Leeds 12 Wigan 27

Joe Burgess scorches through the Leeds defence
Joe Burgess scorches through the Leeds defence

WIGAN came from behind to maintain Shaun Wane’s perfect Magic Weekend record.

The Warriors trailed 12-8 approaching half-time, but long-range tries by Joe Burgess and Matty Bowen - either side of the break - put them in control.

And then Bowen crowned a fine display with a second try to seal an impressive, gutsy victory - and lift the gloom which had lingered from their 58-16 defeat in Catalans a week earlier.

This was Wane’s fourth victory in the Magic Weekend, the last three against Leeds - and it went some way to answering the questions about their poor away form.

The backs scored five tries but the win was built on a quick, aggressive defence led by Micky McIlorum in his 200th game for the club. Sean O’Loughlin, Taulima Tautai and Ben Flower also impressed in the middle while, out wide, Joe Burgess was outstanding.

Newcastle’s St James’ Park proved a fitting venue for the Magic concept, with more than 40,000 fans turning out for the opening day.

Fans created a carnival atmosphere inside and out, and the noise from the crowd reverberated around the historic ground.

Earlier in the day, Widnes and Hull FC had enjoyed comfortable wins against Salford and KR respectively.

In warm conditions, it whet the appetite for the headlining contest, and from the start it was evident these two heavyweights wouldn’t disappoint.

Welsh prop Ben Flower returned to the Wigan side as expected, but there was a surprise to Wane’s selection, with four forwards on the bench - including Connor Farrell - and no backup hooker/half on the bench.

The exchanges among the forwards were typically fierce, but there were enough open attacks to please any Geordie newcomers to the game.

Wigan were good value for their 14-12 lead at half-time and, with a bit more polish, could have been further ahead - or at least restricted Leeds’ score.

Three times they spilled in good attacking position, the first by George Williams in the fourth minute. But he made amends soon after when his probing run put Wigan on the attack. His kick took a fortunate ricochet off Zak Hardaker, and Dan Sarginson’s balance and footwork took over to score the opening try.

But back-to-back penalties gave Leeds the foothold they needed, and Adam Cuthbertson powered over from short-range. With Kevin Sinfield hitting the conversion, the Rhinos edged 6-4 ahead.

And Hardaker then swooped on O’Loughlin’s spill and stormed down field. Burgess did well to track him down, but from that position, Danny McGuire’s cross-field kick was palmed back by Josh Charnley - and straight into Joel Moon’s path.

A week earlier, Wigan had started brightly against Catalans and fallen away spectacularly - and some fans may have feared the worse at 12-4 down.

But they kept their composure, and when Williams pierced the Leeds line, he had the pace and poise to beat Hardaker to the corner to cut the margin to four points.

And just before the break, they powered ahead with a breathtaking try.

Matty Bowen collected Hardaker’s kick on the full and then unleashed a full-throttle Burgess, who angled beyond Ash Handley and wrong-footed the Leeds No.1 to storm over under the sticks. Smith’s successful goal nudged then two points ahead at the break.

The pace showed no signs of easing in the second-half, though it took a while for a breakthrough to surface as both sides slugged it out, exchanging completed sets.

Of the two, Leeds appeared to be the more dominant, but Burgess’ crunching tackle on Handley forced the ball loose, and Aussie Bowen gratefully swooped and beat McGuire to the line.

Smith’s conversion made it 20-12 entering the final quarter.

Leeds, though, never gave up the fight and it needed an alert Bowen to thwart a half-chance by Handley. And the Wigan No.1 - only reinstated to the side a week ago - sealed the victory when he grounded Smith’s dribbled kick. Smith’s drop-goal rubbed salt into Leeds’ wounds.

Leeds: Hardaker; Handley, Watkins, Moon, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Cuthbertson, Aiton, Peacock, Ward, Delaney, Ablett. Subs: Burrow, Jones-Buchanan, Achurch, Singleton.

Wigan: Bowen; Charnley, Tomkins, Sarginson, Burgess; Williams, Smith; Crosby, McIlorum, Mossop, Bateman, Patrick, O’Loughlin. Subs: Flower, Tautai, Sutton, Farrell.

Attendance: 40,871

Half-time: 12-14