LEEDS RHINOS are deservedly top of the tree, Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane admits.
Rhinos will go into the First Utility Super League Magic Weekend as table-toppers, two places and five points clear of Wane’s defending champions, who have a game in hand.
Wane accepts Leeds have been playing at a consistently higher level than his side this year, but insisted Wigan can grab the spoils at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium on Saturday, if they get it right on the night.
“They are a fantastic team,” Wane said of Leeds. “They have got great middles and great edges and they play a very fast, high-tempo sort of game.
“It is going to make it a very high-quality game. I just want to make sure we go there and are competitive. I think they are the best team in the comp, there’s no doubt about that. We are not finding that consistency in performances at the minute.
“I am hoping after last week’s game against Hull we can have a dig and put in another good performance. If we do that and we are a bit more consistent I am sure we can win.”
Wane described the 44-16 victory at KC Stadium six days ago as “our best win of the year” and added: “I lost two middles in the game as well, so we were under the pump – there’s no doubt about that. It was a fantastic win and what pleased me the most was our attack was very crisp and very consistent. We were very patient in how we went about the job.” The win at Hull came a week after Wigan were beaten 28-12 at Headingley Carnegie. Wane admitted: “I don’t think we gave a good account of ourselves in that game, to be honest. I don’t think the score represented the game, but Leeds were worthy winners.
“We know how to win this game. We are under the pump a bit this week, we’ve got 10 first-teamers out, but all the kids coming into our system are doing really well. I am looking forward to the challenge – and it is a challenge.”
The loss to Leeds two weeks ago was Wigan’s only defeat in their last eight matches, but Wane stressed: “We need to improve. We had a five-one penalty count against us last time we played Leeds, which was tough to handle.
“I have since understood a little bit more from the RFL about that, but when you go to Leeds on a five-one penalty count and you turn the ball over at the end of your sets in poor field position, you are going to put yourself under pressure. Hopefully we can end our sets really well and if we do that we can really challenge them.”
Last year’s 20-16 victory in Manchester saw Wigan become the first team to beat Rhinos at a Magic Weekend and Wane said he is a “fan” of the annual showpiece.
“I love it, it is a great concept,” Wane said. “All the fans are there, it is a great stadium and I commend the RFL for what they have done.”