WIGAN’S failure to score a try in the second-half - for the second successive week - came back to bite them as Leeds powered to an ultimately-comfortable win.
These Headingley heavyweight battles are usually epic encounters, but for Wigan there were more spills than thrills.
They made an encouraging start - taking an 8-0 lead - but subsequent positives were few and far between.
Once again, errors and indiscipline - issues which have blighted their stuttering campaign - proved their undoing.
And while they were still in the contest until the final quarter, the amount of defending they did left little petrol in the tank, and the game ebbed from sight.
In the pack, they failed to match Adam Cuthbertson’s power and impact. And while there were touches of class from George Williams and wingers Dom Manfredi and Joe Burgess, by and large their attacks were clunky and predictable.
Wigan took a backseat in the pre-match chatter, with Zak Hardaker’s recall from his latest indiscretion the main talking point.
As expected, three academy-products came into the side because of injuries. Winger Dom Manfredi was one of those, and he made a strong burst early on - and then patrolled Ryan Hall over the sidelines from a set-piece - in a confident start.
Having absorbed so much early pressure, played out almost exclusively inside their own half, Wigan struck first blood when Anthony Gelling weaved through a scattered defence, and a looping offload was plucked out the air by a grateful Matty Smith.
The scrum-half added the conversion from in front of the sticks, and in the 15th minute pushed their lead out to eight points when Williams’ burst of acceleration forced a high tackle from Cuthbertson.
But then it all went wrong, with Wigan conceding three tries in eight minutes - without getting their hands on the ball.
First, they failed to deal with a kick-off, and it came back to haunt them when Cuthbertson touched down Paul Aiton’s cushioned stab-through, Liam Sutcliffe’s conversion cutting the visitors’ lead to a slender two-points.
Two further tries followed, a classy try for Ash Handley on his home debut and then a soft effort from Brad Singleton, to put Leeds 16-8 ahead.Three times, Wigan gave away penalties in the sets following the restarts, and when they did get their hands on the ball, their attack was blunted by mistakes.
Logan Tomkins spilled the ball, they were caught in possession on the last tackle and they lost possession from a scrum set-piece - not the polished execution Wane had demanded in the build-up.
But they persisted, and improved, leading to Joe Burgess diving over from a measured kick by Williams. Smith expertly hit the touchline conversion to reduce the margin to just two points at the break.
Larne Patrick was led from the field after a clash of heads with team-mate John Bateman, as the Warriors found themselves under pressure early in the second-half. Their one attack - from a Gelling interception - sorely lacked the variety and purpose to trouble the home defence.
Their indiscipline kept them on the ropes, feeding off scraps of possession, and there was a sense of inevitability to Leeds’ next try - even if Wane may not like how soft Sutcliffe found a way through a creaking defensive line.
The stand-off - filling in for injured Kevin Sinfield - missed with the conversion attempt, keeping six points between the sides as the game entered its final quarter-of-an-hour.
But the amount of tackling they had done drained the Warriors of their energy, and when Watkins skittled two defenders on a charge down field, it needed a brilliant try-saving tackle by Burgess to track down the supporting Danny McGuire.
The Rhinos spread the ball, but Sutcliffe was prevented from scoring by Liam Farrell, who was sinbinned for making the tackle from an offside position.
Sutcliffe booted the resulting penalty and - with Wigan’s composure melting away - Rob Burrow darted from dummy-half and wrestled beyond Gelling to touch down, wedging a 12-point advantage between the sides.
Wigan didn’t give up, and Burgess went close to grabbing his second with an athletic effort in the corner which was ruled out by the video referee.
Shaun Wane’s Warriors are yet to win on their travels after four attempts. But they have won both their home Super League games - a statistic which may give them heart as they prepare for back-to-back games at the DW against Wakefield and St Helens.
Leeds: Hardaker; Handley, Watkins, Moon, Hall; Sutcliffe, McGuire; Cuthbertson, Aiton, Peacock, Ablett, Ward, Jones-Buchanan. Subs: Burrow, Delaney, Yates, Singleton.
Wigan: Bowen; Manfredi, Gelling, Sarginson, Burgess; Williams, Smith; Clubb, McIlorum, Mossop, J Tomkins, L Farrell, Bateman. Subs: Tautau, Patrick, L Tomkins, C Farrell.
Referee: Richard Silverwood
Starman: Dom Manfredi