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Wounded Warriors bounce back
Winger grabs Wigan's first treble against Leeds since 1996
Wigan bounced back from their opening-weekend defeat with a 20-6 victory over reigning Stobart Super League champions Leeds at the DW Stadium.
Josh Charnley was the hero for the Warriors, his hat-trick of tries giving new coach Shaun Wane a much-needed first triumph following last Sunday's shock home reverse at the hands of Huddersfield.
The winger touched down twice in the first half to help open up a 14-0 lead and although the Rhinos did briefly threaten a comeback with Darrell Griffin's first try for the club, they never truly looked capable of completing a turnaround.
The loss was painful for Leeds, and not just because it was their first since suffering Challenge Cup final heartache against the same opponents last year. After the late withdrawal of Kallum Watkins from the starting line-up, the visitors also saw Lee Smith forced off in the opening 40 minutes.
Coach Brian McDermott will hope both are fit for next Friday, when his troops do battle with NRL champions Manly in the Big Soup World Club Challenge.
Wigan, in contrast, will head to Bradford with a spring in their step. Indeed, had it not been for an obstruction by Harrison Hansen in the build-up, Charnley would have had three tries in the opening half.
There was certainly nothing wrong with his opener after 15 minutes; Sam Tomkins and Darrell Goulding combined to set the winger scampering clear and Brent Webb barely laid a hand on the Warrior as he cut back inside the full-back to score next to the uprights.
The score, converted by Pat Richards, gave the Warriors their first lead of the campaign, though they had to withstand a period of pressure straight afterwards to keep it intact.
Perhaps frustrated at failing to turn possession into points, the Rhinos lost their cool. Weller Hauraki was penalised for a tackle on Michael McIlorum that resulted in the pair trying to throw punches at each other, though neither man landed much before their team-mates rushed in.
The original infringement also resulted in Wigan scoring again, Tomkins this time providing the final pass to give Charnley an easy run-in down the right.
Richards landed the extras from close to the touchline and although Brett Finch failed with a late one-pointer to make it a three-score lead, the hosts went in at the break with a comfortable cushion.
They added two more points to their tally when a high shot by replacement forward Griffin gave Richards a penalty opportunity, allowing him to maintain his perfect record with the boot.
Griffin did make amends for his infringement by bursting onto a Rob Burrow pass to force his way over from close range, Kevin Sinfield adding the extras too to briefly put the game back in the balance.
Charnley, however, completed his treble to put paid to any hopes of a late Leeds recovery, another finish out wide being followed by the conversion to restore the 14-point gap.
His hat-trick was the first by a Wigan player against Leeds since Jason Robinson achieved the feat back in 1996, while it was just what the doctor ordered for a Warriors squad left licking their wounds since the loss to the Giants. Crisis? What crisis?
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First Utility Super League Table
|5||Hull K R||0||0|
|7||Salford Red Devils||0||0|
|First Utility Super League|
|Thursday 5th February|
|20:00||Widnes vs Wigan|
|Friday 6th February|
|20:00||St Helens vs Catalans Dragons|
|Saturday 7th February|
|15:00||Warrington vs Salford|
|Sunday 8th February|
|15:00||Huddersfield vs Hull|
|15:00||Hull K R vs Leeds|
|15:30||Castleford vs Wakefield|
|Thursday 12th February|
|20:00||Salford vs St Helens|
|Friday 13th February|
|20:00||Hull vs Warrington|
|20:00||Leeds vs Widnes|
|20:00||Wigan vs Huddersfield|
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