Magic Weekend: Wigan Warriors hold on to beat Leeds Rhinos
Injury-depleted Wigan held off a second-half Leeds fightback to clinch an 18-14 victory on Magic Weekend in Manchester.
Last Updated: 17/05/14 10:52pm
The Warriors led by eight points at half-time as Anthony Gelling and Blake Green both scored tries in a fiery first period which saw three players sin-binned following a mass altercation.
Michael McIlorum extended the advantage after the break but Leeds fought back when Carl Ablett crossed the whitewash and Ryan Hall added another try to his first-half score.
But the reigning champions dug in to complete a fantastic defensive performance and prevail against the league leaders, who had a late shout for a try denied by the video referee.
The Warriors were without seven regulars through injury and it looked as though the stand-ins were up against it when Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker had an early try disallowed for a forward pass.
But it was Wigan who scored first, centre Gelling palming the ball forward from Matty Smith's high kick and re-gathering to touch down.
Smith kicked the conversion and added a penalty on 19 minutes to make it 8-0 before the tempers which had been simmering for the opening quarter boiled over.
Referee Ben Thaler warned both captains after a flare-up but it clearly fell on deaf ears as McIlorum's high shot on Jamie Peacock on the very next play sparked a brawl involving all 26 players.
Three of them were removed as Thaler brandished yellow cards to Leeds prop Ryan Bailey, McIlorum and his Wigan team-mate John Bateman, with the incident also being put on report.
Wigan replacement Dom Crosby was also placed on report for an ugly tackle on winger Hall as tempers continued to hover near boiling point.
The Rhinos took advantage of the extra man to register their only try of the first half, Hall crossing at the corner after picking Ablett's pass off the ground.
Sinfield was unable to convert and watched his side fall further behind three minutes before the break when, with 13 players back on each side, stand-off Green dummied his way past the Rhinos captain to score at the corner, making it 12-4 at the interval.
It was a similar story in the second half as Leeds pressed without making much impression on their opponents' brilliant defence and Wigan went further ahead when McIlorum burst onto Green's short pass to touch down.
Smith's third goal opened up a 14-point lead but the Rhinos responded when Ablett jinked his way over on 58 minutes after Hardaker's weaving crossfield run pulled the Warriors defence out of position, and five minutes later Joel Moon slipped out an overhead pass for Hall to grab his second try.
Sinfield kicked one of the conversions as Leeds cut the deficit to just four points and Wigan, by now without the influential Green, were forced to hang on.
As Leeds piled forward a last-ditch tackle by George Williams brought down McGuire in full flight and Moon claimed a try after gathering Sinfield's high kick only to be denied by the video referee, who ruled a knock-on.