Magic Weekend: Wigan Warriors 18 Leeds Rhinos 14

PIC: PA

PIC: PA

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It would not be Magic Weekend without a little video referee controversy.

Super League leaders Leeds Rhinos lost for only the second time this season when champions Wigan Warriors edged a fitting finale to the first day’s action in Manchester, though they were thankful when Phil Bentham disallowed Joel Moon’s 76th minute effort.

The official probably got it right, though, when deeming the Exiles centre had nudged the ball forward into Dominic Manfredi - one of many young Wigan players who stepped up amid their injury crisis - after collecting Kevin Sinfield’s high kick and before touching down.

That said, Leeds had earlier chances, too, teenage hooker George Williams pulling off a terrific tackle on Danny McGuire after the England stand-off had sped clear and seemingly destined for the line.

It had been a fractious encounter - it is clear these sides don’t really like each other - that really sparked into life when three players were yellow carded after tempers flared in the 25th minute.

In the next tackle after McGuire had been jolted late in the tackle by Gil Dudson, Wigan hooker Michael McIlorum flew in with a high tackle on Jamie Peacock before an ugly brawl erupted.

John Bateman - who continued his running battle with Peacock from the game two weeks earlier that Leeds won - was sin-binned along with Rhinos’ Ryan Bailey while McIlorum was also given 10 minutes to leave Wigan with just 11 men.

In the next set, Leeds - who were without England centre Kallum Watkins due to illness and Tom Briscoe - immediately made them pay as the excellent Carl Ablett rolled out a pass to Ryan Hall.

Sinfield could not convert so it was left at 8-4 yet Brian McDermott’s side were incensed again when Dominic Crosby appeared to perform a ‘spear’ tackle on Hall that only merited being put on report.

Instead, it was Wigan - who ended Leeds’ 100 per cent Magic record here 12 months ago - who extended their lead just a couple of minutes before the break when Blake Green spotted a gap and arced through from 20m out for a 12-4 lead.

They added their third try when McIlorum latched onto Green’s short pass after Bailey shot out of the defensive line in front of his own posts in the 55th minute, Smith converting.

Zak Hardaker’s weaving run, however, furnished Ablett with the chance to quickly respond, though Wigan will be upset by the feeble manner in which their line wilted as the England man stepped over.

Sinfield added the extras but couldn’t when Hall added his second in the 64th minute following a brilliant pass by Moon.

Wigan - without seven internationals - lost ex-Hull KR stand-off Green to a ruptured bicep before McGuire and Moon had those late chances.

But the champions were worthy winners and they now close the gap to Leeds to just three points with a game in hand.

St Helens will displace Leeds from top if they beat Warrington Wolves in the final game tomorrow.

If the second day is half as good as this, organisers will be pleased.

Each game was close with no little drama, even bottom-placed London Broncos coming close to their first win of the year before falling 24-22 to Catalan Dragons in the opener.

More pressure was applied on Iestyn Harris as his Salford Red Devils side fell 30-24 against Widnes Vikings - he has just one win in seven games - before Hull KR came out on top in the derby 38-24 against Hull FC who had Jason Crookes red carded.

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