The inaugural JJB Super League Grand Final saw John
Monie's Wigan Warriors defeat Leeds Rhinos 10-4 in a tight encounter on a
wet Saturday evening at Old Trafford.
A crowd of 43,533 was enthralled by the game, despite
terrible conditions, with the result not certain until the final kick of
the match, when Wigan captain Andy Farrell added his second penalty of the
Jason Robinson won the Harry Sunderland trophy as the
Man of the Match, and it was his try shortly before half time that put the
Warriors in the lead, one which they were never to surrender.
Defence was certainly the order of the day in a
marvellous encounter, with the Leeds back three of Adrian Morley, Anthony
Farrell and Marc Glanville outstanding in the face of massive Wigan
pressure throughout the match.
Robbie McCormack and Henry Paul, joining Mark Bell in
playing their final game for the Warriors, were also excellent, while
skipper Farrell was an absolute rock on both attack and defence.
Robinson may have been the pick of the backs, but
Richie Blackmore always looked a danger against Danny Moore, while Gary
Connolly and Brad Godden enjoyed a fine duel.
The game burst to life in the 21st minute when, after
Iestyn Harris had split the Wigan defence only to be hauled down ten yards
out, the ball was moved wide by Ryan Sheridan for Blackmore to slide over
and open the scoring.
Harris narrowly missed with the conversion attempt,
having already done the same with a penalty from a similar wide position,
and Graham Murray's men had to be content with a 4-0 lead, despite having
the better of the opening quarter.
Wigan began to come back into the game in the final ten
minutes before the break, Robinson making a 35-yard break inside his own
half before Mestrov and Paul found half-gaps.
Tony Smith's kick to the corner dipped over Cummins but
under the diving figure of Robinson as Wigan threatened the Leeds line for
the first time before, in the 37th minute, they finally made the pressure
Robinson picked the ball up at dummy half and moved
infield before racing between Darren Fleary and Jamie Mathiou and past
Harris from 20 yards out to dive under the posts. Farrell added the simple
conversion, giving Wigan a 6-4 lead at the interval.
The second half began with similar intensity, and
Francis Cummins' fine tackle on Farrell after the Wigan skipper had broken
clear was wasted when Mark Glanville conceded a penalty a minute later.
Farrell added the two points from close range and
suddenly Leeds were four points behind, and the deficit could have been
extended had Bell had his effort disallowed by the video referee three
The winger was adjudged to have knocked on after
collecting a Neil Cowie bomb, regathering off Harris' chest to touch down,
Leeds able to breathe a sigh of relief as the giant screen flashed 'No
Harris inspired a comeback from the Rhinos as they
mounted pressure on the Wigan line, but his pass to Cummins went straight
into touch before Rivett was pushed over the sidelines at the other side
following a Blackmore pass which was ruled forward.
And Wigan heeded the warnings to pen the Rhinos in
their own half, Mick Cassidy going to within inches before being hauled
down under a fine last-ditch tackle from Ryan Sheridan as the Warriors
wasted chance after chance for a drop goal.
The Leeds scrum half then had what was eventually their
last chance when, with five minutes remaining, he burrowed to the line
only for the ball to spurt free under a four-man tackle.
As the desperation mounted, Wigan moved back downfield
and, after Holroyd had knocked on, he conceded a penalty forty metres out.
With little over a minute on the clock, Farrell decided
to kick for goal, and his sweetly struck effort dissected the goalposts to
seal a glorious, but hard-fought, 10-4 victory.