Round twenty of Super League means that there are just eight more games to the play-offs, eight more games for new Rhinos coach Rohan Smith to pull his side out of the bottom half of the table in what is looking like an increasingly unlikely scenario. It also means eight games for Wigan Warriors to try and chase down a St Helens side who are in danger of edging out of sight at the top of the pile.
There were two changes for Matt Peets Warriors as Joe Shorrocks and Mike Cooper replaced Mago and O´Neill, the Rhinos had Zak Hardaker, Liam Sutcliffe, Harry Newman, Muizz Mustapha and debutant Yusef Aydin in their seventeen after losing last time out in Toulouse.
The bookies couldn´t see past a Warriors win, and neither could the pundits, or for that matter most Rhinos fans.
Against the odds it was the Rhinos who opened the scoring on five minutes when David Fusitu´a tapped back a Richie Myler kick to the corner which was then collected by Liam Sutcliffe and grounded under the tackle of Cade Cust. Rhyse Martin converted from the right touchline for a 6-0 lead.
The Rhinos were on fire as they went in again on ten. An incredible break from Jarrod O´Connor saw the Rhinos advance fifty metres before a set restart and a bullet pass from Myler into the hands of James Bentley to dive in from ten metres out. Martin was again on target for 12-0.
With sixteen minutes on the clock Wigan struck back as they took full advantage of Leeds giving a penalty. Fast passing and good hands saw the ball end up in the hands of Bevan French to go over in the corner and improve the angle for Harry Smith to add the extras and half the arrears.
On twenty-seven the Rhinos got their third of the night, Martin spinning out of a tackle and over the line to ground on his back after taking the ball at first receiver from O´Connor who was having a tremendous game at hooker. Martin added the conversion for 18-6.
Just after the half hour the Rhinos kept the ball alive on the last tackle with Cameron Smith pushing his way to the line and stretching out to score one handed under the tackle. Martin added the conversion for 24-6, a stunning performance from the Rhinos in the opening half hour.
A ninety-metre interception from Ash Handley saw him tackled brilliantly a metre from the Wigan line. A fast play the ball saw Harry Newman dive between Handley’s legs to ground. The video referee was consulted but agreed with the on-field decision. Martin again kicked the extras for 30-6.
James Donaldson went over on fifty-three and appeared to ground the ball with his thumb but after the referee referred the decision as a no try, the video referee agreed and ruled out the score.
Two minutes later Jake Bibby chased a French grubber under the sticks and go a hand on the ball to ground before the ball rolled dead in goal. Smith added the conversion for 30-12.
Great perseverance from Brad Dwyer saw the Rhinos substitute over for the sixth Leeds try of the night as he scooted from dummy half to go in from ten metres. Martin made it six from six for 36-12, the Rhinos with a crucial two points in the bag.
The iciing on the cake for the Rhinos was a determined Muizz Mustapha try as he span out of two tackles to ground under the sticks. Martin added the conversion for 42-12, an emphatic Leeds win.
Leeds supporters will be wondering where this performance has been all season as they dismantled a side who are one of the sides favoured to make it to Old Trafford for the Grand Final. Flair in attack and steel in defence ensured that Wigan were made to look second best, despite the gulf between the two sides in terms of league places. The Rhinos clicked majestically as a team tonight and Wigan had no answer.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Handley, Sutcliffe (T), Newman (T), Fusitu´a, Myler, Smith (T), Oledzki, O´Connor, Thompson, Bentley (T), Martin (T, 7G), Donaldson. Subs: Gannon, Mustapha (T), Dwyer (T), Aydin.
Wigan Warriors: Field, French (T), Isa, Bibby (T), Marshall, Cust, Smith (2G), Havard, Powell, Byrne, Farrell, Pearce-Paul, Smithies. Subs: Ellis, Partington, Shorrocks, Cooper.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, 12-4, 12-6, 16-6, 18-6, 22-6, 24-6 : HT : 28-6, 30-6, 30-10, 30-12, 34-12, 36-12, 40-12, 42-12 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Leeds.
Referee: Liam Moore.