AS a watching Rio Ferdinand summed up fittingly, Sam Tomkins is just “genius.”
The Manchester United centre-half was at Headingley Carnegie last night to witness a stunning performance which left Super League champions Leeds Rhinos hugely embarrassed.
While not scoring himself, England full-back Tomkins was, again, to the fore with some sublime running as Wigan, despite missing six regular forwards, over-powered and outplayed the West Yorkshire club.
It should have been the perfect time for Rhinos, who remain hanging on to a play-off spot, to exploit the under-strength leaders but, instead, their rampant visitors rattled off an 11th consecutive win.
Speaking exclusively to the Yorkshire Post, ex-Leeds United and England star Ferdinand said: “Sam Tomkins is just a genius.
“He’s an unbelievable player and you’ve just seen two pieces of brilliance change the game.
“It’s stuff like that I like about rugby league and the contact and brutality of it all is class.
“It’s brilliant to watch. I’m here to see Wigan – they were the team when I was a kid.”
And again last night. That was at half-time when Wigan led 26-4 but more was to come.
However, for all the obvious brilliance of Tomkins there were also a couple of unsavoury incidents which are worryingly creeping into his game.
The manner in which he petulantly kicked out at Jamie Jones-Buchanan while trying to wriggle free of a tackle was the sort of pettiness you might expect from some footballers.
And he could well find himself in trouble with the RFL for what appeared suspiciously to be a cannonball tackle on the same Leeds forward.
Wigan had Welsh teenager Rhodri Lloyd debuting off a bench which also included inexperienced youngsters Logan Tomkins and Dom Crosby so if Leeds started strong, surely their superior replacement strength would prove crucial?
So, the last thing Leeds needed to do last night was offer Wigan any early encouragement.
However, they did just that as Carl Ablett spilled the kick-off into touch and Jeff Lima bundled over off Michael McIlorum’s short pass.
It was only as Josh Charnley lined up the first of his seven conversions that the Headingley crowd realised, courtesy of big screen replays, that Brent Webb had actually poked the ball out of his fellow Kiwi’s hand in the act of scoring.
But it was all that Wigan needed as Brett Finch, the Australian stand-off being chased by St Helens, took firm control dove-tailing wonderfully with the breathtaking Tomkins.
With so many purposeful runners and attacking options in this Wigan side, it is understandable why so many defences are left in a state of confusion. That is all well and good. Taking and executing the right option is another skill itself but, in Finch, Thomas Leuluai and Tomkins – playing behind a dominant pack – Wigan had masterful exponents.
When Brett Delaney wildly shoved a pass into touch, one of many indecisive Leeds moments, Wigan were quickly offered a second chance to profit.
Tomkins stepped up with his dazzling break, eluding Danny McGuire before supplying Liam Farrell to score, and the struggling hosts were then thankful of Webb’s desperate intervention to stop Charnley adding a third.
The full-back’s knee just dislodged the ball as the Wigan winger headed for the corner following another slick movement to Leeds’s fragile right.
Video referee Ian Smith baffling awarded the visitors a penalty after viewing the incident but Leeds survived after Tomkins’s petulant kick. They responded with a typically robust finish from Ryan Hall, the England winger who carried Charnley over the line with him after latching on to McGuire’s long pass.
It did not signal a recovery to parity though.
After McGuire was exposed again, Hall was called upon for the second time to stick out a desperate hand to prevent another rapier move down the Wigan right being completed.
But Leuluai and Finch’s superior kicking game garnered consecutive drop-outs to see the dynamic leaders go on to extend their advantage.
It was Finch’s arrowed pass and Sean O’Loughlin’s terrific angled run back on the inside which caught Ablett out and Wigan scored again in the next set.
Tomkins effortlessly broke from deep once more past stalling defender Weller Hauraki before George Carmont added the gloss.
Wigan’s superior kicking game was highlighted again when Sinfield’s tame grubber headed right at Tomkins.
Soon after, Finch’s testing effort saw Lee Smith concede another drop out and Leuluai slid through more confused defence.
Charnley went in all too easily on 48 minutes after Tomkins picked up another poor Sinfield kick and sped clear from his own line.
The Leeds captain initially got back to snuff out his England colleague, but it only delayed the inevitable.
Anthony Gelling added another on the hour courtesy of more pinpoint passing wide, something Leeds did finally manage to send Hall over for his second.
But it was left to Tomkins to side-step his way clear again in that style of his to furnish Leuluai with his second before the superb Finch fittingly finished off after swallowing up an awful Shaun Lunt kick, leaving Leeds to contemplate their biggest defeat since 2006.
Leeds Rhinos: Webb; Smith, Ablett, Hardaker, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; K Leuluai, Lunt, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Clarkson. Substitutes: Burrow, Bailey, Moore, Hauraki.
Wigan Warriors: S Tomkins; Charnley, Goulding, Carmont, Gelling; Finch, T Leuluai; Dudson, McIlorum, Lima, Hughes, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Substitutes: Lauaki, L Tomkins, Crosby, Lloyd.
Referee: J Child (Dewsbury).