|Was just about to write this report earlier today, then I heard the tragic news about Terry Newton taking his own life. Boy that really takes the wind out of sails doesn't it? Age just 32. Shocking News. He was a cracking player for Wigan and didn't deserve not win a Grand Final. Deepest sympathies to his family and thanks for the memories!|
That news turned what should have been an easy match report to write, into a very hard one. It's now so hard to write about what a great day yesterday was but here goes......
I said in my match preview that I thought our time had come and so it proved. That was an outstanding display by Wigan, worthy of a champion side, if that's what they are to become next weekend. That takes our away day tally to 14 wins out of 16 trips this year with the 13 consecutive away league victories being our best run of away form since we won 14 in a row between 29th October 1986 and 18th October 1987. What happened during that run? Oh yes, Wigan ended a long trophy drought, winning the title for the first time in 27 years under Graham Lowe. A good omen perhaps.
The on pitch performance from Wigan in this game was pretty much faultless. The defence was awesome, out wide in particular, but the main reason we won is that I can't recall any killer penalties conceded or errors. We had a couple at the end, but in generally our discipline and composure was spot on. To win the game we needed to score some really scrappy tries but when you are top of the table, the luck does go your way.
Having said that, I think the 8-6 half time lead we built up flattered us slightly. I thought their was absolutely nothing between the teams, except the last tackle kick. Leeds seemed to find the ground every time whilst we put in far too many straight down the throat kicks. So for that reason I was pretty pleased with the score being 6-2 to Leeds, the fact we took the lead I saw as a huge bonus.
The match was a complete midfield stalemate from the off until Danny Buderus conceded the first penalty of the match in the 14th minute. Clear interference from him on Pat Richards. Then to make matters worse he, clearly, did it again two tackles later. "The referee's a wanker" chant the Leeds fans but they are obviously as one eyed as this man (2mins 45 seconds into the clip).
Pat decided to take the two from 30 metres out and nailed it easy. Now I know in recent reports I've criticised taking the two early but this was different. In those games we'd dominated territory. This time we hadn't, so in a tight match taking the two was a good option.
Leeds though hit straight back with, what turned out to be, their only try of the game. Martin Gleeson was judged to have knocked on, although a ball strip was arguable, and with a defensive line not set, Harrison Hansen fell for Kevin Sinfield's dummy and he broke clear to score. He also converted to make it 6-2 after 18 minutes.
Chances were at a high rate premium but it was Leeds who looked more likely to score, mainly thanks to a better kicking game. One such kick from Rob Burrow was caught by Ryan Hall and his dab forward in the 29th minute almost saw Leeds score. In fact Pat had avoided the in goal it seemed by referee Richard Silverwood for some reason went to the video ref and Wigan, correctly, got penalised for an obstruction. Surely he shouldn't go to the video ref though in a situation like that?
From that penalty, Brent Webb went mightily close to scoring but a poor pass on the last tackle saw Sinfield pressured into a dire kick.
Immediately after that came the first real break of the game. Liam Farrell sent Darrell Goulding racing 60 metres down the left wing. With full back Webb coming across, Goulding cleverly hacked the ball forward and almost completed a wonder try. A push in the back was arguable but Goulding hadn't grounded the ball anyway. Shame!
That run seemed to lift Wigan because in the next few minutes they had Leeds on the back foot. The key to us getting our first try though was that we finally saw a good kick, which came from Thomas Leuluai. A bomb to the left wing saw Pat Richards contest in the air with Ryan Hall and the latter knocked on, giving Wigan a full set on Leeds line. On the fourth tackle Wigan swung right with Paul Deacon, Leuluai, Sam and Joel Tomkins all combined to send Goulding in. The last pass from Joel was pretty wild but Goulding scooped up for the try. Pat then converted to make it 8-6 and Wigan saw out the final three minutes of the half to hold that lead at the break.
So I was content at this point but, for whatever reason, we hadn't seen enough of Paul Deacon's kicking game. Good coaching from Michael Maguire though, he sorted that at the break and it was a much better Wigan second half.
The tone was set by the first hit up from Paul Prescott. He powered in and put Chris Clarkson on his arse. On the last tackle Deacon put a superb bomb up that saw Martin Gleeson chasing. His pressure saw Scott Donald unable to take it and after a bit of juggling, Joel Tomkins claimed the try. Again that jungle on another day would have gone against him, but like I said luck goes with you when your top of the league. Pat converted to make it 14-8.
Wigan were targeting the inexperienced Clarkson and it was paying off. Four minutes later he was penalised for offside and Wigan converted that into a try. Again it was perhaps a luck effort from George Carmont but they all count. Two metres from the line and the ball comes loose from Mike McIlorum's hit up. Leeds fans are cheering but George Carmont plays to the whistle, dabs it forward and touches down. Video Ref Ben Thaler was called and being up the other end of the field I was expecting the knock on call but replays show that, in my view, the ball went backwards and bounced forward. Anyway, the try was given, Pat converted and within ten minutes of game time, Wigan had turned a 6-2 deficit into a 20-6 lead.
I don't think many of us expected that to be an unassailable lead but it turned out just to be. It wasn't for the want of trying by Leeds who offloaded for fun (they made 25 offloads compared to Wigan's 5).
Everything they through at us though we saw off in brilliant style. The match was really won in a 4 minute defensive stand by Wigan from the hour mark in which Leeds hit Wigan with three consecutive sets off six.
They had first forced a drop out but George Carmont hammered Carl Ablett and Pat showed awesome strength to stop Buderus. On the last, excellent bomb from Sinfield but Goulding took it superbly under pressure from Donald. Leeds though picked Goulding up and threw him into touch. I thought that wasn't allowed? Anyway, the scrum went to Leeds which meant the pressure remained. But from it, Jamie Jones-Buchanan's offload was knocked on by Sinfield and the Wigan fans at that end of the ground put in a massive cheer. It was stunning defence and I'm wondering if their is a superlative I missed out in this last paragraph?
Wigan's awesome defence was highlighted again in the 68th minute. Brett Delaney broke down the right but Sam Tomkins absolutely nailed him towards the touchline. His desperate offload bounced forward but what a tackle! Sam has been even better in my view since switching to full back and that tackle would have made the great Radlinski proud!
To be honest despite all Leeds pressure, I never nervous during that second half. I just knew it was our day and once we got into the final twenty minutes the time ticked away pretty quickly.
Into the final five minutes and Wigan were still tackling like demons. Carmont in particular, who hammered Delaney towards the touchline and forced an offload into Wigan hands. Ali Lauitiiti managed to strip the ball of Stuart Fielden one on one and Leeds managed to score from it with Rob Burrow and Kylie Leuluai combining to send Danny Buderus under the posts.
Less than four minutes remained and Leeds still needed to score twice....but oh hang on.... touch judge is standing his ground even though Richard Silverwood was all for giving the try. After a good look by Ben Thaler "NO TRY" flashes on the screen and us Wigan fans loved that. I was bemused as to why at the time but clearly on replay you can see Buderus was offside at the play the ball. The tackle was a long one so that was an excellent spot by the touch judge.
That no try saw the clock defeat Leeds and Wigan managed a last minute try to put the cherry on top of the cake. The just swung in right and Gleeson raced in the corner. Pat converted to maintain a 100% kicking record for the night and Wigan sealed a trip to Old Trafford for the first time since 2003!
Phenomenal effort from every single player. Can't fault any of the them. Repeat that next week and we will win the final. Should be a cracking day out!