avenge their recent defeat by
the Warriors and gave their points difference a healthy boost as
they drew level with Saints, who go to Huddersfield on Sunday with
work still to do if they are to finish top of the table.
Full-back Brent Webb scored two of their nine tries in a
scintillating show to which the home side simply had no answer as
they crashed to their heaviest home defeat of the season.
The champions were in determined mood from the start and,
inspired by in-form second rower Ali Lauitiiti, ran in four
converted tries to establish a 24-10 interval lead before adding
five more after the break.
Wigan, who were without leading points-scorer Pat Richards,
were boosted by the return of playmaker Trent Barrett and, making
what could be his final appearance at the JJB Stadium, he was
involved with the opening score, a contentious one that came
virtue of a breakaway try from former Leeds winger Mark
Webb went up in the air with Barrett in pursuit of Danny
McGuire's high kick and it took video referee Steve Ganson four
minutes to deduce the ball came off the visiting player before
loose forward Joel Tomkins re-gathered to send the winger 60
metres up field.
With front row forwards Stuart Fielden and Iafeta Paleaaesina
tearing huge holes in the Leeds defence, Wigan were good value for
their lead but the visitors continued to play the brighter rugby
and they were rewarded with two tries in a three-minute spell.
Webb took Matt Diskin's pass close to the line and spun out of
George Carmont's attempted tackle to score his 15th try of the
season and then substitute Luke Burgess seized on a moment's
hesitation by Calderwood to touch down McGuire's grubber kick.
Kevin Sinfield added both conversions to make it 12-6 but Wigan
hit back 28 minutes when Calderwood, never far from the action on
his likely final home appearance, palmed back Barrett's kick for
Cameron Phelps to touch down.
In a game where errors were proving costly, Leeds winger Lee
Smith was next to pounce, seizing on a dropped ball by Carmont to
race 50 metres unopposed to the line for the visitors' third try.
And Leeds' enterprise was rewarded just before the break when
they ran a penalty from in front of the posts and prop Kylie
Leuluai crashed over from short range, with Sinfield kicking his
Leeds were on a roll by then and they increased their lead with
the very first play of the second half.
They were awarded a scrum in a perfect attacking position after
Sinfield's kick-off bounced into touch and Webb underlined his
status as the best attacking full-back in the game when he
produced some dazzling footwork to slice through for his second
try straight from the set piece.
The Rhinos have begun to re-discover their early-season sparkle
in recent weeks and their next try amply illustrated their
devastating tryscoring ability when superb offloads by Keith
Senior and Jordan Tansey paved the way for Lauitiiti to touch down
for a richly-deserved score.
Leeds were becoming simply unstoppable and Senior typified
their superior power and pace when he romped over for their
seventh try on 54 minutes and Sinfield's seventh conversion made
Substitute Eamon O'Carroll pulled a try back for the home side
but the champions continued to dominate and Smith scythed through
the Wigan defence for his second try.
Seventeen-year-old substitute Kallum Watkins then put the seal
on a magnificent victory when he chased McGuire's kick and hacked
the ball ahead to touch down for a memorable score.