MAGIC WEEKEND DAY ONE: Rhinos again fall to Warriors
SUPER League’s Magic Weekend again brought the best out of Wigan Warriors as they toppled Leeds Rhinos 27-12 in front of a one-day record crowd of 40,871 at St James’ Park, Newcastle.
Inspired by two-try full-back Matty Bowen, stand-off George Williams and Leeds-born hooker Michael McIlorum on his 200th appearance for the club, Wigan completed a hat-trick of Magic Weekend wins over the Rhinos to climb up to second place in the table, just two points behind the Yorkshiremen.
Leeds played their part in a super encounter but the Warriors, humiliated by Catalans Dragons in their previous game, produced a top-drawer performance in coming from 12-4 down to secure a 27-12 victory with the aid of 23 unanswered points.
Wigan, who had conceded 58 points to the Catalans, made the best possible start when Williams’ kick bounced back off a defender and centre Dan Sarginson forced his way over out wide for the game’s opening try after six minutes.
But, with full-back Zak Hardaker and evergreen half-back Danny McGuire pulling the strings, Leeds struck back to open up a 12-4 lead.
Captain Kevin Sinfield produced a quickfire pass from dummy half to get prop Adam Cuthbertson over on 12 minutes and six minutes later centre Joel Moon touched down after Wigan winger Josh Charnley palmed the ball back from McGuire’s kick on the last tackle into his path.
Sinfield, on his record-equalling 439th Super League appearance, added both conversions and there were chances at both ends before Wigan finished the half the stronger to reclaim the lead thanks to two tries in the eight minutes before the break.
Williams demonstrated blistering pace after breaching the Leeds defence on halfway and got the ball down at the corner despite Hardaker’s desperate last-ditch tackle and winger Joe Burgess glided over after Bowen had run the ball back from deep from Hardaker’s kick.
Matty Smith failed with his first two goal attempts but made it third time lucky to edge his side into a 14-12 interval lead and somehow that’s the way it remained for the next 17 minutes.
The ever-dangerous Williams burst clear only to be cut down by winger Ryan Hall and Leeds centre Kallum Watkins’ offload to Ash Handley just short of the line went to ground as both sides continued to create chances.
The breakthrough finally came in fortuitous circumstances, with Bowen scooping up the ball after it was spilled by Handley in Burgess’ tackle and sprinting 80 metres for a glorious try.
Smith’s second goal opened up an eight-point gap and Leeds’ hopes of getting back into it were severely dented when Hardaker was forced off 13 minutes from the end after taking a heavy knock.
The Warriors were visibly growing in confidence and they made sure of the win when Bowen scored his second try from Smith’s grubber kick and Smith completed the scoring with his third conversion and a late drop goal.