WIGAN coach Shaun Wane credited the response of his side after they toppled Super League leaders Leeds 27-12 at St James’ Park.
The Warriors had lost their last two - a cup defeat to Hull KR and a blow-out defeat against Catalans - before this one but saved their best for day one of the Magic Weekend.
I think Phil Bentham is the best referee in the competition and had a good game todayShaun Wane
They kept the Rhinos scoreless in the second half and ran in 23 unanswered points to cut the gap between themselves and the top side to two.
“It was a great response, we bounced back after training well and people saw the real Wigan today,” Wane said.
“Credit to Leeds, they’re an outstanding team and showed some unbelievable skills, but when our backs were to the wall, we showed some real desire.”
Wane said that his players had been determined to mark hooker Michael McIlorum’s 200th appearance with a victory.
“It was a big day for us today,” he added. “Micky Mac’s 200th appearance, the players love him. He’s put his body on the line for so many years and they wanted to do it for him.”
The game could have repercussions for Wane, though, after television footage appeared to show him questioning the impartiality of the officials.
After referee Phil Bentham referred Matt Bowen’s second try to the video referee, the camera panned to an animated Wane who appeared to make some derogatory remarks.
When asked, he replied: “I was watching the game, I think Phil Bentham is the best referee in the competition and had a good game today. Some times he could have blown up for things and didn’t, he let the game flow. I thought Phil Bentham was fantastic.
“I’m watching the game and focussed on the game. What I say, I don’t have a clue. Phil Bentham was fantastic and I was very impressed.”
Leeds coach Brian McDermott felt the result was an indication of how tight a competition the Super League is.
Leeds have led the way for a large part of the season but are seeing their rivals close in on them.
“We are in our own little bubble and we will say we were disappointing, but that’s the nature of it,” he said.
“It’s tough. Wigan have been on a rollercoaster this last couple of weeks. We’ve been points out in front of the others but in all honesty that’s the competition rather than us being that good and I think it’s just levelling out.”
Leeds also have fitness worries to deal with after full-back Zak Hardaker rolled his ankle and had to go off.
The England international was the stand-out performer until that point and his display caught his coach’s eye.
“He was brilliant, the bees player on the field and had been brilliant for a number of weeks,” he said.
“He’s getting smarter and more selective with the ball. He nearly broke his leg and stayed on.”