Leeds Rhinos 42 Wigan Warriors 12: Rohan Smith's men bag win for the ages on unforgettable night at Headingley

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Leeds Rhinos stunned Wigan Warriors with a victory for the ages at Headingley on Thursday night.

It was a game which, looking at the team sheets, Rhinos had no right to win, but never seemed in danger of losing, leading - incredibly - 24-6 at the break and going on to claim the spoils 42-12.

Wigan were stunned by the force of patched-up Rhinos’ performance in a wonderfully passionate Headingley atmosphere from the 13,368 crowd.

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It was by far Leeds’ best performance of the season and one of their finest Super League victories. They were clinical in attack, scoring six tries and they scrambled magnificently on defence.

James Bentley scores Rhinos' second try. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.James Bentley scores Rhinos' second try. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
James Bentley scores Rhinos' second try. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

They also reacted positively when things went against them, which haven’t been able to do very often this year.

Harry Newman had an outstanding game on his return to the side and the makeshift half-back pairing of Cameron Smith and Richie Myler did a fine job, but Leeds were magnificent from one-17.

Liam Sutcliffe scored the opening try, after six minutes. Myler’s kick was knocked back by David Fusitu’a, who out-jumped Liam Marshall and the centre touched down.

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Five minutes later Jarrod O’Connor’s brilliant break up the middle, from Harry Newman’s offload, established the field position for James Bentley to run a nice line on to Myler’s excellent pass.

Rhyse Martin celebrates after scoring Leeds' third try. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.Rhyse Martin celebrates after scoring Leeds' third try. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Rhyse Martin celebrates after scoring Leeds' third try. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

O’Connor was superb against his father Terry’s old club, both with and without the ball.

Wigan’s only try of the first half, on 16 minutes, came after referee Liam Moore failed to spot a knock-on by Bevan French, deep in the visitors’ territory, then penalising Newman for a second effort in the same tackle.

There was an inevitability about Rhinos’ inability to defend the resulting set, French scoring from Jai Field’s pass and Harry Smith converting.

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On 25 minutes Ash Handley intercepted from Cade Cust almost on Leeds’ line. Field did brilliantly to chase him down, then on the next play, Martin produced the worst kick of the season, to give the ball straight back.

However, the second-rower made up for that moments later, stretching over from off a terrific pass by acting-half O’Connor.

Leeds scored again three minutes later when Smith who saw a gap on the last and ran through it before getting the ball down one-handed

After seven minutes of second half pressure from Wigan, Field’s pass went to ground close to Leeds’ line and Handley sprinted clear again.

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For the second time, he was run down, by Marshall, but Newman dived over from acting-half.

On 54 minutes James Donaldson appeared to have scored on the last from acting-half, but Moore said no and - surprisingly from the evidence on the big screen - video assistant James Child agreed.

That would have sealed it, but Wigan gave themselves hope moments later through Jake Bibby after Leeds failed to clear a kick to the in-goal.

Smith converted to cut the gap to 18 points, which - with 25 minutes left - was a tall order, but not impossible.

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It was Leeds’ night though and that was confirmed 15 minutes from time when Brad Dwyer, against his hometown club, dipped a shoulder and stretched over.

In the final seconds Muizz Mustapha, back from his ban, joyously spun over and Martin’s seventh goal from as many attempts completed an unforgettable night.

Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Fusitu’a, Newman, Sutcliffe, Handley, C Smith, Myler, Oledzki, O’Connor, Thompson, Bentley, Martin, Donaldson. Subs Dwyer, Aydin, Mustapha, Gannon.

Wigan Warriors: Field, French, Isa, Bibby, Marshall, Cust, H Smith, Byrne, Powell, Harvard, Farrell, Pearce-Paul, Smithies. Subs Ellis, Partington, Shorrocks, Cooper.

Referee: Liam Moore (Wigan). Attendance: 13,368