Leeds 32-16 Wigan: Stevie Ward hat-trick inspires clinical Rhinos
Last Updated: 05/08/17 8:29am
Stevie Ward scored a hat-trick as Leeds responded to their Challenge Cup semi-final exit against Hull with a clinical 32-16 victory over defending Super League champions Wigan.
Homegrown second-rower Ward opened the scoring in the first half and grabbed two more tries in the final quarter to confirm a highly-impressive performance by the Rhinos.
Fellow academy product Ashton Golding weighed in with a brace as Brian McDermott's second-placed side further damaged Wigan's chances of missing out on a top-four finish and play-off semi-final spot.
McDermott kept faith with winger Tom Briscoe despite his error-strewn display in last weekend's defeat to Hull.
Wigan appeared to have led in the ninth minute when George Williams burst through a gap and sent Liam Farrell racing clear inside the left channel to cross the line.
Referee Ben Thaler signalled an on-field try for Farrell but video referee James Child chalked it off for an obstruction in the build-up.
Leeds led in the 18th minute when Jamie Jones-Buchanan embarked on a powerful run which saw him stopped just short of the line but then impeded by Sam Tomkins.
From the resultant penalty, Leeds worked the ball 10 metres out to Ward, who superbly scythed through the Wigan defence to score inside the right channel.
Kallum Watkins missed the conversion attempt but Leeds soon added a second try in the 23rd minute when some delightful handling from Matt Parcell and Watkins led to Golding darting over from close range.
Watkins converted to make it 10-0 but Wigan replied in the 26th minute when winger Tom Davies took a pass from Tomkins to score in the right corner and finish off a fine flowing move.
Williams failed to convert but Davies was at it again soon after when he showed remarkable pace to seize on a mistake by Liam Sutcliffe and race 90 metres down the right flank to score.
Williams' conversion levelled matters at 10-10 and tempers flared six minutes before the break when Wigan prop Taulima Tautau appeared to lash out at Parcell, prompting Thaler to put the incident on report.
That made it 10-10 at the break but Ryan Hall's surging run and clever kick sent Golding diving over for his second in the 45th minute.
Ten minutes later, Briscoe's pass put Parcell over from close range and then Ward took a pass from Danny McGuire to score his second before he grounded a kick from the Leeds captain to complete his treble.
Tomkins hit back for Wigan with a predatory effort in the right corner with six minutes remaining but Leeds' victory had long since been secured.