The Leeds Rhinos comfortable win over Hull KR last weekend secured them a play-off trip to the DW Stadium to take on a Wigan Warriors side who are blowing hot and cold as the Super League 2021 season entered its knock-out stage.
The two sides met a month ago when the Rhinos won a 14-0 victory, denying Wigan a point at home for the first time in Super League, while the meeting back in April ended in Wigans favour by a 19-6 score line.
The Warriors were slight favourites with the bookies to make progress, but the Rhinos were only given a two-point start on the handicap coupon.
There was little between the two teams throughout the first half, Wigan indiscipline costing them the majority of penalties but Leeds unable to make them pay. Both sides knew the importance of the game and neither wanted to make the first mistake as they kept their defence tight and lacked ambition when on the front foot.
The completion rates were top drawer from both sides and being played at pace and with very few breaks the two sides were running their blood to water. It was like an exhilarating game of chess between two grand masters.
A breathless encounter saw the two sides into the interval all square, without the scorers having been troubled for the first time in play-off history.
Brad Dwyer went close on forty-three, help up just short of the line, the Wigan defence holding strong.
On the next Wigan attack Richie Myler spilled a high ball under no pressure but once again Wigan couldn’t make Leeds pay as the Jackson Hastings kick on the sixth went straight into Leeds hands.
Leeds broke the deadlock on forty-nine with Ash Handley on hand to take a Richie Myler palm back from a Kruise Leeming high kick to the corner. Rhyse Martin added the conversion from five metres in from the left touchline for a 6-0 Rhinos lead.
The Rhinos had a couple of opportunities to go for a one-pointer but they opted to run the ball but when Liam Marshall knocked-on on his own twenty with sixty-nine on the clock, Matt Prior first went close to the line before Leeming was set up for a fifteen metre drop goal attempt which he pushed wide of the right upright.
On seventy-four Mikolaj Oledzki had the ball stolen by Oliver Partington in a two man tackle just twelve from the Wigan line allowing Martin to kick the penalty goal to edge the Rhinos closer to a crucial victory.
The Rhinos withstood everything that Wigan could throw at them in the remaining minutes and kept them scoreless in securing the 8-0 win.
It’s the Leeds Rhinos who won the war of attrition and who will progress to the semi-finals next week and play for a place in Grand Final. Wigan’s season is over and Adrian Lam will leave his tenure as coach after a disappointing end to the season and on the back of a second consecutive home nilling at the hands of Richard Agars side.
Wigan Warriors: Hardaker, Marshall, Gildart, Isa, Bibby, Hastings, Smith, Singleton, Powell, Partington, Bateman, Farrell, Smithies. Subs: Byrne, Havard, Pearce-Paul, Shorrocks.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler, Briscoe L, Newman, Briscoe T, Handley (T), Leeming, Lui, Thompson, Dwyer, Prior, Donaldson, Martin (2G), Tetevano. Subs: Smith, Holroyd, Oledzki, Hurrell.
Referee: Robert Hicks.
Score Progression: 0-0 : HT : 0-4, 0-6, 0-8 : FT.