THIS IS now a record-breaking season for Leeds Rhinos, but not in a good way.
Last night’s embarrassing drubbing at Wigan was their seventh successive Super League defeat, their worst run in the competition’s 22-year history.
Rhinos started well, scoring first after just four minutes. The shock of that was obviously too much to bear and they were never in contention after Wigan got points on the board.
It was a dire night for Leeds, who are trying, but look desperately short of confidence and belief.
They made a raft of basic – and at times almost comical – errors and gave away silly penalties late in sets before the break.
There were only four penalties in the first half, the first three to Wigan, two of which Sam Tomkins converted. Rhinos’ lone first-half penalty came with 27 seconds on the clock.
Leeds were without 10 senior players, but injuries are wearing thin as an excuse. Rhinos out-played runaway league leaders St Helens a couple of weeks ago – in a game they were very unlucky to lose – with a weaker side than the one on duty last night
That appears to have been a one-off. Though most of their defeats have been narrow, Rhinos have been in poor form for the past three months. They have won only one out of 10 Super League games since back-to-back victories at the start of April.
That is not good enough for a club of Rhinos’ stature, who are – remember – the defending champions.
Neither is the prospect of a second bottom-four finish in three years. Rhinos are now relying on other teams losing to stay in the top eight.
For a few moments at Wigan it looked like being a contest. Leeds began well and went 4-0 ahead. Tom Briscoe and Liam Sutcliffe combined to get them on the front foot and at the end of the set Richie Myler kicked, Sam Tomkins and John Bateman collided, the ball came loose and Brett Ferres scampered over.
But pressure told on 13 minutes, in the set from a drop out, when Liam Marshall dived over at the corner from Josh Wood’s long pass and Tomkins converted to give Wigan the lead. Three minutes later Marshall was in again. Leeds were caught out when Woods’s pass picked out Liam Farrell and he provided the final ball to Marshall.
Tomkins converted and made it 14-4 on 21 minutes with a penalty goal after interference by Ferres on Thomas Leuluai.
Luke Briscoe dropped a kick by Woods, who was then held up over the line by Tom Briscoe, but Adam Cuthbertson was penalised for a second effort on Bateman and Tomkins again took the two.
Nine minutes before the break Jack Walker fumbled a low kick near his own line, Tomkins almost got over following the scrum and then Woods was allowed to scamper through Leeds’s defence, such as it was, for his first Wigan touchdown.
The conversion made it 22-4, which was the half-time score. At the start of the second period Luke Briscoe touched down from Myler’s kick, but video referee Robert Hicks decided he had tackled Wigan’s Tom Davies in the air and Ben Thaler’s original decision of no try stood.
Faint hopes of a comeback were extinguished when Farrell powered over for a converted try.
Leuluai touched down from acting-half, but Leeds managed a second try when Joel Moon touched down after his own kick had been kept in play by Tom Briscoe.
Romain Navarette was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Jack Ormondroyd, but Wigan added 14 points without him.
Tomkins booted a long-range penalty and the next try summed things up. Leeds tried to keep the ball alive on the last, Ormondroyd offloaded straight to Tony Clubb and he galloped away before putting Davies over.
Tomkins converted then Myler’s offload was intercepted by Morgan Escare who beat three defenders before teeing up Marshall for his hat-trick. Tomkins converted after the hooter.
Wigan Warriors: Tomkins, Davies, Bateman, Gildart, Marshall, Woods, Powell, Clubb, Leuluai, Navarrete, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Substitutes: Hamlin, Greenwood, Escare, Tautai.
Leeds Rhinos: Walker, T Briscoe, L Sutcliffe, L Briscoe, Hall, Moon, Myler, Garbutt, Parcell, Oledzki, Smith, Ferres, Cuthbertson. Substitutes: Golding, Singleton, Ormondroyd. Walters.
Referee: B Thaler (Wakefield).