Leeds Rhinos 14 Wigan Warriors 23: Five things we learned
Five things we learned from Wigan's 23-14 win at Leeds last night...
1. Tony Clubb added a super and surreal lick of gloss to a gutsy win - storming over for a try after the 80 minutes was up.
Defending a 17-14 lead, Leeds kicked on in a final roll of the dice, only for Clubb to defuse it, turn, and charge through an opening for a remarkable 34 yard effort.
It would have been 35 yards had he actually reached the line with the ball, but the referee awarded the try without consulting the video official - sparking wide celebrations among the Wigan players and fans. Because...
2. Wigan are now just two points off a play-offs spot - with games against Huddersfield (a), Salford (h) and Hull KR (h) on the horizon.
Yes, they lapsed again after half-time and their attack wasn't clinical close to Leeds' line. But there was a lot to admire about the display - not least their composure and character in defence.
And even in the best of seasons, games at Hull KR and Leeds fall into the category of 'just get the win' - the points are much more important than the performance. After a testing week blotted by Taulima Tautai's drink-drive charge, things are looking brighter.
3. There were some eyebrows raised when Adrian Lam started with Dan Sarginson ahead of Morgan Escare in the absence of full-back Zak Hardaker.
But, he later explained, the call was as much to bring Chris Hankinson into the right centre role. His strong one-on-one defence kept blockbusting three-quarter Konrad Hurrell quiet, but more importantly, he booted five goals from as many attempts.
Strangely, Jarrod Sammut was included on the bench but didn't get on - Lam explained he didn't want to disrupt the side with the scoreline so close.
4. Morgan Smithies is not a dirty player but he has the niggle of John Bateman and, despite being 18, he isn't afraid to mix it with the stars.
He has already faced up to Greg Bird and Mose Masoe this season and last night, he added Trent Merrin to that list. "You could be 7ft tall and 17st, and he'll have a crack at you," said Clubb. "And that's why we love him so much!"
Another academy-graduate, Oli Partington, scored his first try for the club to cap another encouraging display.
5. A word on Leeds; they are in trouble on the ladder but surely they have too much quality - and depth - to get out of trouble?
There is strike in their side, but their errors and indiscipline frequently cost them and for all their work, their last-play options were poor.
A tip of the hat to the Rhinos for their redevelopment work at Headingley; the North and South stands are smart... even if the away fans don't experience that in the unsheltered away end.