Wigan lost this game all by themselves in my view. 14-0 up was a
perfect position to take control of the game but no one stood up
to do it. Ok it was unfortunate that we lost the experienced Paul
Deacon to injury but when we needed to calm things down and get
some direction it just didn't appear. Thomas Leuluai should have
been the man to take control in my opinion but as I've wrote
before, his lack of a kicking game shows up in the big games
against a Leeds, a St Helens or a Warrington type of team.
also think the constant decisions to "take the two" is costing us
games. Very easy in hindsight I know, but at 12-0 we had Leeds on
the rack and should have gone for the kill. It's not often teams
hold us out on the try line so we should back ourselves.
Anyway, Wigan got off to the perfect start with two excellent
tries claimed by Sam Tomkins. First score was on three minutes.
Deacon put the bomb up towards the right and Martin Gleeson batted
it back for Sam to touch down. The second try came after Kevin
Sinfield had kicked the restart out on the full. Taking advantage
of the easy territory, Deacon sent Sam through a gap and he
out stepped full back Brent Webb to score close to the posts. Pat
converted both to make it 12-0 in just 5 minutes.
Leeds looked dead and it was looking so easy for Wigan. But
then we lost Deacon, who had set up both tries, to injury and our
leadership was not existent after that. To accommodate that loss,
coach Michael Maguire switched Sean O'Loughlin to Stand Off which
has never worked and didn't really work again this time. Maguire
didn't have much choice than to do what he did though.
Despite the loss of Deacon, initially we were still all over
Leeds. A kick from Sam forced Brent Webb into conceding a
drop out and from that Danny Buderus conceded a holding down
penalty under the posts. This is when Wigan should have tapped to
get a killer try but instead Pat took the penalty for 14-0.
Even so, Wigan had full control of the contest at 14-0 and
should not have let Leeds back into the contest so easily with
poor discipline. We did exactly the same in the cup
tie at Leeds. We held a 6-0 lead five minutes before half time
(a massive lead in the conditions of that day) but two soft
penalties made it 6-4 at the break. It cost us that game and we
repeated it again.
Paul Prescott helped Leeds forward with a holding down penalty
and from it an offload by Greg Eastwood sent Danny Buderus over
close to the posts. Kevin Sinfield converted to make it 14-6.
Next set, Leeds were struggling to get out of their own quarter
but a ball strip penalty, conceded by Liam Farrell, got them past
half way. From that Leeds swung right and Danny McGuire's long
looping pass beat the leaping Richards and found Ryan
Hall, who had an easy walk over the line. Sinfield's conversion
off the touchline made it 14-12. From looking dead, Leeds were now
right back in the game with those 2 tries in 4 minutes.
Wigan did well to halt the momentum Leeds had built up and
almost hit back with a try in the 34th minute. Pat was racing in
the left corner but McGuire brilliantly hit him into touch.
It was clear for all to see though that without Deacon our last
tackle options were not putting any pressure on the Rhinos.
Whoever wins the Grand Final this year is probably going to win it
with good last tackle options. It's something Wigan really have to
work on this week because Michael Dobson could kill us next Friday
with his kicking game.
Wigan looked to be holding their two point lead till half time
but then Joel Tomkins had a brain fart. He kicked out at McGuire
for some reason and was lucky not to be sin binned. Stupidity is
the only word for it. Sinfield kicked a penalty, so at half time
the score was 14-14.
Wigan's first attack of the second half showed how lost they
had become in attack. They just had no idea what to do on the last
and from that Leeds took the lead for the first time. Poor tackle
from Sam Tomkins allowed Kevin Sinfield to offload and send Brent
Webb on the break. Pat came across to stop Webb but he had that
man McGuire in support. He went in for the try and Sinfield's
conversion made it 20-14.
So our perfect start had gone horribly wrong but we should take
heart from the fact that we didn't collapse from this point on. We
fought our way back into the game with a nice try from Liam
Farrell on 47 minutes. Harrison Hansen offloaded to Stuart Fielden
and he hit Farrell with a lovely inside pass that took out three
defenders and got him over close to the posts. Pat's conversion
levelled the score at 20-20.
The game became very tight and tense and it was going to take a
mistake to break the deadlock. Sadly it was Wigan's Chris Tuson
who made it with a knock on in his own quarter. From it Leeds took
two tackles to send Scott Donald over in the left corner.
Sinfield's touchline conversion was massive, making it 26-20 to
Leeds though gifted Wigan the opportunity to get straight back
in the contest. Second tackle from the restart, Ryan Hall knocked
on and Wigan had the ball right on the try line. Thirty seconds
later a lovely pass from Sam Tomkins got Richards over in the left
corner but he couldn't convert. So 26-24 to Leeds with 18 minutes
Into the final ten minutes and Leeds began to look a panicked
side. They conceded two penalties, which saw Pat go for two each
time. The first came after a swinging arm from Ali Lauitiiti.
The kick was 40 metres out and Pat hit it wide. Perhaps a bit
ambitious that one. The second penalty came after a high tackle
against Sinfield. Pat hit the penalty this time to make it 26-26.
I think it was Wigan's game to win at this point but what we
didn't need was an error on the restart. Leuluai failed to trap
the ball and it ricochet heavily off him into touch. Easy
territory for Leeds and they just drove and drove to make the
position easy for Sinfield to slot the drop goal. 27-26 to Leeds
then with 5 to go.
The drama didn't even their. In the last thirty seconds,
Carmont sent Richards breaking down the left and a wonder try
looked on. But McGuire took out Carmont and Richards himself was
hit late by Scott Donald. I know some think it's dirty play but if
that was the other way round I'd expect Wigan to do the same.
After some fuss, referee Thierry Alibert decided to punish the
Donald hit on Pat which gave Wigan a penalty fourty metres out on
the touchline. Only 5 seconds remained so Wigan decided to have a
pop at goal. Very ambitious and in hindsight it's easy to say it
was the wrong call but I was calling for it at the time. He missed
and Leeds hung on for the win.
So Wigan now have to play Hull KR next Friday in an elimination
game. The Grand Final dream is still very much alive in my view,
but we have to work on our discipline and kicking game. If we can
get past Hull KR we will have to travel away but our away form
this seasons suggests that might be better for us. It'll also mean
we have the pressure of expectation lifted away from us.