Leeds Rhinos were without their captain Kevin Sinfield tonight at Headingley, but they still had enough ability in their side to register a 26-14 victory over Wigan Warriors, keeping the Warriors scoreless in the second half in front of 18,350 spectators.
The Rhinos included Zak Hardaker at fullback, after the England international was disciplined by the club for an incident last month in a student hall of residence.
And they started badly, with Wigan taking an early eight-point lead with a try by Matty Smith, and a Smith conversion and penalty after 15 minutes.
But the Rhinos gradually fought their way back into the match, beginning with Adam Cuthbertson touching down a Liam Sutcliffe kick into the in-goal, and then Ash Handley, in on the wing for Tom Briscoe, touched down for his first Super League try from a great pass by Kallum Watkins to give Leeds a two-point lead.
Brad Singleton then scored a third try for Leeds after more good work from Paul Aiton and Cuthbertson, and Sutcliffe’s goal made it 16-8.
But Wigan scored a brilliant rejoinder, when Joe Burgess collected a precision kick by George Williams to the corner, and Smith’s goal reduced the half-time margin to two points.
But Wigan, hindered by a heavy penalty count, could make no impression in the second half, and the Rhinos went further ahead when Sutcliffe stretched out to touch down after 60 minutes, and then added a penalty for an eight-point lead.
The scoring was completed when substitute Rob Burrow cleverly found a way to the line from dummy half through the defenders’ legs. Sutcliffe’s conversion attempt hit the post, but by then it didn’t matter as the Rhinos held off a late Wigan challenge.
A full report and photos from this game will feature in Monday’s edition of Rugby League Express.