Wigan went into this game as the underdogs, a rare
occurrence I know, but on Leeds' recent form and powerful forwards along
with a home advantage, Leeds will always be a tough team to bear down.
Lately all the talk has come from Leeds and RLHQ about how great a team
Leeds is and how wonderful Harris is. Well Leeds started without a couple
of regular first team players, most notably Morley, Farrell, Blackmore and
Godden. But the Wigan team also had big injuries with the loss of
influential play-make scrum half Tony Smith, second row forward Denis
Betts and Andy Johnson all out. With Simon Haughton also making the subs
bench despite not being 100% fit the Wigan team would rely heavily on the
new partnership of Australians Florimo and Reber.
The game started at a fast and furious pace and it was a hard battle up
front. This time the Wigan forwards O'Connor and Goldspink didn't give way
to what we all now know as classic Leeds forward dirty play. Terry and
Brett went at the Leeds defense and setup the Wigan backs magnificently
with acres of space. But the backs still; needed to be alert and active to
take the openings afforded to them. Florimo and Reber combined well and
Farrell led by example as usual, and when you have backup from the likes
of Gilmour, Robinson and Johnson there is a strong certainty of a score or
two. With Farrell catching the Leeds side out a few times with short
kickoff's Wigan had lots of possession to create chances with also.
The first try came from a very lucky rebound off the posts, and quick
thinking Sheridan collected the loose ball and scored. Poor Radlinski
would have deal with the kick easily but for the intervention of the
upright. That woke up the Wigan attack and soon after Lee Gilmour raced
over for a great try from a short kick off. Wigan regained possession and
passed the ball left via Cassidy and Reber and then Gilmour spotted half a
gap and went 20 meters to score a vital try.
When Wigan introduced Simon Haughton he was eager to get involved and you
could tell that when he made a great midfield break and then actually
offloaded to the supporting Johnson who outpaced the defense to score.
Wigan were beginning to click now, but were still letting Leeds back into
the game by giving away silly penalties. Leeds had a Golden try disallowed
by the video ref but the next time Golden made sue he touched down,
stepping inside Moore and eluding the tackle of Johnson.
Harris missed a final second penalty and the half ended 12-10 to Leeds.
Wigan deserved more though as they dictated play, but all credit to Leeds
who defended well. These two sides may have been without some key player,
but were providing us with an evenly matched and entertaining game of
Maybe one of Leeds' problems was Harris having to stay at full back, which
I have always said is not his best position. And several times he was
found wanting during this game, letting high kicks bounce, being out of
position for Wigan breaks and being outpaced as well. He creativity wasn't
at it's best either during this game as Wigan snuffed out the Leeds
challenge in the second half. Gilmour fended off three tacklers and side
stepped another two players to setup a play for Cassidy who plunged over
at the posts for a fine try.
Next Paul Johnson got in on the act and scored the try in the 65th minute
that broke the Leeds players spirit. Johnson picked up the ball from the
play-the-ball and eluded a couple of lunges, a grasp from Powell and then
raced the length of the field and outpaced Harris to the line. It was a
gem of a try that really was a game breaker and was well deserved as Wigan
started dominating play. Next in on the act was Cassidy again. The thrill
of the next try was seeing support play at it's best. Robinson ran around
the Leeds defense and down the right hand touchline, Radlinski supported
to take the pass from Robinson who then stepped back in behind to take the
ball from Radlinski. Robinson moved the ball quickly left to give Cassidy
a run at the line, which he did magnificently to score to the left-hand
Leeds were defiantly found wanting tonight and even the partisan home
crowd, ferocious tackling and pacey? Harris could not inspire a victory,
and if that's how Leeds perform when a couple of first team players are
out injured then they will struggle in the league this year.
As far as the scoring went that was it, but the truth was that a depleted
Wigan side that matched the depleted Leeds side and then ran away with the
game in the second half. Florimo showed his organisational skills and his
distributional abilities and combined well with Reber and Farrell. Reber
was bought as a hooker, but after his performances at scrum-half Wigan
have an extra bonus player to call on in the middle. Cassidy also had a
very big game at hooker, supporting well and tackling like a machine, as
always. His skills and bravery were an inspiration to the team and when
all the players are fit John Monie would be hard pushed to place Cassidy
anywhere other than in the first 13 on the park. When Haughton, Betts and
Andy Johnson are all fit Monie will have some great options in the back
row. Will Reber switch to hooker and Cassidy back to the second row when
Smith is fit. Will Betts replace Gilmour in the starting line up, who
knows? Not even John Monie yet I think !
Leeds:- Iestyn Harris (Capt.), Paul Sterling,
Martin Golden, Francis Cummins, Daryl Powell, Laeroy Rivett, Ryan
Sheridan, Barrie McDermot, Lee Jackson, Darren Fleary, Andy Hay, Terry
Newton, Marc Glanville. Subs:- Martin Masells, Karl Pratt, Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Mathiou
Scorers:- Tries: Sheridan(12), Golden(35), Goals: Harris (2 from 2)
Wigan:- Kris Radlinski, Jason Robinson, Danny
Moore, Gary Connolly, Paul Johnson, Greg Florimo, Mark Reber, Brett
Goldspink, Mick Cassidy, Terry O'Connor, Lee Gilmour, Neil Cowie, Andy
Farrell (Capt.) Subs:- Tony Mestrov, Wes Davies, Simon Haughton Brett Goldspink Scorers:- Tries: Gilmour(13), P Johnson(29,65), Cassidy(46,74) Goals: Farrell(3 from 5)
Pitch: Wet and Lush Weather: Cool & Windy Man of the match: Wigan: Terry O'Connor
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