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Wounded Rhinos slump again
Warriors pile misery on injury-hit defending champions
Engage Super League leaders Wigan Warriors produced a ruthless second-half performance to inflict a fifth defeat in eight games on three-time defending champions Leeds Rhinos.
The Rhinos, missing nine first-team regulars, went down 24-4 at the DW Stadium and sit outside the play-off spots - a far cry from their dominance of the competition in recent seasons.
Brian McClennan's injury-ravaged side produced a determined effort to trail just 6-4 with half-an-hour remaining, Wigan centre George Carmont and Leeds winger Ryan Hall having scored a try each.
But the Warriors, who are two points ahead of Warrington Wolves at the top of table, then ran in three tries in 11 minutes to break Leeds' resistance.
Joel Tomkins touched down either side of a brace from Darrell Goulding as Wigan notched their seventh win in eight games under the stewardship of head coach Michael Maguire.
The visitors initially enjoyed a monopoly on possession and territory as Wigan were penalised at the play-of-the-ball on three occasions in the first 10 minutes.
Wigan eventually worked their way across the halfway line and were twice narrowly denied the opening try - Sean O'Loughlin failing to gather Amos Roberts' delicate kick and Roberts himself then guilty of a heavy touch with the boot.
Leeds scrum-half Rob Burrow thought he had broken the deadlock in the 25th minute but video referee Thierry Alibert ruled he had failed to ground the ball after being flipped onto his back by Richards in a last-ditch tackle - Thomas Leuluai also putting his body on the line to help prevent the grounding.
The first points did finally arrive in the 33rd minute when a sustained period of Wigan pressure ended with Carmont touching down.
The ball was switched from right to left through four pairs of hands to exploit a gap in the Leeds defence and allow the New Zealand-born Samoa international to cruise over unopposed.
Richards landed the extras for a 6-0 lead and, despite the Rhinos pounding away at the try-line, there was no further points before half-time.
Leeds continued to force the pace after the break and were rewarded in the 46th minute when Hall went over in the right corner after Jamie Jones-Buchanan's decision to switch to the short side direct from dummy half.
Although Burrow was narrowly off-target with the touchline conversion, the Rhinos' hopes received a further boost as Wigan stand-off Sam Tomkins limped off.
But the combined talents of Roberts and Richards quickly restored order for the hosts. The Australian pair's incisive running took Wigan from deep inside their own half to a second try in quick time - Goulding finishing off down the right after two quick plays-of-the-ball.
Richards again slotted the conversion and the lead was extended to 16-4 on 60 minutes when Joel Tomkins added the home side's third try.
The second rower crashed through two would-be tacklers from short range and, although Richards failed with the conversion, Wigan were now in total control.
Goulding crossed again in the 63rd minute to complete his side's purple patch and Wigan thereafter defended stoutly to close out the victory without undue alarm.
Richards took his personal tally to eight points with a 71st-minute penalty and Leeds were again denied by the video referee in the dying moments after Brent Webb failed to get the ball down under Leuluai's challenge.
Super League Table
|9||Hull K R||27||23|
|10||Salford Red Devils||27||23|
|13||Bradford Bulls *||27||10|
|Saturday 20th September|
|Leeds 20 - 24 Catalan Dragons|
|Friday 12th September|
|Hull 24 - 19 Leeds|
|Friday 5th September|
|Wigan 21 - 6 Leeds|
|Friday 29th August|
|Leeds 12 - 13 St Helens|
|Saturday 23rd August|
|Tetleys Challenge Cup|
|Castleford 10 - 23 Leeds|
|Sunday 17th August|
|London Broncos 40 - 36 Leeds|
|Saturday 9th August|
|Tetleys Challenge Cup|
|Leeds 24 - 16 Warrington|
|Friday 1st August|
|Leeds 14 - 20 Bradford|
|Friday 25th July|
|Salford 18 - 22 Leeds|
|Thursday 17th July|
|Leeds 24 - 24 Castleford|
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