Leeds 8 Wigan 40

Shaun Wane stretched his perfect Magic record with an emphatic victory in Newcastle.

Saturday, 21st May 2016, 7:58 pm
Updated Saturday, 21st May 2016, 10:16 pm
Willie Isa celebrates after one of his two first-half tries

They battled back from 4-0 down to finish with their biggest win of the Super League season.

With nearly 40,000 fans watching at St James’ Park, it was a great way for Wane’s Warriors to answer questions about their scratchy form.

They had lost their previous two league games but this was a much more assured and lively display.

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The win lifted Wigan level with Warrington, Hull FC and Catalans at the top - though the latter two have games on the final day of the Magic Weekend.

It also struck a hammer-blow to Leeds’ chances of clawing their way into the top-eight before season splits for the Super 8s.

Those in the bottom-four at the end of July must fight for their Super League future through the Qualifiers phase - and last season’s treble-winners appear to be running out of time.

For Wigan, this was a far more satisfying display - especially as they lost talisman Sean O’Loughlin early in the game.

Willie Isa opened his account for the club with two well-taken first-half tries to make it 12-4 at the break.

Sam Tomkins added his unique combination of class and niggling confrontation, George Williams sparkled, John Bateman excelled and - across the board - they had energy, aggression and cohesion.

Leeds, missing 10 players, had forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan starting at hooker and handed a debut to Sam Hallas.

Wigan had absentees of their own, with prop Tony Clubb (neck) and Joel Tomkins (knee) missing from the side which lost to Hull FC last week. But Ben Flower returned and Tomkins, having made his comeback from the bench a week ago, started at full-back, allowing Dan Sarginson to revert to centre.

If Sarginson was more comfortable in the three-quarters, he didn’t appear it early on when Kallum Watkins slipped past him to open the scoring.

But that was the only time the Rhinos breached their line by half-time.

Wigan forced several mistakes from their out-of-sorts opponents, and they took advantage of the possession, drawing level in the 16th minute when Isa charged onto George Williams’ neat, sweet pass to cross.

Referee Robert Hicks left the action with a calf strain, to be replaced by Joe Cobb.

And after Zak Hardaker had spilled Smith’s towering kick, Wigan made Leeds pay when Isa dived onto Williams’ grubber, a well-schemed ploy early in the tackle count. Smith - making the 250th career appearance - added both conversions.

Wigan offered some varied attacks - including props passing more frequently - but didn’t score any more points before half-time.

Indeed, they put themselves under needless pressure with a combination of penalties and petulance, but held onto a 12-4 lead.

And they wasted no time in ascerting their authority in the second-half with two rapid-fire tries.

Tomkins’ improvised, crabbing run took him across the line, fed Williams, and the creater of the first two stepped through the jagged defence.

Then, moments later, Dom Manfredi beat Ash Handley to Smith’s high-ball to make it 22-4.

With Williams and Tomkins brushing off the rust following injury lay-offs, the side’s attack looks so much more polished and threatening - even if their next try owed as much to Ben Flower’s grunt than any graceful skills.

With Smith adding the conversion it swelled Wigan’s lead to 28-4 with more than 20 minutes to go.

Leeds lost Zak Hardaker for 10 minutes for a professional foul after halting Josh Charnley’s break.

Tomkins was rested on the hour-mark and, moments later, Leeds closed the gap through Mitch Achurch’s unconverted try.

But Wigan finished strong against a rapidly-fading opposition, centres Oliver Gildart and Sarginson both going over in the final five minutes.

Leeds: Hardaker; Handley, Watkins, Keinhorst, Golding; McGuire, Lilley; Galloway, Jones-Buchanan, Singleton, Ferres, Cuthbertson, Walters. Subs: Mullally, Hallas, Achurch, L Briscoe.

Wigan: S Tomkins; Manfredi, Gildart, Sarginson, Charnley; Williams, Smith; Crosby, Powell, Flower, Bateman, Isa, O’Loughlin. Subs: Mossop, Tautai, Sutton, Burke.

Attendance: 39,331

Half-time: 4-12