Well strangely I actually
didn't come off the ground feeling particularly gutted. I thought
Leeds proved what a champion side they are with superb control of
the ball and possession in the opening twenty minutes. They got
three tries, kicked two 40/20s and the early pressure proved too much for
us to come back from.
Wigan to be fair started terribly but
Leeds were so clinical in starving us of the ball. Pleased though
heads never dropped and I thought the effort was certainly there
for all to see. Think it just wasn't our day. Leeds scored
from a definite forward pass try in the first half, and two,
albeit correct, NO TRY video ref calls early second half perhaps
As good as Leeds were though, Wigan have got to do better in
executing set completion. The Rhinos starved us of possession
because when they got it because they made zero errors and had
excellent last tackle options (the two 40/20's for example).
Wigan either never made it to the last or when they did the
option was poor. When we did build some pressure we showed we can
compete. Two good tries and two excellent efforts that
unfortunately for us where not legal. That's frustrating for me.
Coach Noble has to carry some of the can. When Wigan lose its a
dreadful opening quarter that is generally to blame. I can't think
of two many matches we've lost after starting well. But poor
starts are sadly happening far too often. Even more frustrating
because we finish matches well on top against most sides in terms
of fitness. But why do we always start so slow?
Gareth Hock as well needs to learn. Outstanding last week and
he is breathtaking at times but he really needs to learn when and
when not to offload.
The frightening thing about Leeds is that internationals like
Keith Senior and Danny Buderus were both missing, another
international Greg Eastwood is still out the country with visa
problems and three time Grand Final winner Matt Diskin was also
absent. Personally not even St Helens will come close to denying
Leeds Grand Final success again unless the Rhinos get serious injury
Story of the match - well I've mentioned it already, Leeds made
a superb fast paced start helped by a 40/20 from Rob Burrow. This
eventually saw Kevin Sinfield send Kylie Leuluai over for a score
in only the 3rd minute. Sinfield converted to make it 6-0.
11th Minute and Scott Donald increased the lead by touching
down a neat kick from Danny McGuire. Sinfield again converted to
make it 12-0.
Next came a garbage referee decision. Now I've not seen a TV
replay in fairness but Ian Kirke's offload to Rob Burrow looked
well forward. Referee Ian Smith allowed play on and couldn't go to
the video to review a forward pass. So Sinfield converted to make
it 18-0. Maybe we should follow the NRL in having two on field
Outstanding start from Leeds and I don't think anyone would have
lived with that - not even Manly who beat Leeds handsomely in the
World Club Challenge two weeks earlier.
Frighteningly after a start like that, Leeds could bring Ali
Lauiititi, Jamie Peacock and Brent Webb off the bench. Whoever the
salary cap manager is at Leeds deserves a massive bonus! Although
to be fair the academy manager of recent years deserves an even
Wigan still struggled to get hold of the football and went
further behind on the half hour. Sub Lauitiiti threw a great ball
out wide for Ryan Hall to score from. Even though Sinfield missed
the score was 22-0. Personally I was relieved it was only that
From this moment on though Wigan finally got going. Shaun
Ainscough made a superb break down the left wing, chalking the
touchline along the way, but it was all wasted by a garbage last
tackle option. Not sure who it was but the option was to try and
belly flop over from close range. Didn't get anywhere near going
over. What a waste. You need to build pressure against sides like
Leeds, give them difficult kicks and try to force drop outs. Wigan
didn't do that once!
We did eventually get on the scoreboard before half time and it
was the young kid Ainscough at the heart of it. He touched down
after a good long pass out wide from Tommy Leuluai. Richards
converted and going into half time only 22-6 down wasn't a bad
result for Wigan.
Part of my frustration about starting matches poorly is that we
always start second half's brilliantly - proved again here.
Unfortunately we went over twice and both scores got chalked off.
We finally produced a good kick which was from Pat Richards
Donald let bounce. Ainscough picked it up and sent Leuluai
racing over the try line. Unfortunately from what I saw on the big
screen (again I've not seen a replay) Leuluai was clearly in an
offside position from the initial kick.
Minutes later Gareth Hock went over but video referee Phil
Bentham ruled it out for obstruction. Again it looked a fair call.
But two tries chalked off and a blatant forward pass try for
Leeds. On another day Wigan could have been, with conversions,
level at 18-18.
To make the wounds of those video ref decisions deeper, Leeds
would score from their first attack of the second half. Ryan Hall
it was getting a second try and the conversion made it 28-6. Such
a fine line it was but to be perfectly honest Leeds deserved 28-6
more that Wigan would have deserved to be level at 18-18.
the final quarter and Wigan huffed and puffed but had just left
themselves too much to do. Leeds scored again through Jamie
Peacock whilst with three minutes to go Gareth Hock went over for
So all in all a lesson for Wigan I feel. We need to learn to
build pressure with better last tackle plays and we shouldn't be
afraid to be negative at times and just find touch. It kills
momentum and gives you an opportunity to force a mistake. Letting
a side run the ball back in is pointless half the time. Young Sam
Tomkins struggled against a top side but hopefully he'll learn an
awful lot from it.