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Super League: Wigan Warriors too strong for Leeds Rhinos
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Wigan moved into second place in the Super League table as they battled their way to a 21-6 victory over Leeds at the DW Stadium.
First-half tries from Joe Burgess and Matty Smith, who converted both scores and also kicked a penalty, gave the reigning champions a deserved 14-0 lead at the break.
The Rhinos threatened a comeback after the break when Liam Sutcliffe scored a scrappy try, but despite throwing everything at their hosts they were unable to get any closer.
Having had to stand firm in the face of some serious pressure, Wigan restored the 14-point gap when Ben Flower burst through a tired Leeds defence and it was Smith who rounded out the scoring, landing a last-second drop goal.
The result was the perfect way for head coach Shaun Wane to celebrate his 100th game in charge of the Cherry and Whites, as well as being an ideal response to last week's away loss to Widnes.
Leeds, meanwhile, have now lost four on the spin in Super League, a slump that looks likely to cost them a place in the top four heading into the playoffs.
Having been held scoreless in the second half of their home loss to St Helens a week ago, Brian McDermott's side failed to muster a point in an opening 40 minutes that saw them on the back foot.
Winger Burgess marked his return after missing the last five matches with a knee injury by getting on the end of Blake Green's clever grubber in behind the Leeds defence to break the deadlock in the left corner.
Smith landed the extras from out wide and then capitalised on a gift from Zak Hardaker to stretch Wigan's lead further, the Rhinos full-back seeing his floated pass picked off after he had been caught in possession on the last tackle.
The try scorer left himself with a simple kick at the posts, while he could even afford to slip when striking the penalty that was the final play before the hooter sounded.
Leeds lacked attacking intent without Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow, though they did finally break their barren run without scoring when Sutcliffe capitalised on Josh Charnley twice failing to deal with a loose ball on a free play.
Kevin Sinfield's superb conversion made it 14-6 and the Yorkshiremen were suddenly full of confidence, with the intensity levels on the field raised a notch or two again.
But Wigan were the team who crucially scored next, Michael McIlorum's short pass allowing Flower to get over. Smith added the extras and then also rubbed salt into the Rhinos' wounds with a late one-pointer.
Leeds have twice before been crowned champions from fifth in the table, and it looks like this year's Tetley's Challenge Cup winners may now have to do it the hard way again if they are to emulate Wigan and complete the double.
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First Utility Super League Table
|4||Salford Red Devils||7||7|
|11||Hull K R||6||4|
|First Utility Super League|
|Thursday 26th March|
|20:00||Salford Red Devils vs Widnes Vikings|
|Friday 27th March|
|20:00||Castleford Tigers vs Hull FC|
|20:00||Wigan Warriors vs Wakefield Wildcats|
|20:00||Hull K R vs St Helens|
|20:00||Warrington Wolves vs Huddersfield Giants|
|Saturday 28th March|
|17:00||Catalans Dragons vs Leeds Rhinos|
|Thursday 2nd April|
|20:00||Hull vs Hull K R|
|20:00||Wakefield vs Catalans Dragons|
|20:00||Widnes vs Warrington|
|Friday 3rd April|
|12:45||Castleford vs Leeds|
|First Utility Super League|
|Sunday 22nd March|
|Widnes Vikings 20 - 16 Hull K R|
|Wakefield Wildcats 14 - 44 Huddersfield Giants|
|Friday 20th March|
|Leeds Rhinos 26 - 14 Wigan Warriors|
|Castleford Tigers 30 - 16 Salford Red Devils|
|Hull FC 33 - 22 Catalans Dragons|
|Thursday 19th March|
|St Helens 32 - 24 Warrington Wolves|
|Sunday 15th March|
|Hull K R 50 - 20 Catalans Dragons|
|Salford Red Devils 24 - 18 Wakefield Wildcats|
|Friday 13th March|
|Widnes Vikings 20 - 30 St Helens|
|Wigan Warriors 13 - 12 Hull FC|
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