WIGAN’S eight-game winning streak ground to a halt at Headingley as Shaun Wane’s champions were gunned down 28-12 by new league leaders Leeds.
In front of more than 18,000 fans, the biggest Super League crowd of the season so far, Leeds out-classed the Warriors with a five-tries-to-two victory.
They led from the second-minute and never looked back, limiting their visitors to one close-range try in the first-half and an equally scrappy score in the second.
Wigan, who remain in fourth spot in the ladder despite the defeat, sorely lacked the guile, steel and attacking threat of injured Sean O’Loughlin.
Whisper it quietly, but every one of Wigan’s domestic game defeats in more than a year have occurred when the captain has been missing - a statistic which illustrates just how influential he has become to his hometown club.
Shaun Wane will point out that they can win without him, which is true - but they don’t seem to lose with him.
Though the team attack was blunt and error-strewn, Anthony Gelling provided some notable solo contributions. Australian stand-off Blake Green also showed flashes of quality, but for the most part it was a frustrating night for Wigan, who were also without Josh Charnley, Iain Thornley, Ben Flower and Eddy Pettybourne.
After an impeccably observed minute’s silence for tragic Leeds teacher Anne Maguire, the drama unfolded from the first set.
In a cauldron atmosphere, John Bateman lost the ball under heavy traffic and, from that position, Danny McGuire pounced on Kevin Sinfield’s angled kick to open the scoring. Sinfield - drawing level with Paul Wellens on 416 Super League appearances - kicked his first of four goals.
There were enough crunching tackles to keep fans entertained, but without O’Loughlin, their attacking link-up didn’t flow smoothly. Right centre Dan Sarginson, who had proved a threat with the ball, was found wanting as Leeds extended their lead in the 12th minute through Zak Hardaker.
Sinfield was unable to convert, but at 10-0 down, Wigan needed a break.
It came in the 20th minute, when referee Phil Bentham awarded them their first penalty, and from that position Tony Clubb barrelled over from short-range.
There was no shortage of effort from Wigan, with Gelling - preferred on their right wing to Dom Manfredi - providing many of the attacking highlights with his incisive running.
But they fell further behind just before the break. Tom Briscoe scored the try after Kallum Watkins’ charge had dragged Burgess in from the wing, but it was opposite winger Ryan Hall who wreaked havoc down the left from a poor kick and chase.
Hall got his rewards minutes into the restart, grounding Joel Moon’s chip after an audacious, adventurous passage from the Rhinos - even if the video referee needed several replays before being satisfied Jamie Peacock hadn’t knocked on in the build-up.
Trailing 22-6, Wigan struggled to spark life into their faltering attack.
It summed up Wigan’s attack that their only other score came from another forward, Scott Taylor muscling over from short-range, but Leeds fittingly had the final say through Liam Sutcliffe.
At least Wigan won’t have to wait long for a chance to avenge this defeat. They meet again in just two weeks at the Manchester Magic event, the second of their quick-fire heavyweight battles which sandwich a trip to Hull FC next Friday.
Leeds: Hardaker; Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall; McGuire, Ablett; Leuluai, Sinfield, Peacock, Clarkson, Achurch, Delaney. Subs: Kirke, Sutcliffe, Singleton, Bailey.
Wigan: Bowen; Burgess, Goulding, Sarginson, Gelling; Green, Smith; Taylor, McIlorum, Dudson, Bateman, Farrell, Clubb. Subs: Hughes, Crosby, Williams, James.
Referee: Phil Bentham
Starman: Anthony Gelling