Leeds went top of the First Utility Super League with a superb display in a 28-12 victory over champions Wigan.
The Warriors came into the game on an eight-match unbeaten run but could not match the Rhinos’ finishing power, which ultimately made the difference in a punishing contest.
Tries from Danny McGuire – converted by Kevin Sinfield – and Zac Hardaker fired Leeds into an early 10-0 lead, but Wigan hit back with a short range effort from Tony Clubb, converted by Matty Smith.
Kallum Watkins put Tom Briscoe in at the corner for a 16-6 Rhinos lead at the break and three minutes into the second half, Joel Moon’s weighted kick through allowed Ryan Hall to pick up and touch down in the corner. Both tries were converted by Sinfield.
Scott Taylor did hit back for Wigan but his try – converted by Smith – came with less than four minutes left and even then Leeds had the last word with Liam Sutcliffe’s try, again converted by Sinfield.
Missing injured skipper Sean O’Loughlin, the game began badly for the visitors with John Bateman losing possession in the first set of tackles.
The Rhinos were in front inside two minutes when Hall palmed the ball back from Sinfield’s kick for McGuire to touch down and 10 minutes later in-form full-back Hardaker scythed through the Warriors defence to score straight from a scrum.
With Sinfield kicking a goal, Leeds led 10-0 but Wigan gradually worked their way into the contest.
Their first chance fell to teenage winger Joe Burgess after he collected a kick from stand-off Blake Green but Leeds’ defence scrambled superbly.
Wigan did cross with a close-range effort from loose forward Clubb, who barged over from dummy half after hooker Michael McIlorum had been held short of the line.
Matty Smith’s conversion cut the Yorkshiremen’s lead to four points and Wigan could have gone in front had Green been able to ground the ball when he reached the line, but he was turned onto his back and the chance was lost.
Leeds extended their lead five minutes before half-time when Hall stormed in trademark fashion from deep inside his own half to set up the position for centre Watkins to skilfully work his winger Briscoe at the corner.
Sinfield’s touchline conversion made it 16-6 and the best was yet to come with Hall’s spectacular score.
Watkins launched a high kick on halfway more in hope than expectation on the last tackle but re-gathered possession and Leeds kept the ball alive, moving it to the left where Moon kicked ahead for his winger to gather and touch down for a marvellous try.
Hall also came up with a break to give McGuire a run to the line but he lost his grip on the ball, while Wigan chanced their arm in the final quarter and finally gained some reward for their perseverance when prop Taylor forced his way over from five metres out for his side’s second try.
Leeds remained well in control, however, and substitute Sutcliffe capped an impressive cameo stand-off display with a jinking run that brought their fifth try two minutes from the end, with Sinfield kicking his fourth goal.
Sky Bet Odds:
First Utility Super League: Leeds Rhinos charge over Wigan Warriors